The coronavirus pandemic has had negative effects on many sectors of the economy. Producers of fruit, vegetables and herbs are also facing numerous challenges related to maintaining their production at the current level. For many of them, this problem can be solved by a fruit freeze dryer.
Threats to producers of fruit, vegetables and herbs due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on the production and sales of food. The restriction of exports and imports has been the most noticeable in the macro scale. The closing of the borders has significantly limited the flow of goods, including food, not only inside the European Union but also to other regions of the world. Analysts primarily point to exports and imports to and from China as a mass producer and recipient of food. However, small producers operating on a smaller scale are facing different types of problems.
Fresh fruit and vegetables have a relatively short shelf life. Meanwhile, the shopping customs of many families have changed significantly. Today, shopping is done not every few days, but once a week, sometimes even once every two weeks. Hoarding of supplies has significantly limited the sale of fresh products. Financial problems due to job loss or reduced earnings as a result of the pandemic could be another reason. It is no secret that in this case, fresh fruit is first crossed off the shopping list.
The limitation of activities to local markets has caused sales problems. The lack of the scale effect has measurably translated into losses, since – as mentioned above – the shelf life of fresh fruit is relatively short, and its storage is expensive. In this situation, producers are forced to look for alternative solutions.
Freeze-drying of fruit, vegetables and herbs as an opportunity for producers
A freeze dryer for fruit, vegetables and herbs is an investment that in the current situation may turn out to be a gold mine for producers. Freeze-drying significantly extends the use-by date without depriving the products of all the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients. What is more, fruit and vegetables prepared in this way can be stored outside the refrigerator or cold store. It is also an opportunity for a large-scale trade in the Internet, since tightly packaged freeze-dried foods can be sent over long distances without any problems.
We can already notice a significant turnover increase in the companies dealing with the production and sale of freeze-dried food. Wherever a freeze dryer for vegetables, fruit and herbshas been purchased, new sales channels for finished products have also emerged.
The pandemic has led more and more consumers to abandon traditional forms of shopping in favour of online stores, including healthy food stores. This, in turn, is due to the belief that a healthy, immune-boosting diet will help to survive the epidemic painlessly. In this situation, the sale of freeze-dried fruit, vegetables and herbs in stores selling healthy food (which certainly includes freeze-dried products) becomes a real opportunity to maintain the production and sales at the current level.
A freeze dryer is an investment that pays off relatively quickly, since the direct costs of its use are relatively low.
Challenges faced by producers of freeze-dried food
A freeze dryer for fruit, vegetables and herbs is a specialist device, however, its operation is simple. This does not mean that the life of a fruit and vegetable producer at this point becomes a bed of roses. New challenges appear, such as preparing the products for the processing or packing and selling freeze-dried vegetables.
The preparation itself is a simple process, albeit laborious and time-consuming. Vegetables, fruit and herbs must be thoroughly washed, cleaned or even chopped (e.g. strawberries). Only then can they be placed in the freeze dryer.
Packing of the products removed from the freeze dryer is an important and difficult step in the whole process. It should be done immediately after the freeze-drying. Only this way can the long-term shelf-life of fruit, vegetables and herbs be guaranteed.
Freeze-dried products should be packed in airtight containers or packages to prevent the ingress of moisture. Some products are vacuum-packed. This requires companies to acquire new skills and equipment. At the same time, it should be emphasised that this method of packing of freeze-dried foods is essential. Otherwise, they will quickly become unsuitable for consumption.
The sale of ready-made (packed) freeze-dried products is a separate problem, which can be solved in two ways: by establishing cooperation with wholesalers and healthy food stores or by selling finished products on one’s own using various sales platforms. Some companies decide to set up their own online stores.