Not all food preservation methods are created equal. When sourcing ingredients for your products, it’s important to analyze how they’re prepared, processed, and preserved. Fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried, the options go on and on. What works best for your brand and your product? Read on and discover!
Keeping things fresh is a great way to add flavor and nutrition to your product. The flavor of fresh produce is authentic and delicious, and it’s a great source of nutrients. Produce color and texture is at its best when fruits and vegetables have just been picked, ensuring there are no added sugars or salts. Producing natural products is easy when you use fresh produce.
While fresh fruits and vegetables sound ideal, there are downsides. In many cases, using fresh produce isn’t feasible. The seasonality of fresh fruits and vegetables is the main disadvantage. If you follow the harvest season, you can only source produce several months of the year. Short shelf life is another issue. Unless you’re planning on preserving produce yourself, adding fresh vegetables into your product decreases its shelf life to just a week or two. Fresh fruits and vegetables are heavy too, making transportation costs skyrocket. While unpreserved produce is delicious and healthy, it often doesn’t fit the needs of your customers or your product.
When comparing options to fresh produce, freeze-dried food comes to mind. Since it’s picked at peak ripeness, the flavor is close to that of fresh produce. Freeze-drying doesn’t break down nutrients during the preservation process either. This means your final product can still be packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals, even while preserved. Freeze-drying also keeps naturally gluten-free products celiac-safe. No sugar or salt is added during the freeze-drying process. Freeze-dried produce has a very long shelf life, so it’s accessible year-round. This allows you to continue making products beyond specific harvest seasons.
Freeze-dried produce has a different texture than that of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re looking for a fresh, raw strawberry texture, freeze-dried food won’t deliver it. However, the crunch and crispness of freeze-drying can add a unique and exciting edge to your product.
Another option for preserving produce is dehydration. Dehydrated food is great for long-term storage in emergency food and can be a nice addition to MREs. Similar in flavor to fresh produce, it’s also available year-round with its long shelf life. Overall, dehydrated produce can be an easy addition to your products.
Blanching is one of the steps used in dehydrating produce, and this process removes a portion of their nutrients. This makes your end product less beneficial to the consumer. That, paired with the added sugar and salt, make dehydration slightly less healthy than other preservation techniques.
When access to fresh produce is limited, canned goods are a good resource for consumers. They’re often safer from tampering than other sources of food, and their airtight seal can prevent the food from becoming tainted. The flavor of canned food is often intensified, and they’re available year-round with a long shelf life.
Traditionally, canned goods have a higher amount of sugar or salt added, and they need to be stored in specific temperature conditions to maintain their nutrients and taste. Canned goods are more difficult to transport, since the packaging is heavier and more robust, and the food itself is often duller in color with a mushy texture. So, while good for consumers, canned goods have trouble standing up to freeze-dried or dehydrated foods.
Freezing is a great way preserve produce you plan to cook. Frozen produce often has a wonderful flavor, similar to its fresh counterpart. Food color is also preserved, and with steady freezing temperatures, its nutrient content is protected. Freezing makes foods available year-round, allowing you to create product outside of harvest season.
Without steady temperature controlled storage, frozen food is at risk for freezer burn. Texture can also be lost during the freezing process resulting in mushy or extremely firm produce. Frozen foods often have added sugar or salt, and need special transportation methods as well. If you’re using frozen foods in your products, take into account the defrost time when planning for food prep.