Jeff Williams – general manager at HPP machinery supplier JBT/Avure and chairman of the Cold Pressure Council (comprising HPP equipment makers and users) – was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA ahead of the launch of the seal, which will start appearing on products this quarter.
“I know everyone says: Why does the world need another seal? But really there are a number of drivers. Some brands just want to promote HPP, educate people and raise consumer awareness because it’s a great technology that delivers real benefits, while others are more concerned about making sure that everyone is playing by the rules,” he said.
At a basic level, supporters of the seal want to ensure that companies promoting their use of HPP are actually using it in a responsible manner by properly validating the technology for their products in order to ensure food safety, added JBT/Avure marketing director Lisa Pitzer.
“There was a feeling that if someone uses HPP in manner that is not safe, and then God forbid there is a recall or someone gets sick or even dies, it would be bad for HPP and the industry all around. The seal shows that an independent third party has verified that food safety guidelines have been followed.”
Supporters of the seal also want brands using HPP to make this clear to consumers via a recognizable seal, rather than simply implying its use with terms such as ‘cold pressed,’ which technically refers to a method of juicing involving a hydraulic press, but which many consumers now see as a proxy for HPP (sometimes referred to as ‘cold pasteurized’ or ‘cold pressured’), added Williams.
“There are some people out there that claim their products are ‘cold pressed’ [which consumers believe means that they have not been heat treated], but they heat pasteurize them.”
What’s in a name?
Over time, the new seal might ensure more consistent use of terminology to describe products treated with HPP, which are variously referred to as ‘cold pressured,’ ‘cold-pressed,’ ‘high pressure processed,’ or ‘cold pasteurized,’ said Williams.
While the Cold Pressure Council had originally considered using the term ‘cold pressure verified’ it ultimately decided upon ‘high pressure certified’ in part because it more accurately describes the process, and in part because it wanted to avoid the adjective ‘cold,’ which has been cited in some ‘frivolous’ lawsuits, he claimed.
“The word ‘cold’ shouldn’t be a problem; the FDA itself considers HPP to be a cold pasteurization process, but the council members felt that ‘high pressure’ would be better.”
But why not simply use the term ‘high pressure processed’?
Primarily, because any logo featuring the word ‘processed’ is a non-starter in the world of food marketing, claimed Pitzer, who noted that the meat industry, in particular, wished to avoid the term ‘processed’ at all costs, given its negative consumer connotations.
“A lot of the meat companies using HPP will say things like ‘all-natural’ or ‘no preservatives’ but they have not been promoting the term ‘high pressure processed’ on pack because they are worried that the word ‘processed’ has negative connotations for some consumers."
Lisa Pitzer, marketing director, JBT/Avure
The Cold Pressure Council - which launched in April 2017 – is developing best practices for the high pressure processing (HPP) industry and the new High Pressure Certified seal. The council consists of nine founding members: JBT/Avure Technologies, Hiperbaric, American Pasteurization Company, Universal Pure, Suja Juice, Campbell Soup, Evolution Fresh, West Liberty Foods and Good Foods Group.
How does the seal work?
The Cold Pressure Council is developing category-specific guidelines governing the safe use of HPP, beginning with juice (with dips, dressings, proteins and other categories to come), which must be followed by companies wishing to use the high pressure certified seal on pack, explained Williams.
Brands that have received verification from a third party of their processes, hazard analysis and critical control points (haccp) plan and validation studies can then license the use of the new logo for $250/SKU/year.
Rather than requiring companies using the seal to undergo expensive standalone audits, the requirements can be easily tagged onto established independent audits for standards such as BRC, he added.
“This will just become an addendum for those audits, but we want an independent third party to verify that the guidelines are followed.”
- Food safety – HPP kills bacteria, yeasts and molds
- Extended shelf life – HPP can extend shelf life on freshly squeezed juice, for example, from a few days to a few weeks
- Nutrient retention – products that have not been heat-treated are less prone to nutrient degradation
- Organoleptic factors – for a more ‘freshly-made’ taste and texture
- Clean labels – HPP allows firms to eliminate some preservatives and other additives
- Sodium reduction - Some manufacturers have used HPP to reduce sodium in applications where it's being used as a preservative
Growth opportunities for HPP
While the biggest categories for HPP in food remain meat products, the most rapid growth is coming from chilled soups, salad dressings, sauces, dips, and babyfood, said Williams, while there are also significant growth opportunities in dairy and some nut plant-based milks.
“Dairy applications for HPP vary by geography as there are lot of differences in regulations, so it’s being used successfully on raw milk in Australia, whereas there are regular hurdles in the US for this application, for example. We’re also seeing growth in things such as yogurt toppings and ice cream inclusions – ingredients are a big growth area.”
The evolving landscape for HPP
As for costs, they have continued to come down as machines have become larger and more efficient, while the tolling network is also growing significantly, making the technology more accessible to companies that don’t have the volumes or the resources to buy their own machines, said Williams.
JBT/Avure also has several smaller customers that have bought a machine to use on their own products and are then selling out the extra capacity to other users.
“There is a huge amount of runway for HPP. Every category using it is growing at around 15% year-on-year, so those categories will continue to grow, while all the consumer trends towards more natural, clean label healthy products will also accelerate growth in the coming years, along with applications that people haven’t even thought of yet.”
High pressure processing (HPP) - whereby foods or beverages (often in their final packaging, which must be flexible) are put into a high-pressure chamber that is flooded with cold water and pressurized in order to kill harmful bacteria (salmonella, E. coli, listeria), yeasts and molds without heat – is more expensive that thermal pasteurization.
However, it has several advantages in that it enables products to retain the texture, nutrition and taste of homemade food, with no preservatives or added flavors (ie. a clean label), and a shelf-life long enough to secure national distribution.
HPP is not suitable for carbonated soft drinks, but works well in many other beverage applications, provided they are packaged in plastic (as opposed to glass bottles or cans).
In general, products need to have a fairly high water content, while the more acidic they are, the better. But it won’t work on products such as bread, marshmallows or other dry solids with pockets of air that would cause the product to collapse under water pressure (HPP machines can subject products to 87,000 pounds per square inch of hydrostatic pressure).
The technology works well in meat & poultry, seafood, wet salads & dips, guacamole, hummus, fruits & veggies, babyfood, petfood, ready to eat meals, dairy products, grains and nutraceuticals, claims HPP equipment supplier JBT/Avure, which is working on several new-to-the-world applications.