A Canadian company claims it's leading the race to provide the public frozen tomatoes, green peppers and onions, foods that until now didn't freeze well.
Bonduelle Canada CEO Daniel Vielfaure says his company "has the leap on everyone" when it comes to the production of dehydrofrozen vegetables, a process which reduces the water content in vegetables before freezing them.
"Water expands and destroys the molecular structure of vegetables and the vegetables become mushy," he said in an interview with CBC's Windsor Morning.
Vielfaure said dehydrofrozen vegetables keep their natural fresh structure when thawed.
Bonduelle has been running tests over the last three years at a plant in Quebec. Commercial tests are now scheduled for the next 18 months or so. Products could go to market within two years, Vielfaure said.
Bonduelle Research Inc. received a $2.5-million investment from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada earlier this year to continue researching dehydrofrozen vegetables.
The company is working with EnWave Corporation, a Vancouver-based industrial technology company developing commercial applications for its proprietary Radiant Energy Vacuum dehydration technology.
EnWave claims the removal of moisture prior to freezing also enhances the flavor, colour and nutrient concentration of vegetables.
"It could be big, especially if we could export to the U.S. market," Vielfaure said of the technology.
Vielfaure said the market for frozen vegetables includes the industrial market and restaurants, especially pizzerias.
He said right now, the quality of ''water-heavy' frozen vegetables when served "is not to what the consumers are expecting to have."
Bonduelle has 58 plants worldwide, including three facilities in Ontario and four in Quebec.
Vielfaure said the new technology, if it works, will be installed in plants near where the crops are grown.
"Obviously, the Ontario peninsula would be a good region," he said.
Vielfaure said the Tecumseh, Ont., plant could house the new technology and the warehouse space, processing lines could be expanded.