Unnecessary waste and humans go hand-in-hand. Everything from material goods to food is discarded with barely a second thought, and it will take considerable innovation from manufacturers to help reverse the trend. Fortunately, some companies have their thinking caps on, and one is Hitachi, whose vacuum refrigerators contain technology to help reduce food waste, resulting in lower household shopping bills.
Most people consider refrigerators the finished article; after all, what else can be added to improve them? Over recent years, brands have tried. Some have introduced magic fronts that, with a tap of the finger, allow you to look inside the fridge without opening the door, a groundbreaking invention that saves you the one-second effort of opening it! Others have repositioned compartments, introduced colours and graphics and even sun-cycle replication technology to keep fruits and vegetables fresher for longer.
Too many new technological additions are nothing more than a waste of the designer’s brain power! The world needs practical additions to refrigerators, things that encompass more than fruits and vegetables or burning calories, and, on paper, Hitachi’s Vacuum Refrigerators sound like they can do this.
As with anything that contains the latest innovation, it will be reflected in the price, which we’ll come on to later. Pricing aside, the simple fact that a manufacturer has introduced something worthwhile and beneficial to people’s lives makes me want to write about it.
Hitachi’s new refrigerators contain a vacuum compartment which extracts air from the drawer, resulting in a partial vacuum around chilled foods such as meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. This technology has been with us for a while, but less so in white consumer goods. The oxygen reduction slows the oxidation/decomposition process, increasing food longevity. It is also said to keep the moisture in fish and meat, maintain the texture and flavours of cheese and is a godsend for fruits and vegetables.
Essentially, it is like vacuum-sealing the fresh food each time you close the drawer. Combined with a temperature just above freezing, the result is increased food storage times and much-improved retention of flavours and nutrients.
Hitachi Vacuum Compartment can be likened to ‘vacuum packing’ fresh food at home whenever you close the drawer. The technology, in combination with a low compartment temperature just above freezing, results in much longer food storage times and greater retention of nutrients, flavour and moisture in the food.
Once you have shut the drawer, a small pump sucks all the air from the sealed drawer and maintains the air pressure at around 0.8 atm. You lift the handle to open the drawer, which releases the vacuum seal, which is accompanied by a ‘whooshing’ sound, signifying that the air is returning to the compartment.
Independent tests have been conducted on the technology. Studies by The Suranaree University of Technology in Thailand found that with fresh fish, 97% of the vital omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, was retained compared to 93% in a standard chiller compartment. Admittedly, this is not an astonishing difference, but it does show the possibilities that lie ahead.
The numbers are far more encouraging with regards to fresh fruit. Usually, the vitamin levels in fresh fruit will drop dramatically in the fridge. However, Hitachi’s vacuum drawer is shown to retain 30% more vitamin C in pineapple than a typical refrigerator over the same three days.
Retaining nutrients and keeping foods fresher for longer means less spoiled food resulting in less food waste and people’s money going that bit further. A 2017 UK study by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that almost 10 million tonnes of food are discarded in the UK every year, and 70% of that enormous number was courtesy of households.
I am hoping that Hitachi will include more or larger vacuum compartments in their refrigerators over time, but I understand that with anything groundbreaking, a slowly-slowly approach is necessary to allow consumers to become accustomed to it. The technology is currently available in their flagship four-door R-WB640VGB1X refrigerator, the R-WB640VGB1, and the three-door R-MX700GVGB1 model, and prices range from £2,299.00 to £2,599.00.
In addition to the vacuum compartment, the models in the range also benefit from Hitachi’s Triple Power Filter for pure air and reduced cross-contamination of food odours, energy-efficient motors, rapid hybrid freezing and frost-free operation.
As our regular readers will have read in our recent 24″ television review feature, warranties are very important to us. The good news is that all the new Hitachi refrigerators come with a comprehensive 5-year guarantee.
Read more lifestyle news and features here.