Improved Preservation Technologies Driving the Popularity of Ready-to-Eat Meals
Ready-to-eat or RTE food products are defined as that form of animal or plant derived food that can be consumed by customers after being washed, cooked, frozen and processed. RTE food items are already prepared and can be consumed only after heating. Such products are convenient for the consumers since it saves both time and energy.
What are the advantages of RTE food products?
The major advantages of RTE food products are:
- RTE foods never run out of stock as lot of companies have ensured efficient supply lines for good business
- They are convenient as it saves a lot of time and are handy to be carried around. RTE Cereals are healthy alternative breakfast options
- RTE food is absolutely safe for consumption as the companies manufacture these products within well protected conditions and these items are processed compliant with the rules and regulations laid down by the government
- RTE frozen fruits and vegetables can be carried to any place even where these fruits and vegetables do not grow at all. And as these fruits and vegetables are frozen, they do not lose their nutrition value
Compelling preservation technologies driving the growth of RTE food
Typically, RTE food items have a long shelf-life, which further adds to the convenience. Long shelf life of RTE food is possible mainly due to advancements in the food preservation technology. As a matter of fact, all food items begin to deteriorate from the time the food is cooked or processed. Food needs to be preserved to keep it edible beyond its spoilage threshold. Several processes and technologies are used for food preservation including –
Ambient MRE technology
Ambient MRE is actually a spin-off from the “retort” technology where the food is pre-cooked, packed and sealed in polymer pouches that are further stored in protective holders and placed in the retort. The pouches are sterilized at 121 degree Celsius and 15-pound pressure for a specific duration, and this results in the elimination of bacterial spores that cause food poisoning or decaying. These pouches typically have shelf life of more than one year at room temperature and only need to be warmed before consumption.
Retort pouches are flexible packages made of multi-layered plastic films, with or without aluminium foil as one of the layers. The most important feature of these pouches is that they are heat resistant, unlike the usual flexible pouches. This makes the retort pouches uniquely suitable for the processing of their food contents at temperatures around 120 degree Celsius. That is the kind of ambient temperature prevalent in the thermal sterilisation of foods.
Chilled RTE is normally cooked food that is chilled and stored at 4 degree Celsius to prolong its shelf life from 4-6 hours to 36-48 hours. Normally, it is not packed, and is sold by the weight. It has the taste profile that is closest to the freshly cooked food. As a result, it has been witnessing considerable popularity in India.
The concept of RTE food was introduced in India in 1987 by a Pune based company named Tasty Bites Eatables. The products launched initially did not get much popularity among the contemporary Indian consumers. However, in the recent years, ready-to-eat market in India has gained popularity due to busy lifestyles of people, and changing food habits across India.