The food business runs on the success of scalability. Ice Cream and frozen dessert are globally enjoyed food products that span from upmarket stores to around the corner mini marts and street carts. What really drives the sale is the consistent expectation of a cold mouth feel with a firm yet swift to melt in the mouth texture of the product. Temperature during processing and storage is critical for the Ice cream and frozen dessert range of products to have consistent appeal. For the most part, processing machines come with inbuilt temperature sensors helping the chef maintain temperature and product functionality. The holding temperature, shipping temperature and store level holding temperatures are vital for the product to hold on to its integrity.
India produced about 200 million litres of Ice Cream in financial year 2020. Post pandemic, although customers just as always desire the product, the concern for food safety has risen. The core basis of food safety is the simple tenet of keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. However, there can be instances of power fluctuations that are often unpredictable and beyond one’s control; this can cause microbiological, chemical and structural changes in the product, which ultimately leads to compromised product quality and product wastage. While wastage can have a direct impact on the profits of the producer, quality has a less apparent but more impactful risk on consumer health and credibility of the brand.
Ice Cream is an emulsion of various ingredients viz. dairy, sugar, fats and additives, creating a smooth texture that melts in the mouth. The pleasurable texture of Ice Cream is a result of temperature, small ice crystals and air bubbles distributed consistently throughout the product. Freeze-thaw cycles of Ice Cream due to improper storage and holding temperature causes the microstructure to implode, making the texture grainy and creating a good ground for bacteria to multiply.
For producers of perishable food products such as high-quality clean label Ice Cream with shelf life as short as 15 days, product wastage is a primary concern. Ideal storage condition is therefore paramount in preserving such food products, before they reach the end consumer. When a storage facility has compromised power supply, the product melts and once again refreezes when temperatures are brought under control. Microbial spoilage can happen easily at this stage, due to various organisms such as Coliform, yeast & moulds and thermoduric microbes.
Most Ice Cream manufacturers lose control after a certain point in the distribution chain. The point from the level of shipping from the manufacturing facility to the super stockist is generally done in a truck with temperature controls. However, in countries such as India with its tropical climate and distribution chains that percolate into the street cart level and deep into rural geographies, focus on temperature control across the supply chain is critical.
By introducing IoT and AI technologies across the Ice Cream value chain, Ice Cream producers gain the benefit of traceability of their products. IoT enables real-time monitoring and tracking right from the stage of sourcing raw materials to delivering the product to the end consumer. IoT enabled tracking can go as far as keeping a tab on cattle health, the original source of the primary ingredient for Ice Creams – dairy.
IoT addresses the concern of temperature control at every stage of the supply chain. The technology tracks and records temperature data at the processing unit and at transit. In the transit stage, temperature compliance can be tracked in the first, mid and last mile of product delivery. In addition to tracking and recording, the system alerts the concerned officials of any temperature breach, including intimating timely corrective actions, thereby ensuring compliance.
In today’s competitive marketplace, consumer satisfaction is the key to business sustenance. With consumer awareness increasing by the day, living up to customer expectation is challenging. That being said, Ice Cream producers can go one step ahead and leverage QR code technology to allow the end consumer to track and trace the product back to its origins before consuming them. This way, Ice Cream producers can guarantee the quality of their product with data-backed assurance.
About the Authors:
1. Dr. Deepa Prakash
Food Scientist & Senior Advisor, Atsuya Technologies
2. Devika Nambiar
Lead – Marketing & Communications, Atsuya Technologies
3. Rahul Ganapathy
Co-Founder & CEO, Atsuya Technologies
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
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