No Ice Age in Frozen Foods

Frozen food convenience and advanced technology resonate with consumers, even post-recession.

By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor

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Two trends have been identified by National Starch. "Consumers are looking for premium, restaurant-quality products that are made with fresh ingredients and have the convenience of freezing and microwaving," explains Briceno. "The second is natural, a consumer trend with very long legs and wide reach in the industry.

Consumers have not let up on their demand for all-natural products, especially those made with recognizable ingredients you would normally find in your mother's cupboard." At the very least, she says, processors are working on label simplification.

Finding the right shortening
frozen hand heldShortening, margarine and oils are used in the manufacture of some frozen foods, and there are some challenges in new product development, according to Roger Daniels, director of R&D and new business development at Bunge Oils, Bradley Ill., part of Bunge North America (www.bungenorthamerica.com).

"In bakery dough products -- which a consumer finish-bakes into biscuits, pies, cookies and pastries -- the shortening, margarine and oils impart tenderness to the dough and structure or flakiness to the finished baked products," he explains. "In these applications, the shortening, margarine and oils must provide balance in terms of functionality, nutrition and consistency for each of four milestones."

Daniels says these milestones include:

  • The factory -- Do these ingredients function as the product is assembled; is the dough sheetable/extrudable, etc.)?
  • On the shelf – Does the product function through the supply chain distribution (holds its shape and consistency, for example)?
  • On the plate – Does the product deliver the quality attributes of taste, quality, convenience and price?
  • In the consumer – Does the product deliver the nutritional attributes desired by the consumer?

"In frozen potato and fish stick applications, the oil is the frying medium prior to flash freezing," says Daniels. "So the processor is challenged to find an appropriate oil or shortening which does not contribute to oil wicking from the application product through the package, and lack of crumb adhesion to the application product.

"Bakers seek fats and oils ingredients that impart structure, which traditionally was provided by partially hydrogenated shortenings. As nutrition science has advanced, there has been a drive away from ingredients that contain trans fats."

Bunge provides options based on three technologies. The first is reduced trans fat approaches using patented partial hydrogenation technology that reduces trans by greater than 80 percent and the sum of trans and saturates by about 33 percent. The second option is next-generation oils, for example high-oleic canola oil and low-linolenic soybean oil, often as blendable components. The third is enzymatically interesterified shortenings, the result of a patent-pending process that enables sustainable, functional shortenings with good organoleptic properties."

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