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Equipment & Design

Stable Grocery Freezers Avoid “Micro-Freezer-Burn”

Photograph: Viking Cold Solutions

Preserving quality food inventory is critical for maintaining a strong retail brand and for protecting the brands of the products you stock in your store. This includes the ever-expanding list of frozen food SKUs moving through your distribution centers and walk-in freezers.

At home, all of us have experienced typical freezer burn when we have pulled ice cream out and let it thaw a bit before we put it back into the freezer. The obvious results were ice crystals forming on the surface of the food, a change in texture, and a general loss of product quality. But with every temperature fluctuation, something more is happening at a micro level inside frozen food.

“All frozen foods contain small amounts of water in a liquid state,” says Dr. Dennis Heldman, Endowed Professor of Food Engineering at The Ohio State University. “For example,” he continues, “7 to 10% of the water in frozen meats remains in a liquid state even when storage temperatures are as low as -40° Celsius.”

This is because most of the water in frozen food also contains other components such as sugars or minerals with low molecular weight that lower the freezing temperature of the liquid. Any rise in temperature increases the amount of unfrozen water (micro-thawing), and any decrease in temperature freezes or refreezes some of that water (micro-freezing).

Slow drops in temperature and slow micro-freezing create larger ice crystals which damage the structure of the food. This “micro-freezer-burn” causes a decrease in texture, color, flavor, nutritional value and shelf life. The reason most frozen food is frozen quickly in a blast freezer is to avoid the formation of these larger ice crystals and to maximize food quality and shelf life.

Maintaining stable freezer temperatures throughout the cold chain is the best way to avoid the formation of these large ice crystals, but this temperature stability in walk-in freezers and distribution centers comes at a financial cost in the form of electricity consumption and often demand charges. Now grocery and supermarket operations can significantly reduce their energy costs while avoiding the risk of temperature fluctuations with proven Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology.

The TES systems from Viking Cold Solutions leverage existing refrigeration equipment to freeze Phase Change Material (PCM) when energy costs are lower and system efficiencies can be maximized. This allows intelligent controls to turn off refrigeration equipment for long periods of time (up to 15 hours) when energy costs are high while the PCM absorbs up to 85% of heat infiltration and maintains low energy consumption. The result is up to 35% lower energy costs, greater temperature stability, and less risk to frozen food.

More stable freezer temperatures protect inventory quality and shelf life while reducing risks and operating costs. Ensure temperature stability and avoid micro-freezer-burn throughout your grocery operation’s cold chain with Thermal Energy Storage.

This post is sponsored by Viking Cold Solutions

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