There is a misconception that freezing strawberries is only for excess and lesser quality produce; however, this is not the case. The sector for IQF frozen strawberries is well developed and lucrative for processors who are in the know. Supplying the market with strawberries during the offseason is an easy way to maximize revenue—especially when a first-class, premium IQF product can be offered. By investing in the right IQF technology and equipment, you will ensure your success in IQF strawberry processing.
When it comes to strawberries, Europe is the largest market in the world offering some of the best opportunities for exporters of frozen strawberries. European consumers eat about 1.2 million metric tons annually (Fructidor) and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Overall, consumption of frozen fruits in Europe is on an upward trend and it has increased at an annual rate of 5% during the last five years.
Outside of the European sector, opportunities can be found in the growing markets of Northern Africa, Asia, and the Americas. In particular, China and the U.S. account for approximately 56% of global consumption (IndexBox Marketing). It’s expected that imports of frozen strawberries will increase in the next several years globally thanks to improved varieties, wider timing, new eating habits and their increased use in popular food products.
The main user of frozen strawberries is the food processing industry which includes fruit preparation producers. However, the retail segment accounts for a small, yet a significant portion of the userbase as they usually pay more for imported frozen strawberries but request only premium products (CBI). This is where IQF strawberries prove their worth as a highly convenient product with a natural appearance, ideal texture, and maximum nutritional value.
Frozen fruits and berries are processed at the peak of ripeness whereas fresh fruits and berries may be picked before they are fully ripe. During transport, fresh fruit experiences nutrient degradation because of exposure to light and heat. However, IQF fruits and berries, including strawberries, are frozen immediately after harvesting which preserves their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Also, IQF strawberries contain no additives, added sugar, or other preservatives.
Domestic strawberries are generally consumed fresh which means the best varieties from different markets can’t be consumed globally unless they are offered as IQF frozen strawberries. Fresh strawberries are usually seen as a strong competitor to frozen strawberries. However, they can both be a part of a processor’s offerings. If a processor is only supplying fresh strawberries to the market, then they should diversify their product portfolio with IQF frozen strawberries, especially if they can be supplied during the offseason.
Typically, when local fresh production arrives, prices go down, so exporters choose to sell the rest of the production as frozen fruits during the offseason. While this is rational, it is also great to think of IQF freezing strawberries as a first option rather than last. If a producer were to focus on IQF processing from the beginning, then it will prove more beneficial to their bottom line when done correctly. OctoFrost customers in Mexico claim that their OctoFrost frozen strawberries cost 10 cents USD less to produce per libra (450 grams) yet they are paid 10 cents USD more.
The optimal method to produce superior IQF strawberries is by using the OctoFrost™ IQF tunnel freezer, renowned in the frozen food industry for superior IQF products with premium quality. When investing in an IQF freezer, you’ll want to focus on equipment that is easy to clean by design such as a fully accessible interior, free-standing monobloc insulated cabinet, and bed plates instead of traditional conveyor belts—these are very difficult to clean.
The OctoFrost™ tunnel freezer has an innovative design that provides multiple benefits. There are five freezing zones that instantly freeze the surface of the IQF strawberries. This keeps dehydration low and prevents the formation of lumps. Due to the special aerodynamics and unique bedplates, there are no belt marks on the surface of the final product. This helps with the preservation of the IQF strawberries’ natural appearance, smell, texture, and taste which contributes to a higher yield, therefore, maximizing the processor’s profits.