IQF technology is one of the most important advancements in the freezing industry of the past century. Understanding the reasons behind it requires an understanding of what makes IQF unique. Where earlier techniques offered a workable, if also somewhat impractical solution, IQF did the impossible – it created a premium product, in record time, while bypassing existing obstacles.
Freezing always comes with some cost, depending on the approach. IQF lets you navigate these costs, at a high benefit to your business. Here’s how.
IQF – a primer
Before delving into how IQF-based technology can improve your business, it’s important to set up some ground terms and a common understanding of what this technology stands for. To start with, IQF stands for individually quick-frozen. True to its name, it creates a frozen food product where each piece is frozen separately. Often, to achieve the best result, the food is cut up into smaller pieces, such as in the case of cheese, and then frozen.
Initially discovered during a fishing expedition, some decades ago, the fisherman noticed that fish that freezes at once after being taken out of the water and laid on the snow, keeps its freshness to an exceedingly high degree. That’s how flash-freezing has been initially discovered, upon which IQF continually builds to create the impressive results we see today.
A thoroughly unique approach
Certain products, such as berries or fruits benefit enormously from being frozen individually. Otherwise, their soft exterior may be damaged, causing discoloration, texture changes, or waste. That’s why previously established preservation methods focused on vacuum packaging or individually packing the fruits. Both approaches are time-intensive and typically incur extra costs.
Another downside of the previously discussed methods is that they can’t be applied to every type of product. Shrimp, for instance, is too difficult to process using older methods.
That’s where IQF comes in. Supplying a unique solution, IQF lets you process each piece and freeze it according to your specified parameters, en masse. That ensures high productivity and efficiency while keeping quality levels at a high baseline.
One of the key benefits of the IQF freezer is that it consistently offers products at the highest level of quality. That’s done thanks to the freezing approach. Understanding that requires a bit of science. During any type of freezing, water inside the product will be turned into ice crystals. That’s inevitable – but these changes have a highly significant impact on the quality of the final product, as well as its shelf life, as well as a few other factors. In the example of spinach, freezing it using traditionally-known methods leaves behind ice crystals big enough to damage cellular walls. That, in turn, causes the cells in the spinach to break down, and start leaking their contents. This affects the quality of the frozen food most drastically: changes to the taste, color, texture, and potentially even smell can be noticed quickly.
Additionally, this reduces the storage time for frozen products significantly.
Meanwhile, IQF machinery prevents this process from taking place. The key here is quick processing times – by ensuring the spinach pieces are frozen quickly, using the IQF method, the ice crystals formed are smaller. That results in none of the undesired side-effects from the other methods. The frozen product can be stored safely for much longer while keeping more of its appetizing traits.
Did you know that with IQF the final product keeps most of its nutrients and vitamins? As a result, the product represents an attractive choice for sale as cheaper, more readily-available sources of nutrients. Additionally, it’s possible to stay ahead of the industry food-safety standards by choosing the right manufacturer. Octofrost supplies the best possible IQF freezing machinery in this regard, thanks to the unique patented bedplate technology. It involves plates that can be easily replaced, filling the place of a typical conveyor belt. The plates have small holes inside them that let freezing air flow through them during the freezing process.
Should you need to clean up a plate, removing it without stopping production can be done easily – making maintenance a cinch. Quick maintenance fits well into IQF’s theme of fast processing, as that is the key to understanding the technology. Short processing times, large volumes, and a premium quality frozen product are all guaranteed with the right IQF equipment.
Working with particularly delicate products, waste is inevitable. Certain foods, such as shrimp, require careful treatment and extensive efforts to process. Current IQF technology prevents substantial amounts of waste by putting control of the process back into your hands. With blanching equipment that covers multiple temperature zones, it’s possible to cook the shrimp as precisely as necessary.
Food safety is guaranteed, as the shrimp will be boiled precisely to the degree you specify, but not so long that it will become over-cooked or lose its flavor. Further processing keeps up the high speed, ensuring there is little to no time for any contamination to take place, which is a risk further eliminated by the bedplates constantly replaced and washed when needed. Freezing the shrimp using equipment that is made to freeze delicate products is helpful, as it escapes the ‘freezer-burn’ effect often met in the case of conveyor belts.
Altogether, this leads to large volumes of shrimp being frozen at record speeds that can be sold as premium quality products. This helps reduce food waste and creates many opportunities for sale and distribution.
To top it all off, IQF is highly effective at achieving high yield and peak performance, while minimizing costs and reducing energy usage. With OctoFrost equipment, it’s possible to tailor everything from fan speed to temperature zones to achieve your ideal product, as quickly as possible. Systems that reuse water during the blanching process and cooling let you benefit from the latest cost-saving engineering techniques and supply a better product at the same time. Fruit, seafood, vegetables, meat, or dairy – you have all the flexibility built-in to start working on these products at once.