In a climate like Canada’s, freezing fruits and vegetables close to harvest time means being able to enjoy them year round.
Currently, vegetables are blanched – treated with heat – before they are frozen. This ensures food safety and minimizes freezer burn, but also affects their taste, texture, and nutritional value.
“If we can improve the taste and texture of frozen vegetables without impacting food safety, we could possibly open additional markets,” explains Louis Falardeau, Director of Research and Development at
Bonduelle North America, one of the world’s leading processors of fruits and vegetables.
Bonduelle, in conjunction with Dr. Monique Lacroix of INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier in Laval, Quebec and Dr. Tony Savard of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Food Research Development Centre (FRDC), have launched a project to evaluate the effectiveness of an alternative to blanching: partially drying fruits and vegetables, and then spraying and coating them with antimicrobial protection before freezing.
They’re working with red peppers, onions and cranberries, which are more fragile to blanching, and
have developed an edible antimicrobial coating to be applied using a simple shaker and sprayer system.
Tests will be performed to determine how it can best be uniformly applied, how well it will cling to the
produce, and how effective it is at keeping Listeria and other pathogens like Salmonella and E.coli, as well as spoilage microorganisms, at bay.
“The ready-to-eat market is a big one – for example, we could use frozen vegetables in fresh salads if we don’t have to heat them before serving,” adds Falardeau.
To date, Dr. Lacroix’s team has found the coating to be effective in a laboratory setting.
The next step, led by Dr. Savard, will be pilot testing in a commercial setting at the Food Research Development Centre in St-Hyacinthe, followed by performance and sensory evaluation to ensure the coated fruits and vegetables also have a pleasing taste.
Why is this innovation important?
Food safety: This will improve the taste and texture of frozen fruits and vegetables without compromising food safety.
Health: Better tasting frozen produce could lead to increased consumption by consumers – the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet are well-known.
Markets: New market or product opportunities could result from not having to heat-treat fruits and vegetables before freezing.
What does this project mean to Canada’s food processing industry?
This technology will open up new product development options for Canadian fruit and vegetable processors that weren’t previously possible, resulting in product with enhanced flavour and nutrition.
About Bonduelle Group
The French family-run Bonduelle Group is one of the largest fruit and vegetable processors in the world with markets in over 100 countries and more than 50 processing facilities worldwide. Bonduelle’s Canadian presence includes offices in Quebec and Ontario, and four processing plants in Quebec, three in Ontario, and one in Alberta, where they make product for national and private label brands such as President’s Choice, Selection, Irresistible, Green Giant and Arctic Garden. foodservice.bonduelleamericas.com/en/
About the project team
Dr. Monique Lacroix is a professor at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier in Laval, Quebec, where she specializes in food technology and food safety, nutraceuticals and probiotics. She holds a BSc and MSc in food science and technology and a PhD in nutrition, all from Université Laval.
Dr. Tony Savard is a research scientist in food microbiology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Food Research Development Centre in St-Hyacinthe. He holds a BSc and a PhD in Microbiology and an MSc in Neurophysiology, all from Université de Sherbrooke.