Food Packaging: What Is IQF? Uses And Applications
So, you need to package your food items and you are considering freezing your products. You are aware of the fact that there are multiple types of frozen food packaging, but, you recently heard about IQF or "individually quick frozen" packaging.
You want to know what it is, how it works and if it is right for your food packaging applications. Well, fortunately for you, Industrial Packaging has been working with frozen food packaging applications for many years, and, we have all the information about IQF you would possibly want!
In the wide world of food packaging, there are many options for preserving foods for extended periods. Everything from traditional and age-old processes such as canning, jarring, and pickling, to salting fish and meats.
The preservation of food for storage over extended periods is a classic example of human ingenuity. In the modern world, freezing is perhaps the most popular way to preserve food.
When it comes to veggies, not only does freezing preserve the nutritional value of the food, but the flavor is often enhanced by the process (IE: peas and sweet corn). Frozen food gives consumers the ability to keep their chosen goodies for very long periods.
When we talk about the cutting edge of technology in frozen food applications, there is perhaps no other greater version of the process than IQF.
For those of you who do not know the definition of IQF or "individually quick frozen" here is the meaning to bring you up to speed.
IQF is a food freezing tactic that prevents big ice crystals from forming inside of vegetable cells. With IQF, it should be noted that every single piece of produce (literally every pea, corn kernel, etc) is individually frozen to perfection. With IQF, there are no food particles. The result is a final product that is not frozen solid into a brick of ice.
Now, there are many different ways to freeze vegetables. Some of these include but are not limited to plate freezing, blast cooling, tunnel freezing, fluid-bed freezing, cryogenics, and dehydro-freezing.
As for which method is right for you, well, that depends on the quality you want from your freezing method, depending on factors such as financial limitations and storage dynamics, IQF may or may not be a good choice for your products.
This article will take a look at the applications and uses for IQF and help you to decide if it is, in fact, the right form of food freezing for your food packaging needs.
What is IQF?
When we talk about IQF and its relation to frozen food packaging and storage, we are talking about "Individually Quick Frozen."
This style of frozen food packaging is incredibly unique due to its ability to individually freeze all elements of a product, with each item separately frozen.
So, if we froze a batch of peas, the peas will not get clumped and stuck together in one massive frozen block of peas. Instead, every single pea will be separated inside the packaging. IQF makes it much easier to freeze and store items such as plumbs, blueberries, corn, salmon, lobster, and pork. It should be noted that the product will "flow" (move through your packaging line) better as it is weighed and packaged.
Storing frozen food has also evolved over time for the manufacturer, who, is ever pressed to produce more, better, faster while still producing top quality for the consumer. However, the main focus of modern freezing technology is focused on the speed that a product can be frozen.
This is where IQF technology owns the market...
IQF technology gives food packagers the ability to blast-freeze a vast selection of their food products in a short amount of time. IQF has genuinely disrupted the food packaging industry as a whole in this respect.
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How IQF Works
Individual quick frozen technology rests upon "blast-freezing" food products extremely fast. This ultra-cold, ultra-fast freezing methodology results in significantly tiny ice crystal formations to freeze the product. Water turns into ice crystals around 30 to 25º Fahrenheit or -1 to -4º Celsius. IQF Freezers "blast-freeze" food products extremely fast.
The slower and bigger ice crystal formations common with other forms of frozen food packaging can cause cellular damage to the products, which can affect quality, texture, and flavor.
The intensity of cold, and speed of freezing are the primary benefits of the individually quick frozen process.
Slower forms of freezing almost always lead to dryer and, at times, damaged products when they are eventually set to defrost. This leads to your customers having a poor experience with your product.
Initial quick freezing, on the other hand, prevents damage and protects the products that are frozen with it. IQF ensures that the food being frozen will freeze while producing almost no ice crystals inside of the product itself.
This ultra-fast freezing of the food prevents the cells within the food from becoming damaged. Also, it preserves it, which results in a much higher quality end product.
What Types Of Food Are Frozen With IQF?
Technically speaking, you can freeze any food product with IQF. Still, the most common types of food that are regularly frozen with individually quick frozen technology includes but is not limited to french fries, peas, corn, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, pork, chicken, beef, bison, and various other types of produce, meats, poultry and foods prone to spoilage without some form of preservation.
How To Start Using IQF
If you are interested in using IQF for your food packaging applications, you will want to reach out to a packaging professional to provide you with the next steps to take regarding sourcing the appropriate machinery and materials.
IQF equipment is highly specialized and not available from many vendors. The required bagging and related materials can be purchased from packaging distributors (like Industrial Packaging) or manufacturers.
As for the freezers, you will want to speak to your rep and ask about IQF equipment providers. Your rep will be able to guide you to the appropriate vendor for your needs.
About Nathan Dube
As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.