Find a Stockist near you

How Nitrogen Preserves Freshness in the Food Industry

A close-up of a table with food

Nitrogen has outstanding versatility. Most commonly used in air conditioning and motorsports, many ignore that it is also successfully employed in the food industry to preserve the freshness and flavours of goods and extend their shelf life. As consumers become more demanding, the food industry is constantly on the lookout for innovative preservation methods for its products.

As an inert, non-reactive gas, nitrogen offers an incredibly effective and convenient method of retaining the quality of several foods, such as snacks, dairy, meat, and beverages like beer, protecting them from spoilage and degradation. In this blog, we explore the many benefits and applications of nitrogen in the food industry, with a specific focus on food packaging and oxidation.

A close-up of a machine

How Nitrogen Benefits the Food Industry

Nitrogen features unique properties among gases, which is why it is a major player in food and wine preservation and food packaging. Here, its principal role is to replace oxygen to prevent or slow down the spoilage process, which occurs when foods are exposed to air. Nitrogen doesn’t react with food components and is used to create a protective atmosphere around perishable products, whilst oxygen, on the other hand:

a)     Encourages the growth of aerobic bacteria and fungi, leading to food decay.

b)     Causes oxidative rancidity in fatty foods, resulting in off-flavours and odours.

By replacing oxygen with nitrogen, these negative effects are significantly reduced, and the shelf life of packed food is considerably extended, resulting in the retention of quality, safety and original flavours for longer.

A machine with several cupcakes

Main Advantages of Using Nitrogen in Packaging

Nitrogen cylinders are a valuable ally for businesses operating within the food industry. By helping them maintain the overall quality of their products, the customer experience offered will also benefit from a significant enhancement. Here is a list of advantages.

  • Shelf life extension. When food is packaged in an oxygen-free environment, the growth of spoilage organisms such as bacteria and moulds is lower. This means the food is fresh for longer.
  • Retention of food quality. As we’ve said, nitrogen helps preserve the original taste, texture, and appearance of food. For instance, in the case of crisps, it prevents them from losing their crunch.
  • Texture improvement. Thanks to its properties, nitrogen is a significant contributor to creamy textures and rich flavours in dairy products like cheese and smooth, velvety beers like Guinness, especially when paired with beer gas.

A person holding a bag of nuts
What Specific Foods and Industries Make the Most of Nitrogen?

So, what specific sub-industries and product types particularly benefit from nitrogen’s properties to effectively preserve quality and safety? Let’s have a look.

The Snack Food Industry

Snacks are an incredibly popular food type, and consumers have high expectations for taste and quality. These items include favourites such as crisps, biscuits, crackers, and nuts. Nitrogen packaging is excellent for keeping them crunchy and fresh and protecting them from becoming stale.

The Dairy Industry

This sector and its products rely heavily on nitrogen. Cheese, for example, spoils fast if not properly stored; by packaging it in nitrogen, producers extend its shelf life while retaining its creamy texture and rich flavours. Alongside cheese, milk and other dairy derivatives also benefit from reduced oxidation and microbial growth offered by nitrogen-rich environments.

The Meat Industry

Thanks to nitrogen, spoilage and discolouration in products like sausages and cured meats are effectively avoided. When exposed to oxygen, these foods will quickly lose their appeal, but with nitrogen, they can stay fresh and appealing for much longer.

The Drink Industry

Here, nitrogen preserves wine and beer from oxidation, ensuring that the flavours remain intact from bottling to consumption. On top of that, nitrogen, alongside CO2, is used in brewing to enhance beer textures and flavours, as we saw in our article about the journey of beer and cellar gas.

Nitrogen’s Cost-Effectiveness and Efficiency

One great advantage of using nitrogen in the food industry is its cost-effectiveness. Our atmosphere is rich in this gas, which makes it particularly inexpensive to produce and use. Additionally, it is often a more affordable, better, and easier option to employ on a large scale, especially compared to vacuum packing or chemical preservatives, which are also unhealthy.

Finally, the process of replacing oxygen with nitrogen in packaging is easily integrated into existing production lines, making it a valuable addition to food manufacturing processes of any size and complexity. It’s also worth mentioning that such great efficiency extends to the logistical aspect: nitrogen-filled packages often weigh less than others, reducing transportation costs.

A hand reaching for a bubble

How Does Nitrogen Preservation Impact the Environment?

Our exploration ends with a nod to the environmental aspect, which nowadays cannot be overlooked. Even here, resorting to nitrogen preservation presents several advantages. For example, since this gas is a natural component of the atmosphere, its use does not introduce harmful chemicals into the environment. Plus, food waste is dramatically reduced, and sustainable food production and consumption practices are more accessible.

Need Nitrogen for Food Preservation? Choose Adams Gas

As consumers constantly demand high-quality, long-lasting food products, nitrogen’s importance in food preservation is essential. Whether you work in the snack, dairy, meat, or drink industries, if your business needs a reliable source of nitrogen, choose Adams Gas.

As a leading gas supplier in the UK, we offer an extensive catalogue of gas products to meet various industrial needs, from the smallest to the most demanding. Contact us to explore your opportunities to work with us. We will guarantee your goods remain fresh and safe for your customers!