November 24, 2017
As 2017 enters its final months, so do a flood of reflections and predictions from the food industry. In a year where we have witnessed the arguably foreseen rise of free from and organic foods, political uncertainty becoming a certainty and a semi-permanent question mark hovering over Brexit, ‘anything could happen’ seems a logical prediction for 2018.
However, Alfredo de Torres, Health, Safety and Quality Manager at temperature controlled specialists, Rick Bestwick says that one certainty we can rely upon is the continued increase in consumer demand for chilled foods. He says that the cold storage company has experienced record levels of orders for chilled in 2017 and therein lies a golden opportunity for retailers and producers.
Chilled food production in the UK is currently one of the fastest-growing sectors with leading budget supermarkets earmarked as significantly contributing to that growth. Whether that is in ingredient form or as the final product which is brought up to temperature before hitting the supermarket shelves – the reality is, frozen and chilled go hand-in-hand.
Despite being seen as discounters these retailers have ‘premiumised’ the chilled sector. By offering a reduced range made up of top quality products, they are able to keep manufacturing levels high and prices low – which ultimately draws in new customers and boosts growth.
The challenge in chilled foods is addressing the issues of shelf life and supply chain requirements to meet the demands of ‘just in time’ deliveries, otherwise food waste and financial loss can result.
So that manufacturers and retailers can meet these needs it is useful to have the means to up-temper frozen products to precise temperatures in a short amount of time. Rick Bestwick’s state of the art up-tempering technology can consistently and safely bring products from -18°C to -3°C in under three minutes– a process which could take days using conventional methods. This modern approach of up-tempering greatly reduces drip loss and since it’s completed in minutes rather than days can add significant periods of time to the shelf life of the product.
Alongside the trend in chilled, the company has also experienced an increased demand for its value-added services as companies look to remove time and expenditure from their processes as well as free up space in their manufacturing facilities. As well as up-tempering, blast freezing, date-coding, labelling and freeze-storing finished products the storage and processing of individual ingredients is also growing in popularity to meet the ‘just in time’ needs of consumers whilst increasing available production space in their facilities.
Among the top concerns of customers who decide to freeze store their products is the quality of that product when it arrives at the end retailer. Quality control is becoming an ever increasing challenge as the diversity of product ranges grows..
Alfredo de Torres, the health, safety and quality manager at Rick Bestwick says that there are a number of trials conducted to ensure that quality is maintained to the highest standard. Blast freezing and up-tempering trials determine the exact temperature and duration a product requires to reduce and increase its core temperature to the required level. Analysis is conducted on packaging and product quality after these processes are carried out.. Taste trials can also be accommodated for with customers providing samples to be processed for panel review. Alfredo says that these have always been positive, with participants stating it was extremely difficult to tell the difference between products that had been frozen and those that hadn’t.
With a primary indication that the trend in chilled foods will continue, retailers and manufacturers need to be pragmatic in their approach and use this intelligence to their advantage by adopting services which will reliably leverage these trends or counteract unfavourable market forces. At a time of high inflation, and many broad political unknowns there are some likely outcomes in the food sector and it would seem prudent for retailers and manufacturers to tackle these trends head-on in 2018.