Growing interest in HPP
According to Barnard, as interest in HPP grows, so does the type and number of applications. “The refrigerated meats category, both ready to cook and ready to eat, is growing as more producers are targeting the perimeter of the store. HPP has been a key technology making refrigerated offerings possible, where historically frozen was the only option,” he says. “Meat producers are also now HPP-treating raw materials and are increasingly focused on extending shelf life while maintaining a clean label.”
Those who provide HPP for and at tolling facilities say that number is only going to increase – and perhaps substantially.
“It is an exciting time for HPP as interest and demand are growing exponentially each year. HPP is moving away from being a novel process to being a normal process,” Pitzer says. “Ten years ago the question surrounding HPP was, ‘What is this technology?’ Five years ago, the question changed to, ‘Can I afford it?’ Now, it is a normal, not novel technology so the questions are changing to normal food manufacturing questions.”
According to Pitzer, Avure helps its tolling partners and their customers implement HPP from recipe development and process validations to installation, regulatory affairs and post-installation support.
Those in the tolling business agree that strong interest and demand across many food and drink categories is leading to expansion. True Fresh HPP, for example, has developed technology-rich HPP facilities, including a new site in Southern California.
“Our customers are getting pressure from their retailers, and we have many asking when we’ll be able to offer HPP,” True says. “We want to break the bottleneck in the supply chain that has traditionally been HPP and have the infrastructure in place. All a customer has to do is put product in a container or package of choice and give it to us.”
To accommodate that interest, True Fresh continues to build upon its business model.
“Right now, we are building the largest single high-capacity facilities on the West Coast, and we’ve purchased four Hiperbaric machines with the additional capacity to expand further into the Midwest and East Coast regions,” reports True, who also points to longer-term capabilities. “We continue to work closely with packaging industry leaders with the intention to provide state-of-the-art, unique packaging options designed for the HPP process. It is our plan to provide our customers with services beyond HPP to include product innovation, packaging design recommendations, efficient and safe product flow, and full-chain process management.”
Likewise, Barnard says that UPC’s tolling facilities reflect the demand and capability for HPP tolling. “Universal continues to invest in new locations and additional HPP machines,” he says, citing the company’s new 170,000-sq.-ft. HPP and cold storage facility in Malvern, Pa., that offers two 525L HPP machines with a capacity to add up to four additional machines. “At each location and across our network, we provide redundancy in equipment, cold storage capabilities and distribution services. We make it not only possible, but easy for producers to provide their customers with the benefits of HPP.”
Avure has provided HPP systems for other tolling businesses in the US serving food processors, including Stay Fresh Foods LLC in Meriden, Conn., HPP Food Services in Wilmington, Calif., National Foodworks Group in Denver and Pressure Safe LLC in Oregon. Hiperbaric HPP, likewise, continues to provide systems to tollers in North America, such as Arctic Cold Storage in St. Cloud, Minn., SafePac in Philadelphia, and Fresh Advantage in Danvers, Mass., among others.
As meat and poultry processors turn to HPP as another tool in their quest for product quality and safety to meet their own consumers’ needs, they may also step in and educate consumers about how and why products are being treated.
“Clearly, as the food industry as a whole continues to adopt the HPP process and as consumers get more educated on the benefits of HPP, the early adopters will be in the forefront of capturing the market share – and getting the brand recognition along with establishing to the consumer that they are a food safety-centered provider,” True says.