Author: Diana Morris, Country Manager UK
There are increasing demands for reduced waste in the food manufacturing process. Everyone in the supply chain needs to demonstrate economies in the production of food and drink for the consumer, whilst retaining the flavour, colours and nutrition of the product.
Using freeze drying technology, many products can be truly marketed as nothing added and there can be multiple benefits with natural colours
and flavours coming through in beverages, for example.
In essence, this technology gently removes the water in a product without affecting the goodness. At European Freeze Dry, the products for freeze
drying start as frozen raw materials, and undergoes a process known as sublimation under standard programmes.
During the freeze drying process a deep vacuum is applied, and under these conditions neither ice or water can exist. The pressure from the
vacuum, with a controlled amount of heat applied, causes the ice to leave the product as a vapour trail which is then captured on an ice condenser within the freeze drier, upon which the vapour forms again as ice.
The process takes approximately 24 hours, carried out in a set of ‘chambers’ which can be controlled at various temperatures and time schedules depending on specific product requirements.
Technology for diverse markets
The key benefits are that the process retains the structure – and the flavour and nutritional value – of the products. This means they are ready to be used as ingredients in a range of applications be it sweet or savoury. Increasingly, manufacturers need to reassure their customers that super-foods are everything they claim them to be without added sugars or anything unknown or potentially harmful.
Working closely with customers, the R&D team at European Freeze Dry sees a continued rise in popularity for freeze-dried vegan ingredients, to be used in new products or food production processes.
Popular ingredients for the vegan products market include turtle beans, diced sweet potato, black-eyed beans, diced beetroot and caramelised onion.
The company is also using its technology in the development of nutraceuticals – natural foods and dietary supplements – with the natural flavours and colour retention being an integral part of the product. Indeed, nutraceutical suppliers are increasingly using methods such as freeze drying to produce the latest health supplements.
Using food products for their health benefits is not a new phenomenon. Common messages around eating fruit and vegetables to maintain our vitamin and nutritional intake have been around for years.
However, scientists are increasingly finding new methods to use different ingredients to offer health benefits, such as preventing flu, reducing obesity or increasing fertility, which can improve our quality of life.
The demand for nutraceuticals is growing. It is expected that the nutraceuticals market in Europe will be worth $108 billion by 2027. As we all focus more attention on our own health, natural supplements are rising in popularity – particularly amongst those following a superfood diet.
Variety of enzymes
Nutraceuticals tend to be taken as supplements, designed to provide additional health benefits and tackle various ailments.
The food we eat contains a variety of enzymes which can be beneficial, or sometimes detrimental, to our health.
Most people grow up learning that milk is good for growing strong bones, and how oranges provide us with vitamin C to boost our immune systems. Oily fish is highlighted for improving brain function, while walnuts are frequently recommended for reducing heart disease. These examples of superfoods are the most common forms of nutraceuticals.
Now scientists and nutritionists are examining a variety of common and more exotic food types, and how their natural qualities can provide health benefits, from adding a nutritional supplement to a diet, through to targeting more specific benefits such as aiding weight loss or cancer prevention.
More recently, newly discovered flavonoids such as rosehip and elderberry juices are being included into flu prevention products. Similarly, lamb’s hearts are used routinely in a powdered format to supplement men’s health and wellbeing. Freeze-dried liver is also regularly used as an iron supplement, which can improve red blood flow and reduce the chance of anaemia.
In their original form, these products are not easily digestible, transportable, or even appealing. For many animal-based products, their raw state will only stay safe to consume for a very short period.
Reduced potential for micro-organisms
For nutraceutical producers, maintaining the viability of cells in the food product is as important as ensuring a long shelf-life.
To ensure a quality final product which continues to offer health benefits, while creating a supplement that won’t deteriorate over a
long-period of time, requires an extremely gentle drying process.
Compared to more aggressive drying methods such as spray drying or air drying, freeze drying methods are proven to retain the purity of the product, even when they are ground down into a powder.
Freeze drying also means there is a much reduced potential for micro-organisms
existing in such low amounts of water, ensuring that nutraceuticals can stay safe to consume over an extended time period, up to two years.
The result is a 100% natural freeze dried product, which retains the flavour structure and nutritional benefits of the raw product. From there, it can be supplied as a stable supplement or ground down into a powder which can be inserted into tablets.
For nutraceutical producers, that means raw materials such as rosehip, elderberry or liver can be packaged in a tablet which can be supplied to chemists or sold online, meeting the consumer demands for new superfood supplements.
European Freeze Dry is constantly breaking new ground and bringing new ideas and products to market working closely with its customers to support food trends such as meat replacement and special dietary requirements.
European Freeze Dry