High Pressure Processing: A Powerful Tool For The Food & Beverage Industry
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
High Pressure Processing (HPP) is a preservative technology that satisfies both industry and consumer demands for clean-label products by improving shelf-life without compromising food safety. Discover how it works with Hiperbaric.
As consumer awareness of the impact of food on their health is on the rise, freshness, clean-label, and quality have become top decision-influencing factors. These 3 factors have edged out price—previously the sole key deciding factor for what goes into the shopping cart. Food manufacturers are looking forward to satisfying consumer needs but find themselves struggling on how to reconcile those demands with safety and long shelf-life that heat pasteurisation and preservatives have been guaranteeing for years.
In order to protect their brand reputations and profit margins in an era where recalls can have dire consequences, companies must look into new technologies to adapt and survive. Fortunately, there is a technology that shines over all other preservation technologies and that has been successfully implemented by companies across the world: High Pressure Processing (HPP).
WHAT IS HPP?
HPP is a non-thermal preservation technique which consists of subjecting food to a high level of hydrostatic pressure (pressure transmitted by water) up to 6,000 bar / 87,000 psi for a few seconds to a few minutes. Spoilage and harmful bacteria are deactivated in the process while organoleptic and nutritional properties remain untouched.
The roots of this technology can be traced back to the 19th century. However, the technical limitations to build HPP systems postponed the development of the technology until the late 20th century.
It wasn´t until a terrible Listeria outbreak struck the US in 1998 with Sara Lee´s hotdogs and cold cuts that the need for pasteurisation technologies (which could be applied to products that are not able to be treated by heat) brought back the interest in HPP. Foreseeing the potential of this technology, Hiperbaric designed and launched the first industrial-scale, horizontal HPP equipment that is able to reach high pressure levels to deactivate bacteria while making operations easier, when compared to exhisting vertical systems for seafood extraction.
The first prototype was installed in 2001 at Campofrío Food Group (Spain) to extend the shelf-life and ensure the safety of cold cuts. This quickly attracted the interest of meat companies from the US, Canada and Italy. Soon, HPP became a useful tool for the food industry across the world.
HOW IT WORKS
HPP is a post-packing technology, which means it is the final step in product processing. As such, the packaging must be made of water-resistant materials—as they will be in direct contact with water during the process—as well as flexible materials to withstand pressure. As pressure is transmitted instantly and uniformly to every point of the vessel, there is no “crushing” of the product. However, small dents may occur, which makes flexibility a must.
The packed product needs to be placed inside special carriers—or baskets—and loaded into the vessel: a special chamber where the product is submitted to pressure. This vessel is then filled with tap water at ambient pressure and then sealed by heavy steel plugs and wedges. High pressure water is then pumped inside the vessel through a special circuit connected on one end to the vessel and on the other to a special high pressure pump.
As more water is pumped inside the vessel, the pressure is increased until the desired level is reached, normally within the range of 5,000-6,000 bar / 72,500 to 87,000 psi. Then a reverse count will start to ensure that the product is submitted to the pressure for a fixed amount of time to achieve the desired results in terms of bacterial reduction and shelf-life extension, based on previous lab tests. Once the time is expired, the machine will reduce the pressure through a safety valve and then proceed to open the vessel, which can then be unloaded.
The whole cycle is automatic—the loading and unloading of baskets can be automated in larger HPP systems. HPP is also an environmentally-friendly technology as the water from one batch can be recycled and reused for the next one.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES HPP OFFERS?
Whether you are a start-up looking forward to launching your product into the market, a restaurant chain planning to grow through a central kitchen strategy to supply your outlets, or an established brand aiming to reach new markets, HPP may be the solution you are looking for.
- Improving Shelf-Life
Expanding your business’ reach to new locations or countries requires extended shelf-life to ensure the safety of your products.
HPP can extend the shelf-life of products—for example, dips, sauces, meat products, and ready meals—up to three times without preservatives. For beverages, HPP extends the shelf-life of the products up to 30 times, allowing raw juices and coconut water to be manufactured close to plantations, thus maintaining unparalleled quality even after being shipped to consumers in distant locations.
Another interesting application of HPP is for the HoReCa sector: as the quality remains unaffected despite having two to three months of shelf-life, each recipe can be manufactured in big batches and stored for months before being refreshed and served. This means that economies of scale can be applied, making manufacturing schedules easier to drastically lower costs when adopting a central kitchen operation model as well as reducing the surface required for the kitchen in each outlet.
Companies such as The Soup Spoon are using HPP to reach distant markets such as Hong Kong from their existing facilities in Singapore, without need to modify their recipes or use preservatives that could compromise their product quality.
- Food Safety Assurance
Companies in the US and Europe have implemented HPP as part of their HACCP programs, protecting themselves and customers against Listeria, E.coli or Salmonella among other common pathogens in the industry.
- Organoleptic And Nutritional Quality Maintenance
Extending shelf-life often comes with a downside as traditional preservation technologies deeply affect the quality of the product and thus solve a problem while creating a new one. Indeed, most heat-processed products require preservatives and additives to achieve an acceptable final product, losing value on the way.
Fortunately, HPP does not affect product quality nor nutritional nor organoleptic quality. It is extremely easy to implement, thus allowing SMEs to go into retail or export without the need for complex R&D processes or undesired preservatives and additives.
Hiperbaric is the global leading supplier of High Pressure Processing equipment for the food and beverage industry, with 20 years of experience and over 275 installations worldwide, including 50 operative systems in Asia Pacific. Feel free to reach Hiperbaric to learn how HPP technology can help you.
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