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FoodTech Report

Volume 8 Issue 1

Improve the quality of frozen products with individual quick freezing

By Gert Nilsson, Director of Sales for JBT FoodTech
and Branko Pancer, Regional Sales Manager, Central Europe, for JBT FoodTech

Frozen fruits and vegetables are the perfect complement to a wholesome meal. They offer consumers convenience and the year-round availability of products that may not be native to their region or currently in season. Frozen fruits and vegetables also offer consumers the nutrients they need for a well-balanced diet. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved labeling frozen fruits and vegetables as healthy by using the same protocol as their raw counterparts, according to the American Frozen Food Institute. However, color and texture can be just as important as nutritional value when consumers select frozen fruits and vegetables.

Most fruits and vegetables are chilled immediately after picking, and processed within one hour to lock in nutritional content. But fruits and vegetables offer varying challenges during the freezing process that can compromise quality. In particular, products can stick together or become damaged during transport or processing, and can lose taste, color or texture.

 
 FLoFREEZE® IQF freezer

The Frigoscandia™ FLoFREEZE® IQF freezer from JBT FoodTech prevents damage and preserves the color, texture and taste of fruits and vegetables to maintain their freshness. The FLoFREEZE individually quick freezing (IQF) process uses fluidization, a technology with which food products are elevated in a burst of refrigerated air. With high-efficiency heat transfer, products are quickly frozen while they are elevated and individually separated from each other.

The FLoFREEZE IQF freezer was designed to fit the needs of individual processors, from a wide capacity range of approximately 2,200 pounds (1 metric ton) to 33,000 pounds (15 metric tons) per hour, as calculated with peas — and a broad application range. Processors can select optimum freezing conditions for each product, whether it is soft, brittle, sticky or heavy or has shapes that can be difficult to freeze efficiently.

Special attention for vegetables

Most vegetables have a natural skin that protects them from sticking together during the freezing process. But larger-sized vegetables like onions, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini are typically sliced into much smaller pieces before freezing, making them vulnerable to sticking together. Preventing pieces from sticking — and freezing — together is important because it allows consumers and food manufacturers to easily work individual pieces into recipes or perfect portions.

The singular perforated-tray format available on FLoFREEZE IQF freezers can agitate products during fluidization as they are frozen, making sure pieces stay separated. The tray is ideal for smaller vegetables, like peas, and products more difficult to fluidize, such as rice, diced vegetables and diced cooked meat.

Gentle handling for delicate fruit

Fruits

Fruit is typically much more sensitive than vegetables in all aspects of processing, including picking, freezing and storing. Berries, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and red and black currant, are particularly vulnerable to damage during freezing. Individual quick freezing can be difficult to achieve with juicy fruits as varied as cherries, pineapples, peaches, apricots and mangoes if not carefully handled.

More delicate fruits, like raspberries, are appropriate for the FLoFREEZE IQF track format, which offers two independently controlled tracks and two separate pressure chambers. The specially designed perforated track with additional air modulators allows for even distribution of air and offers adjustable controls for each 35 cm (350 mm) track width, which is important for gentle handling of the product.

The two-phase fluidization process speeds up heat transfer and ensures fast, gentle crust freezing. Crust freezing is achieved in the first track, where refrigerated air is pulsed vertically while a step drive adjusts horizontal movement. This control allows for maximum percentage of individually quick freezing products without damage. Crust freezing locks in product moisture before final core freezing, as well as preserving product weight, appearance and quality — naturally.

Benefits of flexibility

The quality of frozen fruits and vegetables is improved through an individualized approach to freezing. The ability to customize the freezing process with the tray or track format, and the ability to control airflow, mean the end product will look and taste as fresh as the day it was picked.

To learn more about JBT FoodTech freezer capabilities, visit the JBT FoodTech Web site.

FLoFREEZE® is a registered trademark and Frigoscandia™ is a trademark of JBT FoodTech.

 

©2010 JBT Corporation. All rights reserved.


 

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