Frozen food aisles in supermarkets contain nearly every type of food. The frozen food sector is an incredibly huge market, and it’s not surprising that these foods are popular with American consumers: They offer food preservation, reduced waste, and convenience, not to mention the fact that freshly frozen foods are just as nutritious as when they were plucked from the field or bush, or freshly made as in the case of meals, breads, and other prepared foods.
The global frozen food sector is growing at a rate of approximately 5% per year, according to a 2021 report from Mordor Intelligence. In fact, the industry has been on an upward curve since the advent of commercial food freezing in the late 1950s; it’s a worldwide phenomenon. As emerging countries continue to develop economically, they tend to transition to frozen food because it not only preserves vital resources, but it also maintains the consistency of a product for a long time. The range of food types that can be frozen is quite staggering.
Industrial freezing equipment has also evolved over the decades to help food processors produce quality frozen products. The industry has the capability to continuously monitor the frozen environment and automatically adjust freezer conditions to ensure that products leave the freezer in optimum condition. This way, customers can be confident of the highest quality output, whether freezing meat cuts or baked goods.
Industrial freezing isn’t the same as taking a fresh food and putting it in a domestic freezer, which people do all the time. The issue with this is that you can lose quality, as the process causes cellular damage and leads to drip loss. There’s a a lot of science behind industrial frozen food production—as there must be when you could be dealing with up to 30 tons an hour of frozen food. However, we also need to understand how the food was made and how it’s presented for freezing.
Industrial Freezing Systems
Freezing systems cater to any type of food, from chicken nuggets to French fries to croissants, pain au chocolat, and other niche pastries. Freezing joints of pork, beef, or poultry requires very different handling than freezing raspberries. Understanding how food freezes and how it should be handled correctly allows for an efficient solution that delivers a high quality frozen product, with maximum product yield.
Let’s take pizzas: This convenience food goes down well with Americans due to its versatility. Whether it is topped with meat, vegetables, or seafood, pizza offers something for almost everyone. You can say the same about the freezing systems on the market that keep freshness, flavor, and shape, regardless of the topping. Whatever the pizza variations are in a product portfolio, there is a corresponding cooling and freezing technology.
For example, best practices for the harvesting of broccoli for a pizza topping require the vegetable to be cooled while still in the field, because its great metabolic activity would otherwise quickly make it appear wilted. Once harvested and cooled, freezing tunnels with individually quick freezing (IQF) technology can guarantee the individual freezing of fruits and vegetables, so that toppings such as broccoli can be easily weighed and distributed over a pizza. Before this stage, of course, the yeast dough must be kneaded, formed, pre-baked, and cooled again to prevent the frozen vegetables or ground meat from immediately thawing.
Because of the constantly growing demand, industrial freezer design changes from year to year. The machinery continually gets larger, faster, and stronger and has to be more efficient in operation. Freezers can’t have too wide a physical footprint, however, so they don’t exceed the general width of processing lines. If you’re replacing old models, the best solutions will closely match their predecessors in size, while also remaining compatible with the rest of the line equipment such as fryers, ovens, and packaging machines. Of course, size for size, the newer models are far more efficient and productive than older ones.
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