CHICAGO — The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI) announced the formation of an industry council — the Cold Pressure Council – focused on the advancement of High Pressure Processing (HPP) at ProFood Tech, which was held April 4-6 in Chicago. The council will address questions about the technology while developing and formalizing industry best practices. The new council also will promote networking among professionals using the processing technology in the food and beverage industry, while at the same time educating consumers on the benefits of HPP manufactured foods and beverages.
“The founding members of the council came together with the mission of leading, facilitating and promoting industry standardization, user education and consumer awareness of cold pressure treated products,” said Joyce Longfield, vice chair of the council and vice president of product innovation at Good Foods Group LLC, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, one of the council’s founding members.
The other founding members are Avure Technologies LLC, Middletown, Ohio; Hiperbaric, Miami, Florida; Universal Pasteurization Company LLC, Villa Rica, Georgia; American Pasteurization Co., Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; Suja Juice (The Coca-Cola Co.), San Diego, California; C-Fresh (Campbell’s Soup Co.), Camden, New Jersey; and Evolution Fresh (a division of Starbucks Corp.) Rancho Cucamonga, California.
The pressure processing technology transitioned from the lab to the production floor almost 20 years ago. Now, it is gaining greater recognition among consumer packaged goods companies for a variety of products. The leading benefits of HPP include destruction of pathogens, pasteurizing product within its packaging, extending shelf life, developing cleaner label products and reducing food waste.
“In this age where consumer choice is critical, HPP is a cost-effective method for processors to maintain taste, texture and nutrition while providing the clean label consumers are looking for,” said Jeff Williams, president of Avure Technologies.
For example, with HPP, artificial preservatives may be removed from product formulations without reducing shelf life. It is also possible to reduce sodium, a natural preservative, in HPP meat products, enabling sodium reduction claims.
“There’s a food service processed meat company that has a no-sodium added offering,” Longfield said. “With HPP, they are able to achieve a 30-day shelf life. In HPP meat products containing some sodium, a 120-day shelf life is possible.”
The HPP system involves the loading of airtight/hermetically sealed packages into carrier baskets. The baskets are inserted into the HPP vessel, which then gets sealed by plugs. At this point, potable water is pumped into the vessel creating isostatic pressure (equal pressure on all sides) on the packages. Product is held at a high pressure for up to six minutes, with pressures and times varying by product. The pressure disrupts the microbial biochemistry of pathogens and spoilage bacteria, which helps preserve freshness and increase shelf life.
In today’s regulatory environment, the technology is gaining acceptance.
“HPP allows food processors to achieve significant benefits in terms of food safety and extended shelf-life,” said Jaime Nicolas-Correa, director of Hiperbaric USA. “The formation of this council will help us take this technology to the next level.”
Meat is one of the leading industries using HPP technology. Fruits and vegetables, and the premium juices made from them also are increasingly turning to HPP. The guacamole industry was one of the first to employ HPP technology in the US.
Cold-pressed juice manufacturers typically employ HPP to ensure food safety. Longfield said that cold-pressed juice manufacturers must be careful when explaining the cold-pressed process. This is a process that relies on a slow pulverizer with hydraulic press to extract juice, as compared to more traditional centrifugal juicing processes. It does not include a food safety or preservation step. In order to obtain about a 30-day refrigerated shelf life, cold-pressed juices typically undergo the additional step of HPP to kill potentially harmful microorganisms.
“Juice and beverage producers are the fastest-growing sector for HPP,” Longfield said. “They accounted for 50 percent of HPP equipment installations in the past three years.”
Consumer interest in cold-pressed juice is fueled by research showing that the type of juicing preserves the integrity of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. This is because the blades encountered in traditional centrifugal juicing generate heat and circulate air, both of which have a deleterious effect on nutrients. With cold-pressed processing, these elements are negligible.
Leading the cold-pressed packaged juice movement is Suja Juice, one of the council’s founding companies. Bottles currently sport a “cold pressured protected” logo to communicate the use of HPP technology.
Food and beverage manufacturers using HPP technology are not required to label or declare use on packaging or elsewhere. However, it is the council’s belief that it makes sense to communicate use to consumers so they better understand why certain products have a long shelf without the inclusion of preservatives.
“The biggest push back is based on lack of knowledge,” said Mark Duffy, CEO of Universal Pasteurization. “The council will help educate consumers about the benefits of HPP.”
Part of the council’s mission is consumer education. It will involve a third-party audit program for certification in order to obtain use of the Cold Pressure Verified logo. This will help support consumer education messaging by helping consumers seek out foods and beverages that have been cold-pressure treated.
“The program is designed to standardize use of HPP equipment for food safety,” Longfield said. “And will include a web site to educate the consumer about the benefits of foods and beverages treated by HPP equipment. The discussion will not just be on food safety. It will include the many other benefits, namely the elimination of preservatives and retention of nutrients.”