Ohio is at the epicenter for advanced food processing and packaging technologies. Application of these techniques will result in the production of higher quality food products, improved safety, and reduced use of chemical preservatives, appealing to consumer preferences for cleaner labels and minimally processed foods. Market forces, consumer preferences, and government regulations are creating shifts in the types of products and packaging.
- Consumers are increasingly demanding that their products be "fresh," "natural," and packaged in "environmentally friendly" materials.
- The logistics of the retail industry requires extended shelf life to compensate for shipping from producer to wholesale distributors, regional warehouses, and retail establishments.
- High costs, shipping weights, and consumer preferences are making products traditionally packaged in metal cans less desirable than those in flexible, shelf stable (no requirement for refrigeration) packaging.
High Pressure Processing
The secret to fresh, flavorful foods and beverages with a longer shelf life without chemicals, additives or heat is possible through High Pressure Processing (HPP). By processing foods at extremely high water pressure (up to 6,000 bar/87,000 psi), HPP neutralize listeria, salmonella, E. coli and other deadly bacteria.
Unlike thermal, chemical and other high-heat treatments, HPP is achieved by cold water. Food taste, texture and quality remains at the same level of quality, and in some cases, are enhanced. In addition, it can extend shelf life up to two or three times longer than traditionally preservation methods. The technique is applicable to juices, beverages, meat, poultry, salsa, guacamole, ready-to-eat meals, deli salads, dairy, and more.
"Stand-Up" Retort Pouches
Flexible packaging allows for enhanced ease of use by consumers, and is being increasingly used by large manufacturers because of the purchasing appeal. It represents an opportunity for improved storage and reusability, both of which are desired traits by consumers. HPM Global, Inc., suggests that flexible packaging has lower material costs, is more energy efficient, cooks product in 40 percent less time, consumes 85 percent less storage space, and provides products with improved food quality due to reduced heat exposure than metal cans. In particular, the "stand up" pouch is rapidly gaining acceptance and market share. It has been estimated that this sector is growing and will continue to grow at an annual rate of 15 percent (Prepared Foods Magazine, 2013). Many companies that have traditionally packaged in metal cans are expanding into these lighter, easier to use, and environmentally-friendly containers for their products.
"Next Generation" Aseptic Packaging
Aseptic processing is the process by which a sterile product is packaged in a container in a way that maintains sterility. Sterility is achieved with a flash-heating process (temperature between 195 and 295 F) which retains more nutrients and uses less energy than conventional techniques such as retort or hot-fill canning. Aseptic food preservation methods allow processed food to keep for long periods of time without preservatives, as long as they are not opened.
Aseptic processing is commonly used for with milks, fruit juices, liquid whole eggs, gravies, and tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are aseptically processed and packaged for year-round remanufacture into various food products. An aseptic package has been sterilized prior to filling with UHT (Ultra High Temperature) treated food, resulting in a product which is shelf stable for more than six months. Aseptic processing procedures often use steam or hot water under pressure.