Freeze-drying Emphasizes Convenience

Freeze-drying helps convenience

The need for speed and ease of use is stirring up interest in more convenient formats in fruit and vegetables. New products offering solutions for such needs include frozen pre-cooked/pre-steamed variants and microwave steam packaging.

By Honorata Jarocka, food & drink analyst, MINTEL

Healthy living is an increasingly popular topic for today’s consumers, however with the growing pace of life, demand for food and drink solutions which deliver on both health and convenience is on the rise. Therefore, the interest in processing techniques which retain the nutritional value of the original food as well as extend its shelf life, such as freeze-drying, is expected to show no sign of abating as freshness and healthfulness are important purchase drivers for fruit and vegetable consumers. Moreover, fruit and vegetable powders are likely to see more success not only among consumers looking for convenience whilst cooking but also among those who prefer to incorporate fruit and vegetables into other food and drink rather than eat them on their own.

The freeze-drying processing technique (technically known as lyophilization), in particular, is said to retain the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals found in the original food, as well as its color and flavor. Some recent examples of freeze-dried fruit and vegetables have included Fresh As Whole Raspberry (Australia), Primea Lyophilised Pineapple Fruit Snack (Brazil), Crunchies Freeze-Dried Blueberries (USA), Portland Lyophilised Chopped Vegetables for Soup (Spain) and Aum Fresh Freeze Dried Green Peas (India). Most of these brands are positioned as wholesome snacks as well as healthy additions to other dishes and smoothies.

The Health Trend

Convenience remains a top priority as well, particularly when thinking about speed of use and preparation. Mintel’s research reveals that four in 10 Poles say that convenience in cooking plays a vital role in their choice of vegetables. The agreement rates are a bit higher in the other European markets surveyed, standing at around 50% in Italy, Germany and France, and 55% in Spain. Also, two in 10 respondents in Spain, Poland, Germany and France, and three in 10 Italians, report being ready to pay a higher price for pre-cut vegetables.

Beyond health, convenience is increasingly sought after as well Today’s consumers are increasingly time-pressured, yet physical and mental wellness is playing a more pronounced role in their food and drink purchasing decisions. For example, as regular fruit and vegetable consumption is key to maintaining health and well being, European consumers aim to eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables on most days, as declared by three in 10 respondents in Poland and Germany, five in 10 in Italy and Spain, as well as six in 10 in France. What’s more, one in two Poles and Germans, and six in 10 Italians, Spaniards and French consumers reach for various fruit and vegetables to enrich their diets with specific nutrients, e.g. spinach for iron and oranges for vitamin C. Interestingly, every second consumer in Poland, more than what was reported in the other continental European markets, admits to having swapped other snacks for fruit and vegetables for health reasons.

Freeze-dried fruit and vegetables have also found their way into the Polish market, being offered by a couple of domestic players such as Elena and Celiko (available under the Frupp brand name), and also moving into other categories, e.g. confectionery, breakfast cereals, snack bars, seasonings, sweet biscuits, tea as well as ice cream and desserts, being used as nutritious and texture-delivering ingredients. Freeze-drying is also a key processing stage in instant coffee production. There has also been a noteworthy creation developed by the local player MicroFood – Puffins fruit snacks made using the vacuum drying technology called puffing. This unique process dries the fruit, yet it preserves its nutritional value (as in the freeze-drying processing). Moreover, the dried fruit is crunchy not chewy and looks like fresh produce. 

Grinding Freshness

A step further is to grind dehydrated fruit and vegetables into powder – a technique already used by a number of brands globally. Not only can fruit and vegetable powders assist consumers in increasing their fruit and vegetable intake but could also partially alleviate the food wastage problem. Some recent examples have included Holistic Active Organic Wild Harvested Lingonberry (Sweden), CorpoCampo Freeze-Dried Acai Powder (Colombia), Go Superfood Organic Kale Powder (New Zealand), Arctic Power Berries Arctic Midnight Sun Blueberry Powder (UK) and Lebepur Raw Broccoli Powder (Sweden). Of note is that most of these launches are, however, positioned as supplements. The powder format sits well with the increasing pace of life and the growing demand for shortcuts in the kitchen as ground dried fruit and vegetables can work as nutritious and flavorsome additions to other food and drink.

This is in line with consumer expectations when looking specifically at the Polish market. More than two in 10 (24%) Poles reveal that they prefer to eat fruit in smoothies or other product formats (e.g. snack bars, freeze-dried fruit snacks etc.) instead of on its own, whilst 44% prefer to eat vegetables incorporated in soup or other dishes rather than on their own. Innovation activity within powdered fruit and vegetables has so far been limited in Poland, however the market has witnessed a few inspiring launches, including LYO Powders by LYO Food and Warzyw Kubek by Trixo. LYO Food specializes in lyophilised food, with a special focus on products targeted at extreme sports enthusiasts. The dedicated range includes fruit snacks, porridges, main meals and soups. The company has also developed organic LYO Powders, available in a variety of different fruit/vegetable types, e.g. beetroot, blackcurrant, kale, spinach and strawberry. In addition, LYO Food offers powdered smoothie mixes.