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FOOD PROCESSING

Invasion of Processed, Canned and Frozen Foods Today
Tuesday, 06 August, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwin Bhadri
India is on a high with the major consumption of canned, processed, and frozen food in today’s times. The reasons are varied and the young population justifies the intake of these food products prudently. The priorities differ from individual to individual whether to go with the fresh produce or the above ones. The history dates back to the years when these products were conceptualised.

Initially, these concepts were introduced in the Western countries where the working population needed the most because of their busier schedules. These practices were rampant as it was less time-consuming and moreover sufficed their needs. The rising income is an additional factor that led to the use of convenience food globally.

However, with India slowly moving towards women empowerment, things started taking a twist. The population demanded more and realising this drastic change, India was soon targeted as the major market for frozen, canned and processed food. Although, a major chunk of customers relied on this option, there was the other half who was still doubting its nutritional qualities and denied to consume it.

Additives, preservatives
Processed foods are foods that have been modified by including the additives, preservatives, unnatural genetic material or other chemical or heat treatments that can alter or destroy the natural healthy enzymes, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. Processing of foods results in strengthening the shelf-life of the products that consequently leads to larger sales.

In today’s time where ‘clean eating’ is the need of the hour, processed foods are viewed with fear and doubt by the majority of health-freak consumers. Processed food products are not considered to be fit for intake as it can lead to a number of issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. However, the fact is that the products bought in the grocery shop are mostly processed in some or the other ways. Not all processed food can be assumed to be unfit for human consumption.

Nut butter and packaged nuts
The consumers should be cautious in choosing what is acceptable and unacceptable food products that fall under the processed food category. Low processed foods also exist that are nutrient-dense and smart options even if they contain fewer healthy ingredients. These foods are big time savers for people wanting to make homemade meals but require a little extra help to make cooking practical for their hectic schedule. Products such as nut butter and packaged nuts, yoghurt, whole grain bread and crackers, frozen fruits and vegetables and canned beans are best healthy options under processed foods.

Canning is a process of preserving large proportions of food in an airtight container for future use. The shelf-life of this canned food depends on specific circumstances and can stay for a longer duration (around 1-5 years). The inception of canned food is dated back to the late 18th century when soldiers would carry food at wars for their constant food supply. The canning process that varies from product to product has to necessarily undergo three steps of processing, sealing, and heating.  

Benefits of canned food
The benefits of canned food can be clearly seen with the number of people opting for this concept. While canning is considered to be less nutritious than the fresh produce, the fact states that canning actually retains a lot of nutrients. Elements such as proteins, carb, and fats are unaffected while vitamins like A, D, E, and K are also retained.

The other reasons why consumers started opting for canned food is because of its affordability, availability, and longer shelf-life. With minimal prep time, they are ideally less time consuming and in today’s era, one can find any food in a can.

While canned and processed food became top favourite with the Indian masses, frozen food could not be left behind. The popularity of the frozen in food in India substantially increased with the rising work-life culture across different metropolitan cities. The frozen food market gave rise to many new entrants who came up with different food concepts and all we could see is people really enjoying.

Not only meat and fish were made available to the consumers but also ready-to-eat products such as nuggets, fries, and cutlets. These products became popular in no time and the frozen market got the right encouragement. There are advantages as well as disadvantages of consuming frozen food. Convenience food cannot always be healthy and hygienic.  

However, with the right knowledge of choosing the right one over the evil shall protect one from the side-effects.

With the exposure of right information and variety of choices, the Indian masses are opting for packaged foods than the conventional loose ones. Also, despite knowing the pros and the cons, they are aware of making optimum use of the products and are relishing the food products.

The industry has to take into consideration the taste of Indians and retain the food qualities while processing it which is not harmful in the longer duration. This is the new- age challenge faced by many new entrepreneurs in the food industry. With the state-of-art laboratory, the processing industry should be competent enough to meet the consumer requirements with its innovative strategies.  

(The author is CEO, Equinox Labs)
 
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