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Getting Up To Speed On HPP Technology

Sep 23, 2022
5 min read

At some point you may have asked: what is high-pressure processing (HPP) and what’s in it for us? What are its advantages, disadvantages and what are the alternative food preservation methods to HPP? What’s an HPP toller?

You’ve come to the right place for answers, so let’s get up to speed on the basics of HPP.

1. What is HPP?

High-pressure processing – also known as high-pressure pascalization or cold pasteurization – is a non-thermal (5ºC – 20ºC) food and beverage preservation method that guarantees food safety and achieves an increased shelf life, while maintaining the optimum attributes of fresh products. 

2. How does HPP work?

HPP machines use high isostatic pressure transmitted by water of up to 6,000 bar /600MPa /87,000 psi, held for a few minutes. This pressure is transmitted uniformly and instantaneously throughout the packaged product, therefore achieving an effect equivalent to pasteurization, except without the use of heat.

3. What about the alternatives to HPP?

Other non-thermal processes for food preservation include freezing, modified atmosphere packaging, ozone treatment, irradiation, pulsed electric field and drying. Pasteurization with heat is another common method.

4. How long do HPP processed foods stay fresh?

HPP technology maintains freshness of food products up to 3 months after being packaged. Non-thermal preservation techniques like HPP have experienced a boom in recent years because of the demand for preservative-free foods, unlike traditional thermal and chemical treatments.

5. What are some typical HPP applications?

Many companies are using HPP to preserve taste and freshness for cold-pressed beverages, deli meats, shellfish, plant-based dips and sauces, baby food and pet food. HPP is the most popular non-thermal preservation technique for refrigerated foods and beverages due to its many benefits.

6. What are the benefits of HPP?

Today, consumers demand food and beverages with specific characteristics: high sensory and nutritional quality, absence of additives and preservatives, convenience, long shelf life and 100% safe, all benefits which HPP can provide. For processors, HPP's advantages include food safety, minimal processing, nutrient preservation, expanded distribution due to shelf life extension, supply chain improvement, food waste reduction, versatility and brand protection. Unlike alternative processing methods that use heat, HPP will not destroy nutrients and organoleptic properties of refrigerated food or require preservatives. With HPP, refrigerated foods and beverages can retain their fresh, homemade taste without preservatives, all while extending shelf life.

7. What are the drawbacks of HPP?

Like any technology, HPP has its own set of drawbacks. HPP is not effective on bacterial spores, can’t be used on dry products and sometimes changes the texture or color of food, as in the case in ground beef (however, the effect is not noticeable in raw marinated meats.)

8. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using an HPP toller?

To achieve HPP, food and beverage processors have two choices: use a toller or buy their own equipment. While both options can be economically viable, it really comes down to the mid-long term strategy of each company.

Tolling is an outsourcing of production in which a company provides raw materials to a third-party servicing company. Advantages of working with an HPP toller include:

●       companies get up and running quickly, delivering innovative products to shelves faster

●        reduced capital outlays for equipment

●        producers can focus on other areas of their business without tying up capital to buy an HPP unit

●        Tollers often offer additional services, such as kitting/assembly, tempering, coding, packaging, cold storage and distribution

●        no maintenance concerns

Drawbacks to using a toller include:

●        less internal product control

●        higher HPP processing costs

●        higher logistics and shipping/transportation costs

9. What are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing HPP equipment?

If a company chooses to bring HPP in-house, there are several advantages, including:

●        reduced HPP processing costs

●        HPP operations when you want

●        decreased freight costs

●        quality control

●        reduced product double handling

●        automation to reduce labor costs

The drawbacks for purchasing in-house HPP equipment include:

●        an initial capital outlay for HPP equipment (typical systems range in price from $1 million to $3 million) and infrastructure costs to house the unit

●        ongoing maintenance and costs

●        lack of redundancy with only one machine

●        and labor required for product loading/unloading

10. To HPP or not HPP

Even with the associated costs, many companies with growth plans choose to purchase their own HPP machines to enable national expansion and growth. Whether you decide to use a toller or buy your own equipment, the end result is the same: a food product that is protected from foodborne pathogens, has fresh taste and nutrients without preservatives, and extended shelf life of the product.

 Article content and photo courtesy of Hiperbaric USA

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