Campden BRI: Increasing Frozen Storage Temp by 3°C Saves Energy Without Compromise

Can frozen food products be stored at a higher temperature (than the -18°C industry standard)? That is what Campden BRI was asked to explore by Nomad Foods in search of more sustainable preservation practices.

According to Campden BRI, key considerations included whether it is lawful to do so and also to ensure the food products remain safe and of consistent quality at higher temperatures. In addition, they wanted to find out whether storing frozen food at higher temperatures could facilitate a drop in energy consumption, leading to lower GHG emissions and cost savings.

Campden BRI brought together various disciplines from across their expert teams – regulatory, product innovation, microbiology, sensory and nutrition.

Approach

  1. Regulatory review

The first stage of this comprehensive project was a regulatory review, to confirm whether or not there were any laws that would prevent a departure from the industry standard freezing temperature of -18°C.

The regulatory mapping of both the UK and Europe provided Nomad Foods with the necessary understanding of relevant current legislation and where temperature change could feasibly happen in the more immediate future.

  1. Study design and implementation

The next step was for Campden BRI to design a study that would allow Nomad Foods to test the impact of different freezing / storage temperatures on the safety and quality of their products over shelf-life.

The pilot study they devised used four freezing temperatures (ranging from -18°C up to -9°C), which were applied to a range of nine savory products including poultry, coated fish, natural fish, vegetables, plant based and pizza. Through the analysis performed over the three month storage time, the impacts on eight key areas were explored, including food safety, texture, nutrition, oxidative rancidity, drip loss, packaging, sensory and energy use.

Results

The study has shown that for every 3 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, there is a drop in freezer energy consumption of 10-11%.

The results of the three month pilot study indicated that increasing the frozen storage temperature by 3°C could reduce freezer energy consumption by more than 10% (compared to using -18°C), without compromising product safety or nutrition, or having any noticeable impact on the texture or taste.

The study has since been extended to cover the full 18 months shelf-life of a range of different products. If similar results continue, they may represent an opportunity for the entire frozen food industry to adopt higher storage temperatures, reduce energy costs and carbon footprint, whilst continuing to ensure safe, quality, nutritious food for consumers.

Georgios Tetradis-Mairis, Head of R&D Futures at Nomad Foods, said: “Frozen food already compares very well to other preservation methods when it comes to overall carbon footprint. However, this study enables us to explore further improvements in energy consumption and carbon emissions when storing or transporting frozen products. It’s a very exciting opportunity and we look forward to continuing our research in this space with Campden BRI.”

In terms of next steps, Campden BRI is now in discussions to include temperature monitoring of the whole frozen food logistics supply chain, from initial production freezing through to supermarket aisle freezers.

 

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