Demand for high-pressure processing equipment and food/beverage products is surging; one expert from HPP provider Avure outlines some of the reasons for the growth.
HPP uses high pressures, rather than heat or chemicals, to preserve foods and beverages. Sales for such equipment has risen in recent years and continues to increase; according to market intelligence firm Markets and Markets, demand for HPP equipment will approach $600m, and sales of HPP-produced products, will near $12bn, by 2018.
Tim Hunter, HPP marketing representative with Avure Technologies, spoke with FoodProductionDaily about the factors driving growth in the field, and where the opportunities lie.
What are some of the key factors behind the growth in HPP?
There are several reasons. It’s not just about safety any more. More and more consumers want fresh, clean label foods and beverages, with active enzymes, that are rich in vitamins with no or few preservatives.
Fresh is defined by consumers in various ways, but HPP enables a product that tastes as fresh the day they consume it as it did 30+ days before when it was packaged. Consumers still want protection from: salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and premature spoilage, but today, heat isn’t the only answer.
Also, producers are looking for better ways of delivering freshness and safety.
The widely accepted practice of heat pasteurization is no longer the solution. Fortunately, HPP has become an accepted practice to achieve freshness and safety.
Producers can find a lot of information about HPP by researching it on the Web, by attending workshops, and visiting HPP labs around the world to learn more and test their product packaging, as well as the product itself to see how it reacts to pressure. Vast amounts of knowledge have been collected on the subject since Hite first conceived of using high pressure more than 100 years ago; most of the real understanding has come over the past 25 years.
Further, HPP is available now to more producers. The leading manufacturers of HPP equipment have not only made HPP systems and system support more available world-wide, but they have also worked tirelessly to establish networks of partnering HPP tolling service providers.
This enables producers of all sizes to implement an HPP program into their operation with little to no risk. Often, producers who haven’t already bought their own equipment will eventually purchase their own systems and bring HPP in-house, or continue to use HPP tolling services at multiple locations to meet their logistics requirements.
What markets and parts of the world have seen the strongest growth?
North America has been a leading adopter of HPP, followed by parts of Europe, and now Asia. There are various cultural reasons for this. Japan, for example, exports less of its food, and consumers buy their food differently there than in the US, but various applications are gradually being adopted there.
The Japanese government also has yet to approve HPP as an accepted “pasteurization” step in some cases. Ironically, one of the first HPP applications in the world was jams in Japan.
Booming applications for HPP are currently beverages, ready-to-eat meals, ready-to-eat meats, raw protein, and raw pet food. HPP of beverages is strong around the globe, with Europe being one of the first to implement, followed by North America, Australia, and Asia.
HPP of ready-to-eat meats are strong in Italy, Spain, and US, and growing in places like Poland and South America.
Which markets and regions have untapped potential?
Germany has been a difficult market for us to tap into, but we believe there is a very great potential for HPP there. As consumers there become more concerned with product safety and cleaner labels, we believe adoption of HPP will take hold. We plan to organize an HPP workshop there later this year where producers can learn more about HPP, taste HPP meats, salads, and beverages, and meet with German-speaking HPP experts face to face.
There is still great potential for parts of Asia and we are looking at finding better ways of communicating the story of HPP in relative terms.
Are there any obstacles to growth in HPP?
Many of the obstacles have been reduced or eliminated—for example, cost, which I mentioned earlier. HPP systems manufacturers have created product lines that are suitable for various sizes of businesses to match throughput requirements, applications, and budgets.
In addition, HPP service providers are in place and widely accessible. There are yet many locations globally, however, where HPP service providers will do very well as they open their doors for business, and reduce the transport distance between the producer and HPP service providers’ facilities.
HPP has been accepted by many governments and institutions, but there is still a lot of work left to be done here. I mentioned Japan earlier.
Even here in the United States, where HPP is widely adopted, lawsuits have recently sprouted over terms such as “fresh” and “raw” on labeling on HPP products. The FDA is beginning to better define some of these terms as to what is acceptable on product labels, but we’re not there yet.
How do things look from Avure’s point of view—are you seeing a surge in sales?
Sales are great. This is a result of several factors.
First, Avure and other HPP manufacturers, institutions, and social media groups have worked diligently to raise awareness of HPP and educate the public on the benefits of HPP for protecting product brand (through product safety and avoiding product recalls), creating a clean-label product, increasing shelf life of natural products, and improving nutritional value, among many other benefits.
Second, for Avure, many sales are coming from early adopters of HPP who have built a strong business with HPP and need to increase their throughput capacity.
I recently asked an Avure certified tolling partner who bought another Avure 350-L system: “Why are you expanding? Do you have more customers, or do your customers need more volume?”
He said some of both, but mostly because his customers have “more than tripled their sales because HPP has helped them offer a better product, as well as expand their markets.”