The challenges and solutions in selling high quality IQF berries

Maintaining the natural appearance and shape of berries during the freezing process is of great concern to processors, as berries are very delicate. The reason for the difficulty of handling these berries can be found in the high water and sugar content of these soft fruits, OctoFrost marketing Coordinator María Viéitez says: “This can lead to three significant challenges during the freezing process: lump formation, product dehydration and surface cracking or crumbling. These three factors can have a severe impact on the quality of the final product, ultimately forcing the processors to sell the berries at lower prices.”

Source: Fresh Plaza

To ensure high profitability is maintained, Viéitez emphasizes that processors need to ensure premium quality when it comes to berries. “This is achievable thanks to modern freezing solutions like the OctoFrost IQF freezer, which matches the particularities of the berry and handles each variety with the utmost care. In response to the challenges I mentioned earlier, fluidization and flash-freezing are the ultimate solution.”

As the climate becomes more challenging for berry cultivation, demand for frozen berries is expected at the same time, Viéitez states. “As the temperatures around the globe are increasing, regions that mass-produced berries at one time, are now seeing less consistency in their berry production. Meanwhile, the demand for frozen berries is increasing. According to Grand View Research, frozen berries are expected to grow at the fastest rate of 7.5% between 2022 and 2027.”

“Berries have a sticky surface thanks to their high water content, which can easily lead to formation of clumps or large ice blocks. To ensure this doesn’t happen, the OctoFrost™ Freezer uses multiple freezing zones, each with adjustable fan speed to allow for optimal air pressure and speed,” Viéitez explains. “In the first zone, OctoFrost offers a crust-freezing belt that immediately freezes the surface of the berry prior to freezing its core in the next zones. This helps to keep the pieces separated from each other, thus avoiding lump formation and preserving their natural shape during the freezing process.”

It’s important for processors to not have the freezing process take too long, Viéitez states. “When the freezing process of berries takes a long time, it can damage the cellular structure of the berries’ molecules and lead to loss of moisture. This in turn can result in weight loss and a change in color and texture. The key to preventing this a perfect air-flow inside the freezer, that can shorten the freezing time to just a couple of minutes. This is achieved by the optimal aerodynamics created in the OctoFrost IQF Freezer. Its compact shape and adjustable fan speed contribute to keeping the size of the ice crystals small and product dehydration to a minimum.”

Another challenging aspect of freezing berries would be avoiding surface damage, Viéitez explains: “The use of metal mesh belts and long freezing times are among the main causes of any surface damage. In the case of blueberries, they usually cause surface cracks, while when it comes to other varieties, such as raspberries, they can lead to breakage and crumbling. To solve this, we have developed the patented bedplate technology with food-grade plastic material. Thanks to careful movement and vibrations, the bedplates move the berries forward gently and steadily, ensuring good separation while avoiding surface damages.”