Innovation helps maintain fresh food characteristics

27 Oct 2020 11:15:00

The next round of growth in the New Zealand food and beverage industry will be underpinned by innovation in new product development.

As a government funded innovation network within the New Zealand food manufacturing eco-system, helping businesses stay one step ahead of the next ‘new’ thing is a large part of the New Zealand Food Innovation Network’s role. Among the collection of specialist food and beverage manufacturing equipment available to the industry is a large 55L High Pressure Processing (HPP) unit at The FoodBowl in Auckland.

So, what is it? High pressure processing is a cold pasteurisation technique which consists of subjecting food, previously sealed in flexible and water-resistant packaging, to a high level of hydrostatic pressure (pressure transmitted by water) for a few seconds to a few minutes. It offers the food industry a technology which, in some cases, can achieve the food safety of heat pasteurisation, while meeting consumer demand for fresher-tasting, minimally processed foods.

Introducing this machine into the network provides clients with an easier pathway to scale up, explains Business Development Manager, Alasdair Baxter. “At FoodPilot, located at Massey University, they have a bench scale HPP unit. Now clients can trial and optimise products at FoodPilot then come to The FoodBowl to scale up and move into production of commercial quantities.”

The technology respects the functional properties of the fresh product, so it is a great fit for the development of new propositions for the consumer.  “It’s a natural process which respects the ingredients and helps maintain the fresh food characteristics like flavour and nutrients.   It also extends the product shelf life and drastically reduces the overall microbiological spoiling flora and avoids or reduces the need for food preservatives.”

Globally, the largest growth area for HPP units has been in raw juices, as the process extends the shelf life to several weeks. Consumers are attracted to the health benefits associated with ‘raw’. Here in New Zealand, the brand Homegrown has successfully capitalised on this and gained a significant market share of the category with their raw juice range.

HPP is also extensively used to extend shelf life in cooked meats (such as bacon and ham), for guacamoles and dips and a wide variety of other applications.

For larger manufacturers, The FoodBowl’s HPP capability provides the opportunity to try the process before investing in the equipment for their own manufacturing plants. “Another valuable benefit is being able to connect with our technical expertise in the plethora of uses of the HPP machine. We can also help set up and manage the process flow and advise on the set up back in your facility,” adds Alasdair.