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The pressure's on: extend your shelf-life with HPP

Insight / High Pressure Processing

The deepest location on Earth was reached by Hollywood director James Cameron in a specially designed submarine in 2012. His exploration of the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, was as remarkable as scenes from some of his own blockbuster movies.

Cameron and his team worked at a depth of some 11,034 metres, which is equivalent to the height of 2519 stacked double-decker buses, or more than eight times that of Ben Nevis. And their craft had to withstand water pressure of more than eight tons per square inch or about 1000 times the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level.

What has this to do with food packaging you may ask?

Food remains safer and fresher for longer

Well, if you can imagine the hull-creaking power of that water pressure and then multiply it by some SIX TIMES, that's what is applied during the high-pressure processing (HPP) of packaged food.

When the cold water pressure of HPP is applied for just a few minutes, the results include:

  • Micro-organisms are inactivated when their cellular function is interrupted.
  • The food remains safer and fresher for longer.
  • Taste, texture, and colour attributes are retained.
  • Nutritional benefits remain.
  • Extended chilled life as an alternative to freezing.

We've come a long way since a British merchant, Peter Durand, received the first patent in 1810 for the idea of preserving food using tin cans.

And the traditional means of preserving food have been mostly limited to sterilisation or pasteurisation. During both processes, food is usually heated in one way or another, which can change texture and taste.

But there are no such problems with HPP, which is ideal for a variety of foods, including meats, juices, dips, salads, seafood, and dairy.

Instantaneous and uniform pressure from all sides

It also means that many products such as guacamole or salsa can have a longer shelf life without the usage of preservatives.

Without affecting the food, the extreme pressure of the cold water breaks down and deactivates bacteria that would otherwise cause spoilage. Equally important, with the correct lidding films, there is NO DAMAGE to the end-user packaging.

The packaging is protected because isostatic pressure is applied. That is instantaneous and uniform pressure from all sides, as it is delivered by a liquid. 

However, the process only works with the correct packaging. If it’s not fit for purpose, the pack may be damaged, for example the tray splits or the film seal fails.

HPP also offers added value to producers where they have mixed components and the shelf-life of their products is determined by the performance quality of each one or by how individual components can affect each other. In a recent project, one of our customers had a product consisting of salami, couscous and deli salads. HPP was used to inactivate potential pathogens that were possibly present on the salami, which, when mixed with other foods, may have multiplied easily causing spoilage. 

Of course, because of the increased shelf life, usage of HPP also helps to tackle to the global issue of food waste. 

As HPP is often used on already-packaged food, it is important that the selected lidding films can withstand the rigours of the process. This is essential to ensure there is no damage or leakage and that the quality of the product is maintained until the consumer peels the lid from the tray. 

Also, since packages are processed in batches, the cost of loss due to failures could prove to be extremely high.

You can rest assured we have suitable films in both our K Peel and K Seal ranges that we have identified as being particularly effective and resistant to the rigours of HPP. They ensure that the lid sticks to the tray during the process, there is no leakage, and, if a K Peel specification, the film remains peelable after the process for consumer convenience.

Improved food service opportunities

In addition, to preserve visual elements of the packaging that can be disrupted by HPP, we can sandwich print between two layers of film.

Our expertise is used to:

  • Choose the right film for whatever food is being packaged or what type of tray is being used. We have HPP films suitable for sealing to APET, CPET and PP trays. 
  • Coordinate the HPP development activity.
  • Prevent HPP failures that can occur when there is an incorrect combination of tray component and seal lidding film.

We work particularly closely with Deli24, the largest and leading UK contract processor with multiple High Pressure Processing machines. This collaboration ensures our customers gain improved food service opportunities through enhanced product life, availability, and reduced waste. In turn, the customers of Deli24 benefit from having the best lidding solutions.

And, while we may not be diving to the same depths as James Cameron, we continue to explore new ways of helping customers gain the full benefits of food waste reduction and extended shelf-life through HPP.

Therefore, playing our part in keeping food fresher for longer and looking, smelling, and tasting delicious!

Images of HPP machines: credits and thanks: Deli24 

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