Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Dec 11, 2003
Agri-Biz & Commodities - Foods & Food Processing
And now, your favourite fish curry in sachets!
Mumbai , Dec. 10
AVAILABILITY of your favourite fish curry may no more be limited to your household kitchen or on the menus of hotels and restaurants in India.
The day may not be far off when you could pick up your choice of fish curry, packed in a ready-to-serve condition in special pouches, from the nearest departmental store, thanks to a new packaging technology developed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT).
CIFT has already started to produce mackerel curry processed on a pilot scale in flexible special pouches and market them in some of the fish importing countries, which has met with encouraging response.
The institute is now prepared to offer this packaging technology to interested entrepreneurs.
This assumes significance as the Indian seafood industry has been talking about value-addition to increase its presence in the overseas markets. "There will be a good response from entrepreneurs. But the market of ready-to-eat fish curry in India will take time to develop as Indians have to get used to the taste of packaged food, as is the trend in the West," an industry source told Business Line.
Fish curries have a limited storage life of a day or two at normal conditions of temperature in India, while at refrigerated temperatures (2 to 30 C) these may have an additional shelf-life of a couple of days. In the West, fish curry in a ready-to-consume state processed and packed in metal cans is a popular food fish varieties such as sardines, seer, mackerel and herring are available in `curried form' in cans.
However, the trend of canned food did not make any significant headway in the domestic market, primarily because the tinplate that is imported puts a squeeze on the economic viability of such products. Also, metal cans impart an "undesirable taste" to the product, which has not gone down well with Indians.
Trials were made to develop this market by packing processed food in flexible pouches, but this also did not work out well. "This is because the pouches were not "heat stable" and suffered from other disadvantages such as poor seal strength, poor barrier properties and pin holing. That is why the earlier attempts to popularise ready-to-serve fish curry could not meet with success," said Dr K. Devadasan, CIFT Director, in a paper presented at a conference on packaging.
Now these roadblocks can be overcome, thanks to the new technology developed by CIFT, which can enable availability of ready-to-serve fish preparations processed in flexible retortable pouches. This is a three-layer configuration of flexible pouches, which can perform the packaging function equally as metal cans and is also free from the disadvantages associated with the latter.
"This is a retortable flexible pouch based on polyester/aluminium foil/ cast polypropylene. The outer polyester film protects the aluminium foil and provides the laminate with strength and abrasion resistance. The core of aluminium foil is used to give the laminate the necessary water, gas, odour and other barrier properties. These pouches can enhance the shelf life of fish products to one year at ambient conditions," he said.
Recently, CIFT took one step further to develop processes for heat processing of several fish products in such retortable pouches such as prawn, rohu, tuna, sardine and pomfret curries, apart from fried mussels and fish sausage. "Keeping in view the growing demand for ready to serve products both in the domestic and international markets, the retort pouch technology has a good future," Dr Devadasan said.
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