Fruit and vegetables are tasty and healthy – but they are a delicate matter. And for this reason you should not leave to chance the careful temperature control and gentle product handling in the chilling or freezing processing lines of these sensitive foodstuffs. GEA makes sure that your foods will stay at the very top of the consumer’s shopping list, and that they will leave behind no bitter taste. After all: energy efficiency and environmentally friendly refrigerants enjoy absolute top priority with us. It is especially deep-frozen food that makes it easy as pie to eat healthily and with great variety – without great specialist knowledge, sophisticated nutritional plans, or calendars of the season. Whether it’s crunchy green peas in summer or radiantly red raspberries in winter: the consumer is awaited during every season by a tempting diversity of fruit and vegetables that keep their freshness, color, flavor, shape, and vitamin content. In addition, frozen foods make it easier for the growing number of us with allergies and food intolerances to adjust our diet to personal needs. Nutrition scientists can heartily recommend frozen foods. Countless studies have for many years proven that properly frozen vegetables are not only equivalent to their fresh counterparts with respect to vitamin content: it has indeed been evidenced that frozen vegetables in any case are superior to those foods that have been stored for days in refrigerators or that have been in transit for long periods. Deep-frozen foods also represent hygienically flawless products for the consumer, since microorganisms such as bacteria need above-zero temperatures to grow and proliferate.
Most of us modern people of course lack the time and energy for contemplative strolling through local farmers’ markets, with intensive snooping and assessment of goods on display. As a rule, we rush through the supermarket to get home on time. No wonder that convenience foods such as deep-frozen products are gaining in popularity. Consumers especially like to reach for frozen vegetables: their deep-freeze storage at home is full of peas, beans, cauliflower, and the like. Deep-frozen vegetables do not need tedious cleaning or cutting. But, beyond convenience, these frozen products offer top quality and great vitamin content. In addition, it couldn’t be easier to stock up for the coming days and weeks. Frozen goods can also be particularly easily portioned, for small or large appetites. This likewise makes it simple to sensibly manage valuable foods and to prevent wastage. To ensure that the customer can enjoy precisely these benefits, this means that vegetables should lie loose as “bulk goods” in their packages and not stick together. Toward this end, GEA IQF (individually quick frozen) tunnel freezers are effective for all kind of vegetables and herbs. Gentle product agitation together with efficient heat transfer are key elements to assure product quality all along chilling and freezing processes. Our customer Bonduelle in Estrées, France, for example, counts on the “individualizing” features of the IQF process. Bonduelle freezes and processes 35 metric tons of vegetables – every hour. At this plant, GEA has equipped three mutually autonomous machine rooms, each with four high-performance screw compressors, including economizers. The plant also operates one IQF freezer (10 t / h) as well as three spiral freezers (each with 2.5 t / h) – all from GEA. Spiral freezers transport the products on an endless conveyor belt through various levels from the bottom upward. These freezers literally carry their weight when the products are relatively heavy or even packaged. One decisive benefit of this technique: a lot of output on a small footprint.
Purchasing of fresh fruit can demand a lot from even experienced shoppers. A lovely, glowing skin often conceals flavorless and watery aroma. Sometimes overripe fruit falls victim to fruit flies. Next time we shop, we feel wiser and pick out unripe and hard fruit and let them ripen at home. But then we find that storage conditions at home promote the immediate development from underripe to rotten produce. Discouraged by such experience, more and more customers are helping themselves to the deep freeze at supermarkets – and are not disappointed. Advanced quick-freezing makes this possible. Manufacturers wash, cut, and pit sweet fruits and freeze them in the perfect stage of “eating ripeness”. Refrigeration halts metabolism, the fruit does not ripen, and the customer can enjoy the preserved, delicious taste without trouble and tedium. In the design of freezer systems at GEA, pleasing the palate is of course not the only concern: the customer can depend on the preservation of “inner values” such as vitamins. With the very popular berries, for example, it is primarily the antioxidative effects that protect human tissue shells from damage – effects not impaired by industrial freezing. Freezing of course takes place under careful observance of relevant standards of food and beverage hygiene.
As with peas and other vegetables, IQF quality is paramount with fruits as well. It is essentially this emphasis that ensures that the products enter the market as first-class bulk items, and that the consumer can take individual quantities, and even individual berries. Quick crusting before freezing is highly effective for fruits. Very delicate produce such as raspberries are frozen in two steps. Raspberries are crusted in a unique impingement freezer, followed by freezing finish. The quick-crusting step process takes place at high velocity, with top and bottom air jets for high heat transfer and no product movement on the belt conveyor. Only very small ice crystals are produced inside the product. When the fruit thaws, the cell structure remains extensively undamaged, so that even fruits with delicate structure and high water content retain their form and consistency. In addition, this solution – recently developed by GEA – offers significant energy savings in comparison to conventional cryogenic systems. It effectively preserves the color, flavor, shape, and nutritive value of these tender fruits. The crusting and freezing process is applicable to most produce in the berry family.
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