The frozen food industry has long been stagnant in the adoption of new technologies, as the challenge of improving the quality of those products in a sustainable and profitable way has been difficult. An area of product development currently gaining traction involves dehydrofrozen applications, which are produced when a portion of the water is removed from the fresh product prior to freezing.
The present day industry standard for frozen food is known as individually-quick frozen (IQF), which prevents large ice crystals from forming at the cellular level because food pieces are frozen to prevent them from sticking and forming a frozen block. IQF is occasionally supplemented with a front-end hot air drying step for moisture removal, which compromises the physical structure of the food and causes excessive nutrient loss due to excessive heat.
Historically, like hot air drying, the use of microwave energy to remove moisture from food products has not been feasible due to the heat exposure and the uneven temperature distribution.
About two decades ago, a group of University of British Columbia food scientists completed several experiments that combined the use of microwave energy and a vacuum to successfully overcome the challenge of uneven microwave energy distribution while simultaneously lowering the boiling point of water through the development of a food technology innovation. This innovation is called REV, and eliminated the oxygen and heat damage typically associated with drying technologies and allowed for even, flexible water removal.
Dehydrofreezing, through the use of radiant energy vacuum (REV) technology, is an innovative technique that removes specific levels of moisture homogeneously from fresh organic materials prior to freezing. This method was pioneered to substantially enhance frozen food quality through the combination of two long-standing food preservation processes—dehydration and freezing. During the process, the organic materials are continuously conveyed through a vacuum microwave environment via a tray or belt system. The uniqueness of using REV technology to produce dehydrofrozen vegetables is derived from its ability to control the level of moisture that is evenly removed immediately before freezing.
This innovation also addresses the issue of food waste by increasing the quality of shelf-stable food products. Manufacturers are progressively deploying resources to serve a dual socioeconomic role in order to increase production efficiencies while addressing the food sustainability issue. This movement is not only trending on the corporate level; customers are also becoming increasingly mindful of their food choices. They advocate and support responsible manufacturers while simultaneously gravitating away from low-quality, empty calories.
Other advantages include decreased seepage and reduced shipping costs through lower product weight.