What's New in British Columbia - Spotlight on Drying Technologies

Fall 2015

The Drying Technologies Sector

For thousands of years, food drying has been a practice used to preserve foods. The most common technique was exposing food to direct sunlight in order to inhibit bacteria growth by removing moisture, thereby extending its shelf life. Today, there are many different methods of drying foods- and for various reasons other than just preserving. For instance, food drying can alter the texture of the product, can make it lighter in weight, more compact, and cost effective to ship.

There are a number of different markets for dried food products. Dried fruit, berries and fish are often sold as end products at retail to consumers. There are also many processed foods, such as soups, bakery and pet food products, that incorporate dried ingredients into their final goods, so there is demand for dried foods as an ingredient also.

The increase in food drying technologies and facilities in British Columbia (B.C.) contributes to the expansion of processing options for B.C.'s fruit, field vegetable and meat sectors, creating new products to tap into diversified markets.

Choosing the most appropriate method for each specific food product is important in order to retain nutrient and structural integrity. Production capacity, initial moisture content of the food, particle size, drying characteristics of the food, and maximum allowable product temperature are other considerations.

Quick Facts

  • The United States Department of Agriculture defines dehydrated foods as any food product with less than 2.5% water content, while dried foods are defined as having more than 2.5% water content.
  • Freeze-drying was invented as a medical breakthrough in order to dry plasma and blood products in the 1940's.
  • Coffee was the first freeze-dried product to be marketed in a large scale in 1938.
  • Dried processed food grew 3% to C$2 billion in Canada in 2014.

The Breakdown

Drying technologies can be divided into 4 groups:

  • Cabinet, tray, belt and tunnel driers. These use hot air to remove water from the surface. This technology is suitable for solid materials such as grains, sliced fruits and vegetables, or chunked products.
  • Spray dryers, and drum dryers. These turn pulpous solids or liquids into a dry powder by using gaseous pressure. This technology is suitable for purees and slurries such as dairy products, instant coffee, and vegetable or spice powder.
  • Freeze-drying. The product is dried by rapidly freezing and then drying using low pressure. This is the most commonly used method to dry foods. Because it is dried at low temperatures, this method is suitable for heat sensitive foods, as well as liquids and small cuts of fruits, vegetables and meat.
  • High vacuum, fluidization, microwave, and refractance window technology. These use the latest advancements in food processing technology. Depending on the technology, these are suitable for the same types of food as freeze-drying.

Trade Shows

These international tradeshows are of importance to processors of dried foods:

Associations

  • The Canadian Institute of Food Science & Technology (CIFST) was founded in 1951. It is a national industry association whose membership is comprised of over 1,200 scientists and technologists, government and academia. CIFST aims to provide a forum for dialogue on scientific, educational, business ideas and information, be a voice for the industry on scientific issues and policy and to promote member professional development. Website: www.cifst.ca
  • The British Columbia Food Processors Association (BCFPA) is an industry association representing all segments of the food, beverage and natural health product processing industry in British Columbia. BCFPA represents micro, small, medium, and large processing companies, and since 2004 has grown to 265 members. Its aim is to help industry achieve economic prosperity and sustainable safe production. Website: www.bcfpa.ca

For more information, please contact the Northwestern Departmental Regional Office in British Columbia at 604-292-5858 or at atsbc@agr.gc.ca.

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