Squeezing healthier fruit products

Tuesday, 12 May, 2009

It’s not very often that a new technology is commercialised in the food processing industry but with the official opening of the Donny Boy Fresh Food Company this has just happened.

Donny Boy has opened a $1.4 million high-pressure processing (HPP) facility in Melbourne where it will manufacture Preshafruit juices and fruit for retail, food service and industrial applications. Preshafruit juice contains 100% fruit with no preservatives, added sugar, sweeteners or colours. The juice contains twice the Vitamin C and twice the antioxidants of regular juice and comes in an innovative triangle-shaped bottle.

The Donny Boy Fresh Food Company prides itself on innovation and has already achieved a number of world firsts.

It is the first company in the world to manufacture HPP fruit for the dairy industry and single variety HPP juices. It is also the first company to achieve HACCP and Australian Certified Organic certification for the manufacture of HPP fruit juices and fruit preparations.

All product development of the Preshafruit products and initial commercial production was undertaken at Food Science Australia’s (FSA) Innovative Foods Centre, a joint venture between the Victorian government and CSIRO. The Donny Boy team utilised a pilot HPP machine at Food Science Australia.

Donny Boy Founder and Managing Director Andrew Gibb was full of praise for the Innovative Foods Centre at Food Science Australia.

“There is no doubt we would not be opening this factory today if small start-up companies such as ourselves could not access the world-leading facilities at FSA to develop and trial our new innovative product concepts,” Gibb said.

The new technology employed by Donny Boy is the use of high pressure, rather than thermal techniques, to pasteurise its juices and fruit products. The company uses equipment from Spanish company NC Hyperbaric’s Wave 6000 range.

One of the benefits of HPP is that the product can be chilled or ambient temperature while being processed so there is no thermal degradation and the fresh taste, colour, texture, nutrition and smell are retained in foods while an extended shelf life is delivered.

The Director of FSA’s Innovative Foods Centre (IFC), Dr Kees Versteeg, says the HPP technology further developed by the IFC uses pressures of about 6000 times the average air pressure at sea level to pasteurise food products.

“The unique benefits of HPP are that it kills microbes such as yeasts, moulds and bacteria, and extends the shelf life of chilled perishable products without adversely affecting the food’s freshness, flavour, colour, texture and nutritional value,” Dr Versteeg says.

As well as its Preshafruit range, Donny Boy also undertakes contract HPP for food manufacturers such as Farm Pride, which has achieved a ten-fold increase in the shelf life of the egg and mayonnaise sandwich fillings it supplies to food service clients.

The company has begun discussions with Simplot with the view to establishing a range of HPP products in the Australian Foodservice Market.

Gibb says FSA’s involvement was essential to his company’s start-up.

“Our company began life at Food Science Australia’s Innovative Foods Centre. We undertook all trials and first commercial production of our Preshafruit juices and fruits at FSA,” Gibb says.

The Innovative Foods Centre was established with the support of Science, Technology and Innovation Initiative grants from the Victorian government. A joint partnership between CSIRO and the Victorian government, FSA continues to use its expertise in food processing, chemistry, microbiology and sensory science to develop further HPP products with the food industry.

What is HPP and what are the benefits?

HPP is a pasteurisation method by which product, in its final package, is introduced into a vessel and subjected to a high level of isostatic pressure, transmitted by water. Pressurisation of food products (above 4000 bars) at an ambient or chilled temperature inactivates the vegetative microorganisms (bacteria, yeast and moulds) present in products, keeping the product’s organoleptic and sensorial properties, and maintaining freshness throughout shelf life.

A wide range of products can be processed by HPP including ready-to-eat products, slices smallgoods, whole pieces of cured ham, shucked oysters, milk, cheese, yoghurt, vegetable purees, sauces, salads, diced, half-cuts or sliced vegetal products …

HPP of fresh cheeses may enhance the maturation and kill pathogenic bacteria and may provide a system for the hygienisation of cheeses made from raw milk. Also, because each microorganism has a specific barosensibility it is possible to inactivate certain species while maintaining others — a post-packaging, high-pressure system for processing yoghurts which takes advantage of this has already been patented.

HPP can also lead to ‘clean-labelled’ food product innovation. So far around the world about 41 different companies have installed HPP systems since 2005. Seventeen of them have a range of ‘all natural’, preservative-free HPP product. If we exclude 7 from the 41 companies, which are using HPP for seafood processing like oyster shucking, lobster or crab meat extraction (and cannot claim a clean label because they have always used mechanical/physical methods), about half of the other companies have marketed a range ‘all natural’ products thanks to HPP.

In the meat field, several USA companies, some of them very large, have launched their natural range. The commercial success of Hormel Foods Natural Choice opened the market for all natural preservative-free sliced meats. Kraft Foods also manufactures a range of ready-to-eat pork and poultry meats minimally processed under pressure. Foster Farms has been processing under pressure ready-to-eat pork, sliced turkey and chicken strips, free of nitrites, nitrates and other preservatives, for over a year now. Wellshire has a large range of ‘HPP all natural products’: sliced pastrami, ham and roast beef. Moreover, there are natural and organic pet feed products processed with high pressure, from Stella and Chewy’s and Wild Kitty.

There are only three fruit or vegetable processors that produce only HPP all natural products on the market. Two years ago, Barefruit had launched a range of natural smoothies and juices in Ireland under the trademark Puro. SimplyFresco, in the US, processes 100% of its natural, preservative-free tomato salsas under pressure and now Donny Boy’s Preshafruit range of natural fruit products, such as fruit puree for dairy industries, coulis, juices and smoothies, feature world-first applications of HPP technology.

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