Dhirendra Choudhary, CEO, Bry-Air | FNB News
Food is an essential element fueling up the entire body. Given the busy lifestyle, over the years packaged food has become the most sought-after option as a fresh and long-lasting alternative. It creates a great opportunity for the country and immensely contributes to the GDP of the nation. Even India is amongst the leading exporter of processed food across the world.
This has put great pressure on the industry to closely monitor the quality, processing, and packaging of the food products to meet international food standards. Drying food is a vital step in keeping the quality of food intact for longer periods of time. It is one of the most conventional methods employed to check moisture presence for food preservation.
And this freshness factor of food right from the ingredients to the end product has given rise to the demand for more sophisticated ways of food processing. Fueled by changing consumer needs, the food and beverage sector is convinced to preserve the quality of ingredients used in any food item, right from processing to packaging. However, there is one challenge that is present in all stages and is the biggest menace for any food processing company- Moisture.
Moisture menace is a very common concern in the food industry. If left unattended it can ruin the entire quality of the food. From snack food to spices to confectionery items, instant juice powder, health food, packaged F&V, dry fruits, and many other items are highly hygroscopic in nature. Even when dried they have the tendency to absorb moisture from the surroundings. Moisture is a precursor of microbial growth which can affect the health of the consumers.
During the packaging of confectionery food like chocolates, sweets, moisture not just causes the loss of luster but deteriorates the texture by leaving behind a sticky and grainy surface. By dampening the food, it gives rise to a condition called sugar bloom which draws out the sugar to the surface and highly compromises with the flavour of the confectionery.
Likewise, in candies, gummies, jellies, etc. moisture compromises with the characteristics of the food product and deteriorates the quality. If not processed and packaged at the right temperature, the jellies leak out and give a very sticky texture to the product which makes it messy and gives rise to hygiene issues. In candies, moisture result into uneven coating or colouring of the product.
Likewise, snacks like corn chips, potato wafers, popcorn, noodles become soggy due to the presence of moisture. The taste may vary too. Loss of crispness and the crunch leads to a dissatisfying experience thereby impacting sales and brand reputation.
In powdered items like coffee, spices, instant juice powder, or drink mix, it leads to lumping which makes it sticky and obstructs the free flow of the powder and clogs the filling system that can damage the packaging equipment. Additionally, it causes a very common phenomena of caking which immensely interferes with the operations by sticking to the conveyor belt. Also, moisture in spices can compromise its volatile aroma and reduce its freshness causing product spoilage.
Micro-organism growth is also one of the main causes of potential food contamination. Moisture results in increased micro-organism growth. Microbial growth and dispersal can be controlled if the surroundings and the food processing machinery and equipment inside the food processing plant and food processing facility are kept dry. But keeping a plant dry is not easy as water is an essential part of the product and process of food processing.
To ensure the quality of the food is intact, it is crucial to eradicate moisture throughout the processing of the food till the time it is packaged. It will not just help in preserving the food for indefinite periods of time but will substantially reduce the transportation, handling, and storage costs. Absorbing the moisture also helps in reducing the bulky weight of the food items. Food dried at low temperature under-regulated, stable environmental conditions, retain the food value with its natural flavour, aroma, and colour.
Considering that food drying is very critical for the food and beverage industry, it is important to deploy advanced dehumidification technologies to absorb even the slightest trace of water available in the atmosphere for a more integrated drying process.
Nowadays, highly advanced and energy efficient dehumidifiers are used to maintain the low dew point. With the help of the humidity control systems, dry air is continuously fed to the chamber which extracts the humidity in the ambient environment. This ensures proper dehumidification that optimally controls the humidity for smooth processing of food and long-lasting shelf-life. The Desiccant-based dehumidifiers very efficiently reduce the moisture content and maintain the desired RH. It ensures a bacteria-free surrounding with a dry air inlet that enhances the quality of the food while retaining freshness as well.
The dehumidifiers are highly suitable to fulfill the complex and critical requirements involved in food production, processing, packaging, and storage. Given that the food and beverage industry is very strict about quality, the dehumidification technologies provide the most viable, efficient, versatile, and cutting-edge solutions for efficient humidity control during manufacturing.
By installing moisture control solutions in a processing or packaging/storage unit where moisture can create trouble, one can achieve benefits like consistency in production and reduction in wastage, better product quality like perfect coating, retaining of key food characteristics like freshness, flavour, colour and aroma and of course longer shelf life. The above factors lead to reduced downtime, production efficiency, and better ROI for food processors and exporters across the globe.
(The author is CEO at Bry-Air)