Packaging is one of the most critical components when manufacturing food. It allows you to retain your product’s quality and prevent contamination from microbes or bacteria. If you’re working with frozen food, you must also look for packaging that can withstand cold temperatures and protect your product from dehydration or oxidation.
Nowadays, there are several frozen food packaging options in the market. However, one of the most popular involves using individual quick freezing technology. Below, you’ll find more information about how it works and its effectiveness.
So, what is individual quick freezing? IQF is short for individual quick freezing, a process that freezes individual product components without giant crystals forming inside the food cells. Unlike other food-freezing techniques, IQF doesn’t clump your product into one big chunk. If you use the individual quick freezing process for blueberries, each berry will be frozen but remain separate from the other berries.
IQF is ideally used to freeze small food products since it helps keep each piece intact. Nowadays, you’ll find a wide range of IQF products available in the market. Common examples include:
Thanks to advancing technologies, IQF has become integrated into the whole supply chain in the food industry due to the sensitive nature of fresh food. Quality starts degrading at harvest, so IQF helps prevent food from spoiling during transport and processing. This technology is crucial for highly perishable products like fruits, vegetables, and seafood.
To better understand the concept of IQF, it helps to learn how an IQF freezer works. Generally, ice crystallization occurs between 30º to 25ºF (-1º to -4ºC). This temperature range is also typical for most freezers since it helps prevent bacteria from contaminating your food. However, the longer your product spends under this temperature, the more and bigger ice crystals will form.
Given this, speed is a critical factor in the individual quick freezing technology. It uses an ultra-fast freezing technique to speed up the process, preventing giant crystals from forming in your food products. This makes a massive difference since bigger ice crystals can damage food tissue and cells, affecting their quality, taste, and texture. Since IQF works extremely fast, it only forms tiny ice crystals, maintaining the integrity of the food’s fibers.
To better understand why IQF is quickly gaining popularity in the food industry, here are the main benefits of using this process for packaging:
IQF, also known as flash freezing, hints at the first benefit—speed. Many food processors choose IQF since it freezes products very quickly. For example, what would typically take three to four hours to freeze conventionally can be done in just 10 minutes with an IQF freezer.
Another major benefit of the individual quick freezing process is higher quality products. As explained in the way IQF freezers work, they freeze products so quickly to ensure that damaging giant crystals don’t form in your food. This mechanism helps protect your product’s cellular structure and prevent moisture loss, effectively preserving its quality.
Where the first two benefits apply more to the manufacturer, this third benefit benefits consumers. Since individual quick freezing food products stay separate and don’t get bundled when frozen, you can consume smaller portions. So instead of thawing a whole bag of frozen shrimp, you can just defrost the amount you need to prepare your meal.
While IQF is highly popular in the food manufacturing and processing industry, you can also use this technique at home to prolong your food’s shelf life and store them separately. By doing this, you’ll effectively cut costs and reduce food waste during meal preparation.
Individual quick freezing equipment is mostly specialized, so it’s not readily available from vendors in the market. However, you can flash freeze food at home without the same equipment that food manufacturers use. All you need is a baking sheet or tray and some freezer-safe containers or bags or aluminum foil.
1. Prepare your food for freezing.
After preparation, you can place your food on a baking sheet or tray. As a tip, line your tray with parchment or wax paper for easier cleanup later. Also, ensure the food’s edges aren’t touching each other to prevent them from sticking together while freezing.
2. Place your food on a baking sheet or tray.
After preparation, you can place your food on a baking sheet or tray. As a tip, line your tray with parchment or wax paper for easier cleanup later. Also, ensure the food isn’t touching each other to prevent them from sticking together while freezing.
3. Freeze your food
Next, place your baking sheet or tray into the freezer or blast chiller and leave it there until the food is frozen. The process may take a few hours, so check after some time to see if the top of the food is firm and hardened.
4. Wrap or bag the frozen food
After removing the baking sheet or tray, you can wrap the food with freezer wrap or aluminum foil or place them in a freezer-safe plastic bag. However, take note that you shouldn’t cover acidic food items like blueberries or lemons with foil since the acid may cause aluminum to leach into your food and give an off-flavor.
5. Label and store your frozen food
Finally, you can label your wrapped or bagged food and place them back in the freezer. Then, when you need your ingredients, just grab the appropriate serving size and allow it to thaw. No need to bring everything out since you’ve already portioned your ingredients beforehand!
Not sure what food items you can IQF at home? Here are a few ideas to help you out:
Aside from individuals, businesses are also known to use IQF food in their operations. In particular, restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, caterers, and even hospitals often work with an IQF supplier to replenish their stock. By opting for IQF ingredients, they can retain the quality and nutritional value and store the supplies for a long time to prevent spoilage or food waste.
If you’re worried that you don’t have an individual quick freezing machine or enough freezer space to store your food, find a supplier that also offers warehousing and logistics services. This way, you can maintain a steady supply of IQF food without spending on equipment or leases.
The beauty of the individual quick freezing process is that it doesn’t compromise your food’s taste and quality due to its ultra-fast methodology. In contrast, conventional freezing processes take significantly longer, forming large ice crystals that can damage your food’s cellular structure.
Contrary to popular assumptions, IQF food items hold the same nutritional value as their raw form. Studies show that fresh fruits and vegetables lose 30% of their nutrients just three days after harvest, so they may have already gone dry and limp by the time they reach supermarkets. With IQF, you lock in the nutrients to prolong their shelf life.
IQF foods essentially work the same way as any other frozen food. You need to keep them in your freezer, then bring them out to defrost once ready for use.
The individual quick freezing market has undoubtedly grown rapidly as more consumers and businesses recognize the benefits of this technology. Now, you’ll find players from almost every food-related industry use this process, from producers to distributors to food service companies.
Here at Sunleaf Foods, we’re committed to supplying high-quality IQF food products for your needs. We have an extensive product range for your ease and convenience. For more information, feel free to contact us today at 949-523-2832.