History and Status of Food Preservation

The Green Revolution and subsequent efforts using science and technology to increase food production in India have brought self-sufficiency in food. Several hybrids and better management practices have resulted in increased food production.

Fruits and vegetables in food products are perishables and are also important sources of vitamins and minerals in the human diet, known as “protective foods”.

Overproduction of perishable fruits and vegetables produced during a particular season results in a glut in the market and becomes scarce in other seasons. Fruit and vegetable processing is therefore attracting the attention of growers, planners, and policymakers as it can contribute to the economic development of the rural population.

Preservation“technique to extend the storage life of a product without impairing its food quality for further use”.

Horticultural produce is a living entity in which various physiological activities such as transpiration and respiration continue after harvesting. This process leads to biochemical degradation and spoilage of the product. The spoilage is initiated by enzymes present inside the produce, involvement of micro-organisms, insect infestation, and invasion of pathogens. By managing these factors, food products can be stored for a longer period of time.

Processing The heating of food for preserving is known as processing, however, in canning technology processing means heating or cooling canned foods to inactivate microorganisms.

Processed foods have now become more of a necessity than typical dietary supplements. It has an important role in the preservation and better utilization of fruits and vegetables. This is essential in order to avoid glute during peak season and utilize the surplus. It employs modern methods to extend the storage life for better distribution and also has processing techniques to preserve them for use in the off-season.

Status of fruit and vegetables processing industry in India

The food processing industry in India accounts for 14% of the total industrial output with a contribution of 6.3% to the national GDP. The food processing industry plays an important role in the Indian economy and is getting established as one of the largest sectors in terms of production as well as profit. The installed capacity of fruit and vegetable processing in our country from more than 6600 FPO licensed units is about 3.85 million tonnes which are less than 2% of the total fruit and vegetable production as against 60-83% in many horticulturally advanced countries. E.g. 60-70% in the USA, 70% in Brazil, 78% in the Philippines, 80% in Saudi Arabia, and 83% in Malaysia. Moreover, the actual production of processed products from these units was only 1.33 million tonnes.

Categorization of different processing units

The categorization of various processing units in the country indicates that 70% of the total units comprise the domestic/cottage/small scale sector with a capacity of up to 250 tonnes/year, while 30% of the units comprise the large scale sector. Processing capacity of about 30 t/h. However, large units account for 70% of the total production of processed products in India. The region-wise distribution of units in the country comprises West 41%, South 28%, North 22%, and Eastern Region about 9%. With respect to the public and private sectors, about 95% of the total units come under the private sector. Major products produced in these units include pulp, juice, concentrates, dried and processed vegetables, pickles, chutneys, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are included. Proportions of various products include fruit juices and pulps (27%), ready-to-serve (RTS) drinks (13%), pickles (12%), jams and jellies (10%), synthetic syrups (8%), squash (4%), tomato products (4%), canned products (4%) and other products (18%).

As per APEDA 2020-21, India’s exports of processed food are Rs 36,946.20 crore / USD 4,987.76 million, which including the share of products like Mango Pulp (Rs.714.41 crore / USD 96.43 million), Processed Vegetables (Rs.3718.65 crore / USD 501.56 million), Processed Fruits, Juices and Nuts (Rs. 3173.42 cr / USD 428.39 Million), Cocoa Products (Rs. 1108.38 Crore / USD 149.78 Million), Alcoholic Beverages (Rs. 2386.91 Crore / USD 322.12 Million), Miscellaneous Products (Rs. 5866.44 crore / USD 793.08 million), and milled products (Rs 1513.44 crore / USD 204.03 million).

Objectives of fruit and vegetable processing

  1. To reduce wastage and losses: Fruit and vegetable industry is the backbone of horticulture industry as it takes care of all possible waste that occurs in spite of improvement in the distribution and marketing of fresh produce.
  2. To handle glut: Processing of fruits helps in reducing wastage and handling excess production during the glut period, by making various processed products.
  3. To stabilize the prices and income of agriculture: It stabilizes the agricultural price by using the surplus produce in value addition to provide additional income to the farmers.
  4. To utilize marketable surplus: Processing uses the marketable surplus as well as spoiled and deformed product to ensure the profit of the producers.
  5. To generate employment: Processing of fruits and vegetables being labor intensive helps in generating employment both directly and indirectly for the public.
  6. To diversify the diet: Value addition/processing make food more attractive and tastier.
  7. Ensuring nutritional security.
  8. Earning foreign exchange through export of processed fruit and vegetable products.

Major constraints in expansion of food industry

  1. Variation in fresh produce quality involving frequent changes in production schedules.
  2. Low productivity and high cost of raw materials: Low production in our country as compared to horticulturally advanced countries is one of the major factors of the high cost of raw materials.
  3. Due to the low quality of raw materials (low in soluble solids) in our country, comparatively more raw materials are required to produce the same quantity of finished products, resulting in a higher cost of production.
  4. Non-availability of low-cost technologies for processing and packaging of fresh and processed products.
  5. Lack of infrastructure for post-harvest management, cool chain, and cold storage.
  6. Non-availability of trained workers.
  7. Lower domestic demand for processed fruit and vegetable products due to higher costs.
  8. Irregular and uneven quality in supply of processed products due to variation in raw material quality and batch processes used.
  9. High cost of packaging material, high taxes, and excise duty.
  10. Low capacity utilization in food industries.
  11. Financial constraints.
  12. Inadequate farmer-processor linkage; Leading to dependence on middlemen.
  13. Lack of strategies to promote the market.
  14. Lack of strategies for utilization of processing industries waste (cake, peel, core, stone/seed) for value addition.
  15. Lack of R&D in the food processing sector and its linkage with the food industry.

