THE STAR OF FROZEN VEGETABLES: IQF BROCCOLI
Frozen vegetables are a big part of the world’s frozen foods industry, in particular on the European market. Even though this sector is diversifying its pallet of frozen vegetables, the traditional favorites remain broccoli, green beans and peas.
One of the reasons behind this demand is the increase of interest in innovating and sustainable solutions form private label producers. There is no longer enough to just sell frozen vegetables to the market, especially vegetables such as broccoli, praised for their nutritious values and health benefits. European consumers have a high interest in the amount of nutrients of the product, natural appearance, premium quality, food safety and fair trade concerns. The EU is a major importer of frozen vegetables and even though the biggest consuming countries used to be Western Europeans, the Eastern European countries are picking up this trend with a high pace due to the launch of more and more health-conscious and sustainable lines and campaigns.
As a consequence, the demand for frozen private label broccoli is on the rise, and producers are competing to supply this demand with the best quality on the market as well as complying with the high food safety regulations. In order to achieve excellent result with the final frozen product that is going to be sold in supermarkets, frozen broccoli producers need superior freezing equipment and techniques, capable of preserving the nutrients of the broccoli and its natural appearance.
The OctoFrost team has extensive experience with the freezing of broccoli and can offer a set of valuable information to broccoli processors.
IQF freezing on-site
The moment the broccoli is harvest, the respiration process begins, which means that the product will immediately star to lose water and release heat. This will have a negative impact on the nutritional values of the broccoli, because the product will start to lose a lot of nutrients. Considering the entire time between transportation, quality control, handling and the moment the broccoli will reach the supermarket, it is highly possible that the product will lose more than half of the original amount of minerals and vitamins before it is consumed. This is why we at OctoFrost recommend IQF freezing on-site.
IQF freezing is the most common method for freezing vegetables such as broccoli, with premium results, because the product will be individually quick frozen, preserving its natural shape, color and texture. By IQF freezing on-site, processors will achieve high quality IQF broccoli that will be sold at a premium price.
One of the biggest challenges for processors is to keep a good separation as the products tend to stick to each other and to create lumps and block formation.
Before the actual IQF freezing process begins, the broccoli usually needs to be blanched and pre – cooled.
Blanching is practically the exposure of the broccoli to boiling water or steam, for a short period of time, in order to inactivate the vegetables enzymes. The enzymes is what causes the broccoli to mature, thus to start losing its nutrients, flavor, color and texture. In general, every vegetable needs to be blanched and then immediately cooled prior to freezing.
After blanching, we at OctoFrost recommend processors to cool the broccoli at +70C.
Performant IQF equipment
All the challenges of individually quick freezing broccoli can be overcome by choosing a performant freezing equipment. What is important while IQF freezing broccoli, is to create the optimal fluidization inside the freezer.
Fragile vegetables like broccoli, are really easily damaged and they require gentle handling because of this. OctoFrost has up to 5 different freezing zones which allow a good control over the speed of the fans. In addition, the freezer has perforated bedplates, made of food-grade plastic material. This is very important because the controlled fan speed together with the perforations inside the bedplates allows the air to move through the plates and push the broccoli into the air at an optimal speed, making it slowly move towards the outfeed of the freezer. This is how the OctoFrost achieves the perfect fluidization for premium quality IQF broccoli results.
IQF broccoli maintain their natural appearance, color, texture, taste and shape when they are individually quick frozen in the OctoFrost. This is possible because of the freezers unique bedplate configuration and its quick, controlled freezing process.