What is IQF Food?: Your Complete Guide

Locally Sourced Food
Guide to Buying Locally Sourced Food for Health-Conscious Restaurants
July 10, 2019
What is IQF Food? Your Complete Guide.

Does your restaurant do enough to surprise and delight its customers? Are you looking for new ways to incorporate local food into your menu, even during the off-season?

More than 99% of American shoppers have purchased individually quick-frozen food, or IQF food, in the past year.

What many chefs don’t realize is that IQF food can be an affordable and nutritious add-in for restaurants of any size.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of IQF food and help you find a reputable local distributor.

What is IQF?

Individually quick-frozen food is a way to preserve food at its freshest. It’s also referred to as “flash freezing,” and has been widely used since the 1920s.

Everything from vegetables to grains to meats can be flash-frozen, a process that involves taking the food down past 25 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes.

The great thing about IQF food is that it generates smaller ice crystals than a slow freeze, preserving food more effectively.

Large ice crystals damage cell and fibers, causing a mushy texture when food is thawed.

Benefits of Frozen Foods

While there is still a stigma around using IQF foods in a restaurant setting, there are several benefits that cannot be ignored. We’ll take you through several of the most compelling reasons to embrace the potential of frozen foods.

Lack of Preservatives

The top reason to use frozen foods is that they don’t need preservatives. The freezing process keeps them as fresh as when they were picked without the need to make them “shelf-stable.”

Fresh fish can be flash-frozen without additives, then shipped inland. Even if your restaurant isn’t near the coast, you can still serve delicious fish dishes.

Meat also benefits from flash-freezing without preservatives. Even grains like rice and quinoa can be hearty IQF foods, cutting down on prep time.

Herbs also freeze well and can be frozen in small amounts, perfect for adding a fresh kick to any meal.

High Nutritional Value

Surprisingly, frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutritional value as their fresh-picked cousins. They retain their protein, fat, and carbohydrates and do not lose any vitamins or minerals as they thaw.

As long as you use thawed produce within a few hours, you can count on them to mimic fresh produce.

If you plan to incorporate frozen foods into your menu, just make sure that they don’t have any added fat or salt.

You may have to experiment with cooking times and allow for the fact that frozen foods may express a small amount of liquid as they thaw and cook.

Minimize Food Waste

Another compelling reason to incorporate IQF food is that you can cut down on food waste. Frozen food often uses vegetables that are considered a little bit imperfect.

The best thing about using imperfect fruits and vegetables is that you’ll save money. If you’re making a soup, it doesn’t matter what the vegetables look like as long as they taste great.

We can help you get started with fruits, leafy greens, herbs, and custom veggie blends.

Easy to Prepare Year-Round

No matter the size of your restaurant, using locally-sourced frozen foods allows you to elevate your customers’ experience.

While you may not be able to get fresh peas in December, for example, you could use frozen instead. Fish is another food that customers expect year-round, even if it’s the off-season.

It’s easy to include frozen foods in your menu, especially when you have help with warehousing and delivery. We can also hold your ingredients for you, allowing you to control when you pick them up.

Should Farm-to-Table Restaurants Use IQF Food?

If you’re committed to including farm-fresh foods on your menu, you should definitely consider using IQF foods.

More than half of all restaurant patrons report that they want locally-sourced food. Buying fresh food from local farmers helps keep them in business.

Most importantly, buying IQF food helps local farmers use their surplus. They may have more than they can sell at farmer’s markets.

Another benefit of partnering with local farms is to get the word out about their CSAs, a seasonal vegetable delivery program.

Committed restaurant owners and chefs can, conceivably, buy enough local produce to get them through the off-season. As long as the quality is good, it’s worth it to invest in local businesses.

Promoting Locally-Farmed Produce

Whether you’re using fresh or frozen local produce, make sure your customers know that you’ve got a local farm-to-table connection.

When you begin using local produce, you might want to have a special tasting event for your customers. You can make a few special dishes with the new vegetables and herbs, an event which should generate considerable buzz.

You don’t have to go all-local immediately. Take your time and find farms that will work with you to provide the quantity you need.

They may need a growing season or two to start delivering the vegetables you request, so you may need to start a year or two in advance.

Find a Local IQF Food Distributor

The farm-to-table movement is well-established in this country and shows no signs of slowing down. In general, helping small farms thrive will be good for your reputation in the community.

If you’re looking to re-brand or expand, start incorporating IQF food onto your menu. You don’t have to advertise the fact that you’re using frozen items.

In fact, your customers probably won’t notice.

Our plant-based frozen foods are featured on restaurant menus around the country. We adhere to strict quality control and food safety rules and work with restaurants and retail stores to deliver cost-effective solutions.

We can warehouse your inventory to make sure your freezers aren’t getting overcrowded. If you would like to pick up your orders regularly, we have a central warehouse located in Los Angeles.

To get started, just send us a quick email online or give us a call at our headquarters. We’ll get back to you quickly and we can start planning together.

We’re looking forward to working with you!