What's a food processor to do?
Thursday, 23 November, 2017
If you have anything to do with the development or processing of food and beverage products, you’ve noticed a lot of news about technologies available to enhance and improve food safety and shelf life.
Your consumers want fresh, healthy and preservative-free foods that are convenient but delicious. Retailers and foodservice wholesalers want to respond to these consumer demands, but need extended shelf life to reduce product spoilage. Creating products that meet these requirements — not to mention regulatory compliance — is truly a balancing act.
There is a solution: high pressure processing (HPP)
With a 25+ year track record, HPP offers food marketers and innovators the opportunity to ensure food safety and extend market reach with existing products, while enabling refrigerated, preservative-free products that traditionally were shelf stable through the application of heat or preservatives.
The use of HPP, a non-thermal post-package process, continues to rapidly increase in these categories:
- Pre-cooked and ready-to-eat sliced and whole meats
- Ready meals (MREs)
- Juices and beverages
- Dips and spreads
- Guacamole, hummus and salsa
- Dressings and soups
- Deli salads
- Pet food
- Baby food
High pressure processing or pasteurisation is cold pasteurisation in pure water; it uses ultra-high pressure purified water to keep packaged food and beverages pathogen-free to stay fresh longer.
At very high pressures bacteria such as Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella are inactivated while the all-natural technique preserves the vitamins, taste and texture of the food. HPP also extends the shelf life of foods, which reduces waste.
What exactly is HPP and how does it work?
HPP machines surround packaged food and beverages with up to 600 MPa of cold water pressure. This amount of pressure is equivalent to stacking 15 elephants, each weighing five tons, on top of a plastic bottle.
Under this kind of pressure, bacteria like Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella are crushed and cannot survive. Food safety is achieved without the use of chemical preservatives or high temperatures and with little or no changes in nutrition and taste.
Prior to pressurisation, the packaged food is loaded into a basket, then loaded into a closed chamber, sealed and finally pressurised by pumping water into it. The duration of the pressurisation phase is generally one to three minutes.
The high hydrostatic pressure does not affect any of the structural components of the food itself (proteins, fibres, fats etc), nor does it affect the structural integrity of the package used, as the pressure is applied uniformly on the food and the package from all sides. The result is a safe, delicious, clean label food or beverage product with up to four times the shelf life.
Where HPP started
Scientists have known that foods subjected to high hydrostatic pressure last longer before spoiling since 1990 and this effect has been extensively studied since. High pressure processing is now a well-recognised method for microbial inactivation that opens the door to previously unachievable quality, food safety and new market segments. It also achieves food safety and extends shelf life while providing consumers with nutritious, natural, flavourful food.
HPP can be used on most air-free, moisture-containing products ranging from salsa, guacamole, hummus, juices, meats, dips, salad dressings, sauces, baby food, pet food, coconut water, cheese, smoothies, fruits, soups and wet salads.
Foods such as marshmallows, bread and whole fruits are not suitable, but pasta and cut fruits in sauce will work with HPP.
HPP is recognised as a food safety intervention technology by the FDA, USDA, Health Canada and other international agencies, and consumers are willing to pay more for all natural, clean label foods.
HPP food and beverages are found in the refrigerated section of grocery, convenience and club stores, otherwise known as the healthy outer perimeter zone.
HPP’d juices and smoothies may be marketed as ‘Cold Pressed’.
Deli meats and other foods will have ‘All-Natural’ or ‘No Preservatives’ on their labels.
High pressure processed foods will have a clean label without preservatives and added chemicals.
Where can HPP take your products?
Examples of how leading food manufacturers strategically leverage the benefits of HPP today to expand markets, create new products and extend the shelf life:
- A leading pre-sliced meat and salad processor in Greece increased food safety and extended shelf life for its line of packaged meats and now ships product to the Greek Islands where the cold chain may not be reliable.
- With all natural juice products, maintaining taste, freshness and nutrition, without preservatives, can only be achieved with HPP. Because of extended shelf life, a Dutch company is now able to export their fresh juice products internationally.
- A producer of packaged pre-sliced deli meats with major market share for both retail and food service in the USA uses HPP to extend its clean label lines of packaged sliced meats for consumers hungry for convenience. The company’s food service lines leverage HPP to meet the strict safety compliance requirements for institutional and hospital use.
- Traditionally preserved baccala (dried salted codfish) is well loved but inconvenient for consumer preparation. Using HPP after hydration and packaging, a gourmet convenience seafood product was created for consumers with the shelf-life extension demanded by retailers. Sales of the product have increased not only in season but year-round.
- Using HPP, a southern California seafood processor recently launched a new line of refrigerated fresh fish immersed in sauce with a 30-day shelf life. Consumers get a delicious, nutritious, tastes like ‘home-cooked’ meal.
From concept to reality
Implementing HPP is more than just installing equipment. Manufacturers and producers need the confidence that their product will retain its texture, flavour and appearance with high pressure. Before HPP becomes incorporated into a product processing strategy, objectives for that product must be defined.
- Is pathogen elimination a key objective?
- Is shelf-life extension needed in order to enable innovation or to reach new geographic or demographic markets?
- How important is clean-label?
- Are consumer requirements of convenience and quality attainable?
- Is the product even viable for high pressure processing?
It’s after you’ve determined that HPP will achieve your objectives and is suitable for your product that the ‘process’ of high pressure processing begins. “HPP is the packaging.” “It’s the equipment.” “It’s the food science and product development.” “It’s all about the marketing.”
Successful high pressure processing involves packaging, equipment, food science, product development and marketing. A coordinated cross-functional effort in the processor organisation and a vendor who can support the processor from its conception through its life cycle are required.
Embarking on delivery of a new HPP product is a journey, which will require resources from your:
- R&D: Product and packaging development and validation.
- Operations: Equipment and automation/material handling selection, installation planning and support, and ongoing operation of your HPP site.
- Safety/Quality Control: HACCP planning and approvals, adherence to processor’s quality standards.
- Marketing: Product testing, branding and go to market/launch efforts.
- Maintenance: Team training, efficient system maintenance, initial spare parts quantities planning.
Complete HPP solutions
JBT Avure Technologies has been involved in the creation and delivery of 70% of commercially available HPP products to date. The company’s expertise can assist processors to take new products from conception to market launch and beyond.
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