KEY INTERVIEW: Freeze Dried, Next Best to Fresh

635943328412173302Richard Ilsley cropped.jpg

23 Mar 2016 --- Freeze dried fruits are becoming popular snacks in their own right and many freeze dried fruits are found to keep the bulk of their nutritional values intact, without the addition of sugar or other additives.

Chaucer Freeze Dried Foods supplies freeze dried ingredients to many of the world’s leading brands and have done so since 1982. Based on the findings of a recent study by Chaucer and Newcastle University, researchers have found various benefits of opting for freeze dried fruits and vegetables over fresh and encourage consumers to snack guilt free on freeze dried goods.
 
FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Richard Ilsley, (pictured) Group Sales Director at Chaucer about the key motivation and findings of freeze drying foods. Ilsley explains: “When I initially joined Chaucer in 2011, everyone kept telling me how wonderful and healthy freeze drying was. However there wasn’t much evidence to back this up.”
 
Ilsley decided to commission some research, initially with Sheffield University. The purpose of this research was to establish the deterioration of nutrients between fresh/frozen and IQF fruits when they are transformed into a freeze dried state,” says Ilsley, “We published the findings in 2013 and it pointed out that the deterioration was between 2 and 8 percent.”
 
The fruits and vegetables used to undertake that analysis were: strawberry (whole and sliced), lime, orange, blackcurrant, broccoli and red bell pepper, and the study found that freeze dried whole strawberries had no recorded loss of Vitamin C and total phenolic content and only an 8% loss in total antioxidant capacity (TAC). Whereas, for equivalent chilled whole strawberries stored over seven days, there were significant losses for Vitamin C content (-19%) and TAC (-23%) and a very significant loss in total phenolic content (-82%).
 
The study also found that the freeze drying process has little or no detrimental effect on the total antioxidant capacity, total phenolic content or Vitamin C content of other fruits and vegetables which were tested.
 
Ilsley states: “Once we knew that fruit and vegetables are capable of surviving the freeze drying process, then the obvious next question was, 'What about shelf life?'”
 
The second study conducted by Chaucer and Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, used strawberry samples to investigate the nutritional stability of freeze dried strawberries after freeze drying over a typical shelf life of twelve months.
 
Ilsley says: "The purpose of the Newcastle study was effectively to take the results of the Sheffield study and then understand how the nutrients survived over a twelve month period. We took a sample every quarter and evaluated the movements in terms of the vitamins and minerals. In terms of Vitamin C content, we found that there was a slight decline. On day 8, 100g of the freeze dried strawberries contained 509 milligrams of vitamin C and by day 365, they contained 403 milligrams, meaning that there was only a 1.8 per cent decrease per month. This just reinforced not only is freeze drying nutritious but it's also a good form of preservation as it maintains all the nutrients over a long period of time."
 
Needless to say, given the natural spoiling of fresh foods, the stability of the fresh strawberries were unable to be tested after 12 months. Findings showed that in these freeze-dried strawberries, stored in a number of types of typical packaging materials, there were no significant differences in the levels of decline of vitamin C or anthocyanin content compared to the frozen samples.Click to Enlarge
 
By freeze drying fruits and vegetables the products are transformed into a stable ambient state,” claims Ilsley, “And we all know that some of the fruit and vegetables we buy is wasted, however with freeze drying, fruit and veg have the capabilities to still be nutritious twelve months later.”
 
According to Ilsley, fresh is always going to be best, but freeze dried is the next best thing to fresh.
 
He believes the consumer demand for freeze dried goods has been prevalent for some time in the industry, in particular in areas like the cereal category. “Historically, there was a high demand in the soup category and some higher end noodle products have freeze dried vegetables in them as do some of the big premium cereal brands,” he says.
 
“What we are finding more recently is a lot more of a development with new uses of freeze drying because consumers want to have healthier ingredients in their branded foods. So there has been a big transition for artificial pieces of fruit or air dried fruits to things like freeze dried for premium end products,” explains Ilsley.
 
“Nowadays it’s also used in ration packs or meals for outdoor pursuits, it’s a very regular way of preserving the nutrient quality of ready to eat foods as well as fruits,” he adds.
 
Fresh products are available year round, but freeze drying does make the fruit or vegetables much more store-able, in terms of how long it will last and whether or not it goes off at all. It is also a very convenient way to eat prepared fruit and vegetables as it is pretty much mess free.
 
“Whether it’s an ingredient or snacking product, freeze drying is undoubtedly a great way to consume fruits or vegetables, without interfering with their nutritional values,” Ilsley concludes.
 
by Elizabeth Kenward

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