Study: Interest grows for HPP technology

January 26, 2017

A new survey of Americans currently employed in the refrigerated and frozen food industry indicates strong appreciation for the roles high pressure processing (HPP) plays in producing safe foods with cleaner labels and longer shelf lives. HPP is a non-thermal food preservation process that inactivates harmful bacteria and spoilage organisms right within product packages. The online industry survey was commissioned by Universal Pasteurization Company, an HPP outsourcing service provider for food and beverage producers.

The results come after Universal Pasteurization separately hosted an HPP Summit event in October at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln that drew participation from food manufacturers, retailers, packagers and other companies who operate in the food supply chain and have interest in HPP. Universal will present a new webinar series throughout the first half of 2017.

More than half of the survey respondents (59 percent) were familiar with HPP, and 57 percent characterized their companies’ use of the technology as some, growing or substantial. Almost no one indicated any level of dissatisfaction with HPP within their organizations, and survey takers also believed their retail and foodservice customers were usually favorably disposed to HPP, but often unaware if or when it was being utilized.

The most recognized benefits of HPP were its abilities to (1) make food safer by killing pathogens and (2) extend shelf life. Both scored, on average, above a 4 on a 5-point scale. Other benefits cited include (in descending order) the ability to: pasteurize products within their packaging; preserve nutrients within the food; develop cleaner-labels; and reduce food waste. When asked about potential barriers to HPP adoption, respondents cited the cost of equipment and cost of service as top concerns. Some respondents also acknowledged that HPP wasn’t compatible with their type(s) of food.

“The survey results demonstrated that refrigerated and frozen food manufacturers greatly approve of HPP and the ways it can benefit their products,” said Mark A. Duffy, CEO of Universal Pasteurization Company LLC and Universal Cold Storage LLC. “It aligns with other research that suggests that HPP is the most promising food technology over the next decade, and echoes the excitement we heard for the technology at the recent HPP Summit. Still, it’s clear that there’s room for improvement when it comes to expanding awareness for HPP within the larger supply chain.”

The survey did not measure HPP in isolation, but also compared its perceived advantages in food quality, safety and waste with seven methods of pasteurization, including thermal, radiation and membrane filtration processes. HPP scored noticeably above all other options for its impact on food quality. It earned an average of 3.85 points on a 5-point scale and received the most five-star ratings (out of five) for the category. As it pertains to food safety, HPP’s score of 3.83 points trailed only the score of 3.95 given to ultra-high temperature pasteurization.

FDA’s Juice HACCP Regulation requires a 5-log reduction of “pertinent pathogen” which is the most resistant microorganism of public health concern that may occur in the juice. “HPP is very effective on vegetative bacteria and spoilage microorganism and can be used as a Critical Control Point in an integrated HACCP program,” Duffy said. “It should be noted that HPP is not effective on some enzymes and bacterial spores. Food producers will need to tap into additional solutions to address any components not affected by HPP. Because HPP is so effective on spoilage organisms (e.g. fungi: yeast and mold) product shelf life is often doubled.”

As it relates to food waste, a category more than three-quarters of the survey field said was “somewhat important” or “very important” to them and their company, HPP again scored best in terms of having a positive impact on food waste with a mark of 3.62 of 5. The number of five-star ratings given to HPP for its impact on curbing food waste was again the most among the various technologies.

The survey was conducted in September and October 2016. Roughly one-third of respondents came from companies that produce meat, poultry and seafood (33.3 percent), another third came from juice or beverage firms (29.8 percent), and the remainder was from other companies, including those that make wet salads/dips/sauces, dairy products, soups and various, other ready-to-eat foods.

Universal hosted the first HPP Summit in Lincoln, Nebraska, to help raise awareness and understanding of HPP within the industry. It was attended by food processing companies that operate both within the U.S. and globally, and featured speakers and tours of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Food Processing Center, Innovation Campus and Universal’s HPP facility in Lincoln. Visit the Universal Pasteurization website for more information. Universal is planning similar knowledge sharing events in the future as well.

As an outsourcer of HPP, Universal also embraces continuous improvement in our effort to drive efficiencies, Duffy said.

“At Universal we feel fortunate that with the largest footprint of any third-party HPP outsource provider that our access is a benefit to many companies, he said. “Our four locations can help reduce logistics costs for many companies. We continually evaluate our footprint so we can serve the food and beverage industries most effectively and efficiently.”