The Micvac process helps to make gourmet food durable. Photo: micvac
Gourmet cuisine from the microwave
For a long time, convenience food had a bad reputation as a poor replacement for mum’s or granny’s home-made food. However, there are deep-frozen or chilled foods available these days that can by all means keep up with top cuisine. A case in point comes from Sweden where the chef at the renowned “Operakällaren” restaurant in Stockholm, Stefano Catenacci, came up with the idea of making exquisite dishes produced without any additives or preservatives on an industrial scale accessible to the public. This is how the brand “Gooh!” – derived from the Swedish phrase “gott och hälsosamt” (which translates as good and healthy) - saw the light of day. In 2005 the first Gooh! shop-restaurant was opened. Today, Gooh! convenience food is available through a shop-in-shop system all over Sweden.
The dishes to be heated up are packaged using the Micvac Method – conserving taste and the vitamins of the ingredients – without any preservatives. To this end the portions are filled into trays or pouches of various sizes, shapes and colours and sealed with a special film provided with an integrated valve made up of various layers. As soon as the temperature rises, air pressure opens the valve to release steam. The packaging is engineered to evenly distribute heat while in the microwave and to prevent burnt rims as well as cold patches. The mastermind behind this idea is the inventor Dr. Joel Haamer, who originally developed the Micvac method for preserving mussels.
Ingredient-saving thermal treatment of up to 100 °C means fewer spices and no flavour enhancers are needed in manufacturing. Photo: micvac
Sustainable overall concept
The preservation of food forms part of an overall concept against food waste and losses to which the packaging industry is also committed. With the help of suitable “envelopes” food can not only be protected but its shelf life can also be extended many times over. To fight food losses and waste the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO, the United Nations Environmental Programme UNEP and Messe Düsseldorf have joined forces to launch the Save Food Initiative. Today, the alliance boasts over 1,000 members from combines, companies, industry associations, retail as well as research institutes and NGOs across the entire food value chain.
Be they sweet or savoury: deep-frozen pizzas are popular. In 2016 some 304,000 tons of deep-frozen pizza were sold in Germany. Photo: Dr. Oetker
With rising consumer demands for convenience products the supply of time-saving “on-the-go” solutions on the market has also grown. Convenience food sales have gone up accordingly. And sales are forecast to rise to approximately Euro 37,793 m in Europe in 2018. Across the total population this corresponds to per-capita consumption of roughly 11.3 kilogrammes. The USA posts the highest market volume for convenience food worldwide – where total sales are expected to reach some Euro 56,910 m for the current year 2018. According to these statistics, every American consumes an average of some 27.8 kilogrammes of industrially pre-cooked dishes. The market is still dominated by deep-frozen products in smart packaging that not only provides shoppers with safe foodstuffs but also makes available important information regarding ingredients, best before dates and storage conditions – with the help of integrated temperature measuring sensors.