The ready-to-eat food market has grown significantly over the last decade. The freeze-chilled foods sector is experiencing the most dynamic growth.
It is expected that the global frozen food market will reach US$ 366.3 billion by 2026. Further, it is projected to reach US$ 404.8 billion by 2027.
The frozen food market size in India was worth 1121 billion rupees in 2018. This market is expected to reach 2618 billion rupees by 2024, which is growing at a CAGR of 14.8 percent during 2019-2024.
The strong demand for products that are fresh, healthy, safe to eat, and of better quality is the reason for the boom in this sector.
What are freeze chilled foods
Normally chilled ready to eat products are perceived to be of better quality than frozen foods. Freeze chilling of food consists of freezing and frozen storage. This is followed by tempering and then retailing at chill storage temperatures.
Freeze chilling involves a dual process, which consists of freezing and frozen storage. Then it is followed by tempering (thawing) and chilled retail display.
The freeze chilling has logistic advantages over ordinary chilling as it allows bulk preparation of frozen products. This process enables freeze chilled foods to reach foreign markets more easily.
It also reduces the level of product recalls. Since it enables routine microbiological tests to be completed before releasing from manufacturing unit.
Freeze Chilled Foods Benefits
Freeze chilling is a modern technology for many ready meals, including sauces. This offers logistic and shelf life benefits during distribution and retailing.
Extended frozen storage up to one year, prior to chilling has little or no adverse effect on the quality of freeze chilled foods.
Freeze chilled foods can offer logistic and distribution advantages over chilling of the foods.
It also offers transportation and storage advantages to food manufacturers. Food intended for freeze chilling must be suitable for freezing and thawing.
It also maintains the natural quality of foods. When a food is frozen, ice crystals are formed. The smaller and more evenly distributed the crystals, the better the quality and taste of the frozen foods.
Precautions in Food chilling
Standards like good manufacaturing practice (GMP) and HACCP are imperatives throughout the overall freeze chilling processes. Particular attention must be given to the thawing phase of the freeze chill process.
This is primary to maintain the quality and standards of food products. Conducting tests regularly is also essential in food chilling.
The main reason for conducting such tests is that freeze chilling might predispose products to more rapid quality deterioration.
Both freezing and thawing makes the food more susceptible to microbial attacks die to the destruction of anti microbial barriers in the foods. Also due to increased moisture and condensation on the products.
The thawed food could be more susceptible to microbial growth due to nutrients in the drip. Freezing may open up cell structure of vegetables and meats.
This may adversely affect the color, texture, vitamin retention and sensory acceptability of the food products.
There is also a gradual and irreversible reduction in product quality during frozen storage, even at minus 60 degree Celsius.
Freeze Chilled Foods in Market
An important advice to food manufacturers is that freeze chilled foods package should be labelled as “previously frozen“. This enables the consumer to get a detail specification and content of the product being consumed.
A use by date must also be employed and this label should be attached at the start of the thawing process.
In India, major players of Freeze Chilled Foods are Venky (India) Ltd, ITC Ltd, Godrej Agrovet Ltd, Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable Pvt Ltd, Innovative Foods Ltd and Apex Frozen Foods Ltd.
In the US market Conagra Brands Inc., Lamb Weston, Schwan’s Company and Nestle SA are major players.
Freeze chilled foods has a number of potential advantages over conventional chilled and frozen storage. The ability to extend food product storage life from days to weeks is important for food industries.
The present India government is providing subsidies and grants for cold storage across the country. More than Rs 21000 crores are ready to be invested in this Cold Storage sector.
This will help the small farmers and business enterprises to expand their market in Freeze Chilled Foods market. Future retail market is in this frozen food sector.