Shelf life extending technology is more important than ever. The need to keep food fresh and safe is a headache for many companies around the world, because supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 are being very complex and expensive. Now, High-Pressure Processing (HPP) and Hiperbaric appear as the best solution.

The increasing consumers’ demand on sustainable, safe and healthy products has compelled the food industry to look for natural and environmentally friendly processes that help to keep fresh food characteristics while providing food safety and extending shelf life. With the coronavirus pandemic, the relevance of these items have significantly increased and HPP has moved into the market as the answer to its needs.

HPP is a non-thermal preservation technology that applies, instant-aneously and uniformly, high hydrostatic pressure with water at chilled or room temperature (4-25 °C / 40-75 °F) in packaged food and beverages, being Hiperbaric the global leader in design and manufacture of HPP units.

“Since its inception in 1999, Hiperbaric has designed, developed, produced and marketed its high-pressure processing units internationally. The company’s intensive R&D, combined with an outstanding team of professionals, has prompted it to a leading position (more than 60% market share), with 300 machines installed worldwide”, claims Alejandro Blanco, Sales Director of Hiperbaric.

Thanks to these continuous R&D efforts done by Hiperbaric, its HPP units add interesting advantages (versatile design, a wide range of industrial machines from 55 liters to 525 liters, labor saving and greater flexibility,…) that reduce time-outs, speed up processes, making them more reliable.

Since 2018 beverage industry has a specific unit designed by Hiperbaric to achieve the highest efficiency and profitability in high-pressure processing, called HPP in-Bulk technology. “This new technology allows processing a large volume of beverages in bulk (before bottling) and doing the process simpler, with fewer steps and higher productivity”, says Alejandro.

Which food & beverage sectors most benefit from this process?

High-pressure technology is the safest bet for the industry and the reasons are clear:

  • FOOD SECURITY. HPP guarantees food safety and brand protection thanks to the inactivation of pathogens and spoilage microorganisms. Furthermore, it is applied to the final already packaged product, which avoids any kind of recontamination.
  • EXTENDED SHELF LIFE. High-pressure multiplies by 4 the shelf life of some products at refrigerated conditions, without adding preservatives.
  • PREMIUM QUALITY. HPP pre-serves all the nutritional and organoleptic properties of the final product such as flavor, flavours and texture.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY. As it does not generate effluents and water used to rise pressure can be reused in each cycle.
  • NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT. Almost every product can be processed through HPP, which allows a great adaptation to consumer current preferences.

HPP applies to a wide variety of products, from traditional sectors such as juices and beverages, avocado products (guacamole), meat (sliced deli meats, dry-cured products) or seafood to more trendy categories like ready-to-eat meals, plant-based dips (hummus), baby food or wet pet food.

“This technology has become particularly popular in the beverage industry and within this in premium juice segment, as it enables products to retain their freshly squeezed attributes,” explains PhD Carole Tonello, Applications and Commercial Director of Hiperbaric. “Of course, other beverages such as vegetable soups, probiotic and fermented beverages or non-dairy milk also benefit from its advantages. There are very few products that cannot be processed by HPP”, she clarifies.

Many companies are using HPP to develop safety and minimally processed products, noticeably fresher than if they would be processed with other technologies. Someone are doing this because they can give a new life to imperfect-looking food instead of reject. However, most of them are committed to this technology because they can reach distant markets, without the need to modify their recipes or use preservatives and technologies that could compromise their product Quality.

In this regard, many studies support that HPP is a suitable technology to increase the shelf life in food and beverages. For example:

  • Guacamole and avocado products. Guacamole spoils within the first 5 days, even when it is stored at 5 °C (41 °F) by lactic acid bacteria, moulds and yeasts. At 600 MPa (87,000 psi) for 3 min, significant instantaneous reduction in microbial load in guacamole (pH 6.35) was achieved without any previous acidification (Jacobo-Velázquez and Hernández-Brenes, 2010). Levels of mesophilic aerobic and lactic acid bacteria, two of the spoilage indicators, remained constant, around 2 log cfu/g, during the first 40 days of storage at 4 °C (39.2 °F) in HPP guacamole,. Moulds and yeasts were well controlled (<10 cfu/g) in HPP avocado puree and guacamole (689 MPa / 100,000 psi; 5 min; pH 4.3) for 30 days of storage at 5, 15 and 25 °C (41, 59 and 77 °F, respectively) (Palou et al., 2000).
  • RTE Meals. Concerning the studies performed by Rovere et al. 2006, HPP helps the producer to reach more than 45 days shelf life for a typical Italian dish made of cooked rice and mushrooms, called risotto ai fungi (pH: 5.82 & Aw: 0.98) stored at 4 °C (39 °F). In day 45 after HPP (600 MPa; 87,000 psi; during 5 min) the total microflora count stays below 1 log cfu/g.

Besides, HPP has an impressive and completely different application for seafood. HPP technology provides a simple and efficient method for the removal of edible meat from shell and carapace, with yields close to 100%, avoiding the need to boil. This process maximizes the output and allows launching a new product with a higher benefit: ready-to-cook raw or frozen meat without shell and with the sensorial characteristics of the fresh product.

Carole Tonello adds, “We know this technology can be difficult to understand: how does HPP act on the product? What does it need? Can we use any packaging? Are there any HPP product as mine? How can we implement an HPP unit in my productive line? To answer these and other questions, Hiperbaric has an excellent technical staff and two pilot plants (Burgos and Miami) where our PhDs do validations and new product developments in collaboration with customers and contacts interested in HPP. In addition, we approach the HPP technology and applications to the public through monthly and free webinars. They want to know how HPP acts in their products and what it can provide them, and we always are happy to help”.

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