Is dehydration the solution to our current food production scenario?

Since the past few years, the topic of food wastage across the world has taken a central stage, particularly after setting ‘Reducing Food Waste’ as part of UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. As far as developed countries are concerned, the effort required is at the Consumption Level as the food wastage at the other levels are being monitored and controlled to a certain extent. So inventions are focused at reducing wastage at home by offering alternate solutions like dehydrators at home that can help preserve food without adding too much cost.

As for developing countries, taking India as an example, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that we waste almost 40% of our food. More than half this quantity is lost even before it reaches its consumer due to reasons like lack of cold storage facilities, non-optimized transportation methods and poor accessibility.

For a country that produces so many exotic fruits and vegetables, many of which are not even heard of in other parts of the world, India has a lot to offer both for our domestic market as well as international food lovers. For example, only in recent times has the west figured out about the extremely nutritious fruit – The Jackfruit, a fruit that is prevalent in predominant portions of South Asia. Many such realizations are yet to be made. But unless we can find solution to optimally harness these fruits and deliver it for consumption, we cannot experience the pride that our soil has given us.

Fruits and Vegetables perish within a smaller duration. Understanding this point and working to reverse it has provided some of the best solutions to tackle wastage. The concept of drying is nothing new. It is being done for centuries with raisins, dates and many other fruits that are commonly available in the market today. It is a simple process of removing water from the fruit itself. And there are different approaches towards doing it. This process can be applied to any fruit or vegetable. But this has not been in practice much either due to lack of awareness, lack of facility to do so or lack of the right technology. But that is not the case today. Several new innovative technologies have taken the stage to offer a range of dehydrated fruits and vegetables like Banana, Lady’s finger, Pineapple, Green Chilies, Papaya etc.

Some of the existing technologies include, the traditional sun drying, solar dehydration, vacuum drying, freeze drying etc. While the first two processes depend on the heat of sun, the other processes have been developed to function at room temperatures and below. The differences in the resulting products are in terms of hygiene, nutrition retention and the final taste of the product. In most cases, sugar or additives is not required to enhance the taste.

Taking the process one step further is providing the same fruits and vegetables with some added natural flavors like honey with banana and chilly masala with guava to make the experience of eating the fruit more enjoyable.

At the governmental level, in India, they are trying their best to make people manufacture such products. But the manufacturers still seek the export markets for their products. One of the reasons is that the west has already been introduced to this concept and hence, well aware of the benefits and know to make the best use of it. For Indians, it is still a fairly fresh concept. How many of us have actually seen dried banana or papaya at your local markets that does not have unnecessary additives or sugar and still fits into the price range of the middle class.

Many emerging companies are trying to bridge this gap expecting our people to try it, experience the blast of flavors and understand the actual benefits of brining this segment of food into their everyday intake. With the current lifestyle of people leaning more towards health consciousness, this will be the biggest goldmine to dig into. Experience the goodness while trudging ahead with your health goals. Happy eating!!!

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