Freeze drying

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. The key benefits are that the process retains the structure, the flavour and the 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.

In essence, the 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 undergo 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. 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.

We are also using our 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. We are constantly breaking new ground with our customers and bringing new ideas and products to market to support food trends such as meat replacement and special dietary requirements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, European Freeze Dry has seen an increase in demand for its products in tins and ready meals, with food manufacturers increasing the volumes of food for those who are vulnerable and unable to leave their homes.

Products under development in the R&D team currently include diced caramelised toffee apple, soya beans and black turtle beans. Meanwhile, 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. 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.

Popular ingredients for the vegan products market include turtle beans, diced sweet potato, black-eyed beans, diced beetroot and caramelised onion. At the same time, there are increasing challenges in the supply chain not least 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 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.

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. Freeze drying also means there is a much-reduced potential for microorganisms 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 percent 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.

Source: New Food Magazine