On Sept. 1, Global Leading Foods HPP (GL Foods) opened its first high-pressure processing facility in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex on a contract-service basis. For meat and poultry applications, this technology is primarily used on cooked and cured ready-to-eat products; ongoing work continues in the raw protein market, too.

Many processors have already incorporated the HPP process in their plants for some of their products, including Hormel Foods, Maple Lodge Farms, Perdue Farms, Foster Farms, Pillars, Kraft, Tyson Foods and Ifantis, one of the largest Greek food producers. Many other companies have opted to use the services of contract processors such as GL Foods.  

The new GL Foods facility offers customers a comprehensive suite of value-added services, such as labeling, kitting, packaging and shipping – while maximizing distribution efficiencies, even for complex products.

Co-located within Castle & Cooke’s cold-storage facility – C&C occupies more than 200,000 sq. ft. in addition to cold-storage space – the HPP processing area is situated in about 23,000 sq. ft. of the facility. “Product comes right from the refrigerated truck into our facility; the entire facility is cold,” says Rick DeHerder, GL Foods Partner.

The facility has room for more than 1,300 pallets and has a processing area housing the HPP system with all of the support. GL Foods also offers ancillary services to customers who want them. Customers can move their products next door in the cold-storage facility if, for example, they choose a higher degree of pick-and-pack.

“By expanding the opportunity for the use of HPP by providing contractprocessing services, we are bringing all these benefits to a much larger segment of the marketplace,” DeHerder continues. “Our facility offers processors the opportunity to test-market new products or to produce large production volumes.”

Supplier connection
GL Foods’ dedicated contract-processing facility utilizes the high-capacity model QFP 350L-600 HPP system from Avure Technologies, Kent, Wash. It operates at 87,000 psi (6,000 bar) and has a meat application throughput of more than 2 tons per hour.

“We chose to enter this business because we firmly believe in the power of HPP and its ability to address key consumer needs and key retailer needs,” DeHerder says. “We think it’s ‘spot on’ from a technology standpoint. We believe it will be a big part of the future, particularly for the meat industry.”       

Worldwide, HPP technology (including Avure’s) is used to treat $3 billion worth of food products annually. Approximately 40 percent of the food products that are treated are either meat or poultry. Most HPP equipment sales are to meat and poultry processors. Products treated include roasters, chicken strips, fajitas, deli meats, ready meals, artisan hams, tapas, sausages, brisket and deli salads with meat or poultry.

Meeting needs
HPP allows processors to feature a clean label; enhances safety (HPP pathogen inactivation: Listeria, 3.5 log reduction; E. coli and Salmonella, 5-log reductions); eliminates the need for some preservatives; and extends shelf-life.  

Shelf-life can be extended two times or more over products containing preservatives by inactivating spoilage organisms. Shelf-life for many RTE meat products are extended from 45 days to more than 120 days. Sliced meat products with a shelf-life of 30 days to 45 days can have extended shelf-life of 90 to 120 days with little or no deterioration of quality, the company says.

By extending shelf-life, HPP also decreases the markdown and waste that occurs throughout the supply chain. Processors can dramatically extend reach of products to new   markets without using co-packers and can get manufacturing economies of scale without risking spoilage, it adds.

The process generally takes about 7.5 minutes to complete per cycle, costing the processor 16 cents to 24 cents per lb. “But we found with many customers that putting products through HPP is actually a net-cost savings,” DeHerder says. “For example, we had one customer where the cost of processing per lb. was 20 cents. By utilizing HPP, they could eliminate 26 cents per lb. worth of food additives.”

Glenn Hewson, vice president of global marketing with Avure Technologies, says the GL Foods system can treat more than two tons of products per hour (4,300 lbs.) with a three-minute hold time, which is typical for a RTE meat product.  

How HPP works
This post-package lethality treatment is not a surface treatment or heat process so it does not alter taste, texture or nutritional properties, Avure says. HPP destroys the pathogen’s cellular structure, inhibiting its ability to heal itself and reproduce, Hewson explains. The pathogen then dies over the course of 24 hours.

System components include a control system; water system; high-pressure pumping system (two units); and frame, basket-load conveyor, operator panel and pressure vessel. Here’s how the process works.

“Product is put into a basket, which is placed into the vessel,” Hewson explains. “The vessel closes, fills with water; the intensifier pump ramps up the pressure to 6,000 bar [87,000 psi]. After a 45-second to three-minute hold time, the vessel empties, the basket slides out and the   process is completed.”

The core of Avure’s HPP 350L system is the Quintus pressure vessel, which consists of a wire-wound, pre-stressed cylinder with removable end-closures supported by a wirewound, pre-stressed frame. The end closures contain all the unit’s water   connections, plus the pressure and temperature sensors. The pressure vessel is opened and closed by automatic removal of the end closure along with translation of the cylinder itself.

The pressure vessel has many patented features to provide safety and performance. For example, a patented “leak-before-failure” mode for the vessel and intelligent sensors provide system safety and continuous monitoring of the system’s health status on every cycle. Innovative large-diameter closure seals handle the repeated stress and strain of continuous operation.

Unlike heat applications, HPP has no negative impact on the nutrient value of foods. But the process will alter the color of raw meat products due to denaturization during the process. “This can be masked by using marination,” Hewson says. “Because pressure is applied in all directions uniformly, most products suffer no physical changes when pressurized.”

This year has experienced a dramatic uptick in the use of HPP primarily in North America and Europe but with growing demand in Asia, he adds.  

“Food processors and retailers are looking for food safety and extended shelf-life in products,” Hewson says. “However, consumer demands are taking away the traditional tools used to achieve this. Consumers want fresh product [not retorted] that is free of ingredients they cannot pronounce [preservative-free] and is low in sodium [which is coming under regulatory pressure in N.A. and Europe].

“Companies like GL Foods recognize the trends and are helping processors to ease their way into HPP without the capital-investment costs. This is also driving demand,” he concludes.

Looking forward, DeHerder says, “We hope to add more facilities. We think it makes sense to offer HPP processing locations in both the locations where food is manufactured and in distribution hubs.”