Government Initiatives:

Several government initiatives have been taken from time to time by the Government to promote the growth of the food processing sector in the country. Some of these are:

  1. Exempting all the processed food items from the purview of licensing under the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951.
  2. 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) permitted through automatic route for food processing sector subject to sectoral regulations.
  3. 100% Foreign Direct Investment, under the Government approval route, for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured or produced in India.
  4. Lower GST for the raw and processed products; more than 71.7% food products under various chapter heads/sub-heads are covered in lower tax slab of 0% & 5%
  5. Provision of profit linked tax holiday under Section 80 IB and investment-linked deduction under Section 35 AD of Income Tax Act, 1961.
  6. Classifying loans to food & agro-based processing units and Cold Chain under agriculture activities for Priority Sector Lending.
  7. Cold Chain and Food Parks covered under Harmonised Master List of Infrastructure Sub-sector.
  8. Incentivizing creation of infrastructure, expansion of Processing Capacity, and developing technology to convert raw produce into value-added products.
  9. Setting up of a Special Fund of ₹2000 crore in the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to provide affordable credit for designated Food Parks and agro-processing units.
  10. Simplifying Application Forms of all the schemes and minimizing the requirement of documents.
  11. Assisting creation of skill infrastructure in the Food Processing Sector and skill development initiatives through the Sector Skill Council [i.e. Food Industry Capacity and Skill Initiative (FICSI)].
  12. Hand holding and incentivizing Micro Food Processing Units in strengthening their value chain and adherence to regulatory norms.
  13. To Support the creation of global food manufacturing champian commensurate with India’s natural resource endowment and support Indian brands of food products in the international market


The art of preserving food (meat, fish, vegetables, and fruits) has been known since ancient times, with traditional methods still used, such as sun-drying, salting, and smoking.

The first recorded attempt to explain the causes of food spoilage was by Needham in 1749. He saw that boiled mutton gravy. Even when stored in a tightly corked bottle, it spoils after some time, which he attributed to the spontaneous generation of microorganisms in the gravy. This theory was refuted by Spallanzani, who put forward the idea in 1765 that the untreated air inside the vessel already contained organisms and was responsible for spoilage, which could be prevented by heating food kept in an airtight container. This is the basic principle of canning.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the French government faced difficulty in supplying food to its fighting forces at the front, as food often perished when transported over long distances. In 1795 the government announced a reward of 12,000 francs to the inventor who could develop a satisfactory way of preserving food for sea service and military stores. The award was won by Mr. Nicolas Appert, who in 1804 was the first to report the successful preservation of food in glass containers. He was awarded the prize in 1809 and a book on food preservation was published the following year. In the English translation of the book “The Art of Preserving Animals and Vegetable Substances for Many Years”, four important principles of food preservation were propounded.

  1. Substances to be preserved must be sealed in bottles;
  2. Bottles should be corked (closed) more carefully since the success of the process depends on it;
  3. Bottles with attached substance should be heated in a boiling water bath, for a specific period of time depending on the substance; And
  4. At the end of the specified period the bottles must be removed from the water bath.

These Appert’s principles are still valid and followed in every canary. Therefore, Nicolas Appert is knowns as the “Father of Canning”. This method soon became very popular and in 1819 the U.S.A. introduced it.

While Appert used only boiling water to sterilize glass jars, others later modified the method by adding common salt or calcium chloride to raise the boiling temperature of the water in order to reduce the time required to sterilize.

Louis Pasteur conclusively demonstrated the role of microorganisms in food spoilage in 1864. He recommended heat treatment of food to a temperature high enough to kill most microorganisms, although not all microorganisms, such as bacteria, mold, and yeast present in food, should also be inhibit to access the inside food by tightly closing the container. This process of sterilization is called pasteurization.

In 1843, Winslow and Raymond Chevalien Appert reported that canned foods could be processed under pressure by steam and water, leading to the development of the pressure cooker in 1852. Cooking foods through pressure was first attempted by Papin in 1861. However, these pressure vessels were defective and often burst.

An autoclave provided with an inlet for steam from an external source was used by Shriver in 1874.

Shortly after Appert received the prize, in 1810 Augustus de Heine was granted a patent for iron containers and Peter Durand for the use of metal containers for the preservation of food. About this period Donkin and Hall started a canning factory and preserved filled cans by heating them at 320 C to 450 C. Defective cans were detected by the bulging of their ends.

The lacquering of the can greatly helps to reduce the effects of corrosion and protect the contact from metal contamination. In 1868, Peltier and Paillard of Paris used varnish for the interior coating, and in 1882. Parry and Cobley suggested the use of serums made from sodium, potassium or calcium silicates and proteinaceous ingredients.

In India, the first fruit and vegetable processing factory was established in Bombay in 1935, after which units were established in Madrasas, Calcutta, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

In 1950, the Central Food Technological Research Institute was established in Mysore to promote the food processing industry and conduct research on various problems related to food. It has seven regional centers located at Bangalore, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Ludhiana, Jammu and Trivandrum.

In order to control the quality of processed food, the Government of India passed the Food Products Order (FPO, 1955) in 1955 according to which license is required for commercial manufacture of food products. Home scale processing does not require a license. For licensure, a Food and Nutrition Board (1973) was set up.

A Fruit Preservation and Canning Institute was established in 1949 in Lucknow by the Government of Uttar Pradesh.