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How is Nitrogen Gas Used in the Food and Beverage Industry?

Nitrogen is a very useful gas. It’s used in many different industries, including the food and beverage sector, and it has a wide range of applications within it. Nitrogen is also inert, non-toxic, colourless and odourless, so it won’t harm any food or drinks.

Packaged cucumber with woman hand in the supermarket

The gas is cost-effective and widely available, which makes it a great option in the industry. So, in this article, we’re taking a look at its vast range of applications in food and drinks, such as how it’s used in processing and packaging.

Useful in Food Processing

Nitrogen gas is often used in food processing, from meat and seafood to vegetables, fruits and prepared meals. Using liquid nitrogen is also common. Because of its extremely low temperature, liquid nitrogen can freeze anything in a few seconds or minutes, which saves a lot of time.

Freezing food with liquid nitrogen leads to smaller weight losses from dehydration. In addition, liquid nitrogen’s freezing process creates small ice crystals that keep moisture in and allow products to retain their quality for longer.

Nitrogen also eliminates heat from specific processes, which makes bacterial growth difficult or impossible and, therefore, improves the health and safety of food and drinks.

As a gas, nitrogen is great in the manufacturing of sweets as well. Aerated chocolate is quite popular and requires nitrogen put under pressure to create small bubbles. CO2 is often used to make larger bubbles.

stack of different kind porous chocolate pieces

Whether food or drinks, nitrogen can slow the decaying process and improve the quality of the product, which helps manufacturers’ maintain a profitable business.

Nitrogen Prevents Oxidation in Packaging

This gas is widely used in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), be it of food or drinks. This method changes the atmosphere of the packaging by pushing out oxygen and raising the levels of nitrogen.

Oxygen causes oxidation and leads to spoilage – the substance reacts with fats and sugars, which is why things like avocado and banana become brown when in contact with air.

Bacteria can also thrive in an environment rich in oxygen, so MAP is a good way to prevent food and beverages from becoming stale, rancid or spoiled. The amount of oxygen and nitrogen that needs to be present in the packaging will depend on the product, as different foods require different amounts.

For example, meat can develop a strange colour if there isn’t enough oxygen inside the package, so it’s crucial to get the balance right.

Nitrogen is useful in the packaging of both fizzy and still beverages, such as beer, wine and water, and is injected into containers in precise amounts, which pressurises them and allows the products to last for a long time. The pressure created by nitrogen ensures that the CO2 remains in the carbonated drinks, so that they don’t lose their bubbles until the bottle is finally opened.

Bellini, alcoholic cocktail with sparkling wine, sugar syrup, lemon juice, peach and ice, gray table background, copy space

The nitrogen present inside wine bottles also keeps the wine from oxidising, which could spoil the beverage – you’ll notice, after all, that wine is only good for a few days after it’s been opened. The oxidation process will, eventually, make the taste similar to vinegar.

Another example of how nitrogen keeps food fresh is crisp packets. You’ve probably wondered many times why they have so much air inside them; this ‘air’ ensures that the crisps have a long shelf life and don’t become stale while the packet is closed. Once opened, the crisps will quickly turn stale.

Nitrogen in Restaurants and Bars

Nitrogen is so versatile that is can be used in places like restaurants, pubs and bars as well. In its liquid form, nitrogen can be used to present and serve dishes, as it creates a dramatic fog effect at the table (for example, famous chef Heston Blumenthal uses liquid nitrogen to enhance the dining experience of his customers).

The creativity of using liquid nitrogen is not just limited to serving meals. Nitrogen can also be used to make ice cream – it works by rapidly freezing the mixture while preserving its taste and texture, and the resulting ice cream will be smooth as well.

Lady making liquid nitrogen vegan ice cream

A blend of nitrogen and CO2 is also used in pubs to serve Guinness. The beer is famous for its creamy and carbonated texture, which is achieved by using this blend to push the beverage through the lines. We have plenty of beer cellar gas at Adams Gas, so you can easily start producing your own beers at home.

Nitrogen can help manufacturers to increase the shelf life of their products, as well as to preserve the freshness of the food. This gas will also ensure that the taste and texture stay the same and helps to keep mould and rancidity at bay.

From nitrogen gas to CO2 bottles, we have everything you could possibly need at our store, so get in touch with us today if you want to learn more about our products and how they can help.

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