With over a century of experience, Air Liquide is a world leader in gases, technologies, and services for the industry. Food & Beverage Industry News reports.
As a gas expert, Air Liquide provides its food industry customers with full process support and services, such as the implementation of cryogenic freezing processes, including the use of liquid nitrogen.
A wide range of freezing and chilling services continues to help food manufacturers maintain quality and freshness, as well as help limit moisture loss.
Whether it’s preserving food quality during the grinding and mixing process in a safe and sanitary environment, or moving temperature-sensitive foods via refrigerated transport, Air Liquide develops custom solutions to meet customers’ requirements – all while helping to improve productivity.
Among Air Liquide’s specialties is the utilisation of liquid nitrogen to chill produce quickly and effectively. There are several benefits to using cryogenic freezing methods, according to Fumie Hokao, food cryo specialist and Alex Young, food application specialist.
For example, liquid nitrogen can be sprayed into merchandise being chilled either from the top or the bottom, with both methods being used in the food and beverage industry. And conveniently, the process can be easily adapted to existing equipment.
“The customer may already have a freezer and want to increase throughput; they can add a small cryogenic freezer ahead of the other one to start the process and put the rest of the work into the main freezer. So, it’s a small footprint to increase productivity,” said Young.
Another benefit is that the gases have direct contact with the food.
If an ammonia chiller is being used in a mixer, for example, then users might be able to cool down the walls of the mixer but the surface of contact is limited compared to injecting the cooling agent directly in the food, as it would be the case with liquid nitrogen.
Some of the mainstays of cryogenic chilling are chicken nuggets and meat patties, which are popular with those who process fast-food products. Cryogenic freezing is also used for ice cream production and with fresh produce.
Young said one of the key benefits of using the method for fresh produce is the ability to lock in freshness and prevent weight reduction through moisture loss, and with produce being sold by weight, this creates an obvious benefit.
“Because it’s so cold it can snap freeze product quickly as opposed to mechanical freezing like a fridge or freezer,” he said.
“The faster you freeze the less loss you get because the surface is frozen straight away, and you don’t have moisture coming out which saves on any loss, which is generally through moisture.”
Young’s expertise is a good example of Air Liquide’s extensive technical knowledge through its worldwide network of food cryogenic specialists and research laboratories. Allowing the company to design cost-efficient cryogenic solutions that are customised to meet the specific needs of each manufacturer.
Air Liquide also offers an extensive range of cryogenic food processing equipment, in various models, widths and lengths, that can be perfectly matched with the food product, production volumes and amount of available floor space.
Cryogenic freezing equipment solutions are extremely flexible and can be easily customised based on the different characteristics of the food product.
Ice cream production presents another case study on the benefits of using liquid nitrogen in the cryogenic freezing process.
“Effectively the ice crystals in a food product are much smaller, the faster you freeze the smaller the crystal. If you freeze ice cream slowly it is grainy,” said Young.
With strawberries, for example, if they are snap frozen then they will retain more of their weight because the loss of moisture is limited.
“If you freeze a strawberry at home for instance and you thaw it out, weight loss would be significant due to ice crystals damaging the cellular structure of the fruit. Once thawed the cells content leaks away. With liquid nitrogen, once thawed out the fruit will be almost as good as fresh,” said Young.
This contributes to higher yields by rapidly locking in the product’s moisture content so that there is very little weight loss from dehydration during the freezing process.
This concept applies to many food products because faster freezing results in the formation of smaller ice crystals which causes less damage to the cellular structure and helps to retain the food product’s initial texture, colour, and flavour attributes.
The company’s gases and technologies are helping agricultural enterprises improve quality and productivity in a wide range of applications, from harvest protection to greenhouses and modified atmosphere packaging.
Also, controlling the atmosphere around a food product is key to extending product shelf life and maintaining an attractive customer presentation.
Their local experts understand the importance of gas flush packaging, a process that replaces package headspace with a beneficial gas or mixture of gases that will dramatically slow bacterial growth and oxidative reactions. This enables your product to last longer while reducing waste.
Young said Air Liquide is constantly working at find ways to improve food safety and quality by working to enhance food preservation, storage, processing, and transport.
The benefits of using liquid nitrogen in the cryogenic freezing process is a good example of how the company continually works to improve food production.
Every solution is specifically designed for each food processor using Air Liquide’s ALIGAL food grade gases, state-of-the-art application equipment and food cryogenic technical support services.
Air Liquide customers benefit from being able to produce value-added, high quality food products at a competitive cost.
Air Liquide will be attending the foodpro exhibition in Melbourne. You can meet them on stand L23.
Fumie Hokao, Technical Specialist in Industrial Cryogenic Freezing, will also hold a small talk on Cryogenic as part of Foodpro Smart Food Lounge, Sunday 23rd July, 1:00pm.