Frozen Meals: Convenient but Controversial.
Frozen meals are pre-cooked foods packed and frozen at subzero
temperatures to be consumed later. Since their introduction in the
mid-twentieth century, these simple, time-saving technologies have significantly
influenced the worldwide food scene (Mayo Clinic, 2019).
Frozen meals are traditionally prepared on the stovetop or microwave, producing a ready-to-eat dinner in minutes. The set meals range from essential recipes like vegetable stir-fry to complicated dishes like lasagna, chicken enchiladas, or beef tips in red wine sauce.
Grand View Research estimates that the global frozen food market was worth USD 291.3 billion in 2019 and is projected to increase 3.7% from 2020 to 2027.
Due to its ease and widespread appeal, frozen pizzas may be among the most well-liked frozen food items. They are widely accessible in various brands and flavours, cementing frozen pizza's position as the best-frozen cuisine. According to Euromonitor, frozen pizza sales accounted for $5.6 billion in the US alone in 2017.
Frozen meat and seafood is another area that has grown in popularity in the frozen food industry. These protein-rich alternatives are an everyday household staple, whether pre-cooked, breaded chicken, frozen shrimp, or meatballs. According to Allied Market Research, frozen beef products had the largest market share in 2015 due to their substantial protein levels and ease of availability.
Other popular frozen foods include frozen veggies and fruits. They are an excellent alternative for anyone looking for a quick side dish or incorporating nutritious aspects into their meals.
Because of their convenience and nutritional benefits, frozen fruits and vegetables have grown in popularity, with a global market value of over $31 billion in 2018.
Another popular category is frozen or ready-to-eat meals. They include everything from traditional foods to foreign cuisines and gourmet options. They not only reduce cooking time in today's fast-paced world, but they also provide portion control. By 2023, the worldwide ready meals industry was predicted to reach $143 billion.
Frozen meal creation begins with the idea stage, when food scientists collaborate with chefs to curate and build nutritious and tasty meal plans. The plan might be motivated by customer insights identifying a particular taste or cuisine or the requirement to accommodate dietary constraints, such as vegan or gluten-free options (Paulraj et al., 2017).
The recipe development step follows. A kitchen trial is undertaken to develop the recipe for large-scale manufacturing using the objectives established in the idea stage. This process could involve intensive testing and tests to ensure the final product fulfils all quality requirements.
The primary quality standards are achieving the proper flavour, texture, and nutrient profile.
Product approval accompanies the development of a recipe that fulfils the required standards. Pricing, packaging, and shelf-life concerns heavily impact the decisions. The product should ideally retain its quality even after being frozen for a lengthy period. After the joint committee accepts the product, mass manufacturing begins.
The production phase includes ingredient acquisition, equipment calibration, and verifying that the formula is followed precisely. During this period, quality control is critical. The meal must be made and promptly frozen to seal in nutrition and flavour. Typically, "flash freezing" is utilized, in which the meals are immediately frozen to prevent the production of substantial ice crystals, which might impair the texture of the food (Sun, 2014).
Furthermore, packaging is essential in the production of frozen meals. It not only gives a pleasing look to the customer, but it also protects the meal's quality throughout travel and storage. Packaging factors frequently include the material's resistance to moisture and cold and its cost-effectiveness in manufacturing.
Finally, the meals are delivered to shops. Frozen dinners are carried in refrigerated containers to keep them frozen and retain their quality. The supply chain management team's job is to guarantee that this procedure is efficient and that the meals are in the best possible shape.
Convenience and Advantages.
Frozen meals provide a lot of advantages, including nutritional value. Contrary to common assumption, frozen veggies and fruits are as healthy as fresh equivalents. Producers freeze these items at their optimum ripeness when they are most nutrient-dense. According to some research, frozen vegetables may be more nutritious than fresh fruit since the nutrients are locked in throughout the freezing process.
Frozen meals are highly convenient. There is no need to waste time washing, peeling, cutting, and discarding inedible fruit and vegetable components. The additional convenience of not visiting a grocery shop regularly for fresh fruit saves time that would otherwise be spent standing in line and commuting.
Frozen meals also help reduce food waste, a significant worldwide concern. In contrast to fresh meals, which may deteriorate before being consumed, frozen goods may be stored in your freezer for lengthy periods. This possibility saves money on groceries, prevents waste, and allows you to pick various items still, even if you last shopped a while ago.
Additionally, contemporary freezing technology keeps the taste and texture of meals, contrary to popular belief that frozen foods lose flavour. The retention of flavour means you may enjoy your favourite seasonal fruits and veggies even in the thick of winter, and they will taste practically as wonderful as when they were fresh.
In terms of cost, frozen goods often provide better value for money. Because they are frequently offered in bulk, you wind up spending less per serving than you would for fresh meals. In addition to monetary savings, frozen goods have a lengthy useful life, which reduces the chance of spoiling.
Controversies and Disadvantages.
Understandably, not all frozen meals are advantageous. Despite the benefits of frozen meals, these widely available dietary items may endanger the health of millions of people globally. The high salt level of frozen meals is the first significant disadvantage. Sodium is often a preservative in these foods to extend their shelf life and keep microorganisms at bay. High-sodium diets have been related directly to hypertension and other cardiac problems. Consumers are unintentionally exposed to a significant amount of salt with the rising use of frozen meals.
Studies have scored frozen foods often lower on the nutritional spectrum than fresh foods. Specific unknown processing processes frequently deplete the nutrition of its essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The processing can result in vitamin A, B, C, and E deficits and calcium, potassium, and fibre shortages.
Another source of worry is using artificial additives to improve the flavour and visual attractiveness of frozen meals. These chemicals can be dangerous, producing unpleasant responses such as allergies in certain people. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners may cause obesity and diabetes.
Aside from health problems, frozen meals promote dietary monotony. Consuming frozen meals increases the likelihood of frequently eating the same kind of food, which is both mentally harmful and devoid of gastronomic thrill.
On the financial front, while frozen goods may appear less expensive initially, their long-term dependency can significantly boost shopping costs. Fresh, local produce is a less-priced and healthier option.
The environmental effect of the frozen food sector is unavoidable owing to the packaging waste created, which contributes heavily to landfills. Furthermore, the energy used in the freezing process contributes to the negative environmental impact.
While frozen foods provide convenience and time efficiency, they expose the user to various health difficulties, meal monotony, financial pressure, and environmental harm. As a result, while they are okay to include in our diets occasionally, a consistent excessive reliance on them might have serious consequences.
Despite the benefits of frozen meals, choosing fresh, local, and seasonal vegetables is advantageous, providing balanced nutrition and environmental sustainability.
Photo: Winsight Grocery Business
Photo: Winsight Grocery Business