12 December 2014
"Better for you" snacks
In the search for that magic combination of ingredients in the food-to-go or snack category that will offer the consumer tasty, visually excellent and healthier snacks than traditionally, many manufacturers are starting to explore the possibilities of using freeze dried fruit and vegetables both as an ingredient and as a stand-alone snack product
By Chaucer Foods
As consumers become more focused on what they eat throughout their time-precious days, there is a growing trend towards seeking alternatives to traditional snack foods. The 2013 State of the Snack Industry report outlined how parents are driving a “better for you” trend. Healthier snacks saw an 8 % volume share growth from 2005-2009 versus an 8% decline during the same period for indulgent (less healthy) snack options. This suggests that brands have an opportunity to address the health concerns of parents by developing more “better for you” ranges of taste profiles that appeal to adults and children alike.
The prevalence of freeze dried fruit in breakfast cereals means that consumers are already accustomed to the great taste of the fruit alongside their favourite cereal. This allows manufacturers to be innovative within their ranges and tap into this consumer need and understanding of the importance of fruit within their diets.
Chaucer manufactures a wide range of freeze dried fruits. The benefits of these products are that they remain stable, retain their natural flavour and maintain their taste, essential nutrients, colour and appearance. Furthermore, the shelf life of freeze dried fruit is typically 12 months and more, which is tremendous news for manufacturers and retailers.
An attractive option
Chaucer Foods has worked with Sheffield Hallam University to demonstrate the effect of freeze drying on strawberries. The benefits include the retention of much of the nutritional content of the fresh product when compared to fruit that has been dried using other techniques. The study found that freeze dried fruit maintains most of its nutrients in terms of vitamin C and phenolic content and antioxidant activity. This study then provides the evidence to support the ability of manufacturers to demonstrate healthier options to the consumer.
By including freeze dried fruit in snack products, manufacturers are less likely to need to add further flavouring or sweetening. This makes freeze dried fruit an attractive inclusion for the snack industry and at the same time gives manufacturers the opportunity to present a “healthier” option to the consumer.
Furthermore, freeze dried fruit, particularly with its extended shelf life, enables retailers to reduce the risk associated with waste which is a considerable concern when dealing with fresh fruit. In addition, freeze dried fruit snack products in the store will ensure that the consumer is more likely to find a healthy alternative to the traditional snack meal offer.
Freeze drying works by freezing the fruit and then reducing the surrounding pressure to allow the frozen water in the fruit to change directly into water vapour without becoming a liquid, therefore minimising damage in the structure of the fruit. There are three main steps in the process:
Freezing – all products are first frozen. Freezing is carried out quickly to minimise the size of the ice crystals in the product.
Primary drying – this removes free and surface water. Pressure is reduced, typically to below 1 mbar. The temperature is then slowly raised by conduction to sublimate the water. Water vapour is captured on condenser plates as solid ice.
Secondary drying – this is the longest part of the process. It removes water that is tightly or chemically bound inside the fruit. Freeze dried products are dried to about 4% moisture content.