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The Basics: High-Pressure Processing (HPP)

Updated: Apr 30

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Let's talk about High-Pressure Processing, or HPP for short. This type of processing is not well known to the general public, and many new companies in the food and Beverage field have never heard of it. So here are the basics.

High Pressure Processing (HPP) is a non-thermal food preservation technique that involves subjecting packaged food products to high levels of hydrostatic pressure. This pressure is typically applied using water at pressures ranging from 100 to 800 megapascals (MPa), which is equivalent to 15,000 to 116,000 pounds per square inch (psi).


Here's how the process generally works:

1. Preparation: Food products are first sealed in flexible or semi-rigid packaging materials, such as plastic pouches or trays, which are designed to withstand the high pressures of the process.

2. Pressurization: The packaged food is then placed in a high-pressure chamber filled with water. Pressure is applied uniformly from all directions, typically for a few minutes to several minutes, depending on the product and desired level of preservation.

3. Depressurization: After the desired pressure treatment duration, the pressure is gradually released, allowing the packaged food to return to atmospheric pressure.


HPP effectively inactivates spoilage microorganisms (such as bacteria, yeasts, and molds) and pathogens (such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli) present in the food, thereby extending its shelf life while preserving its sensory and nutritional qualities. Importantly, HPP is a non-thermal process, meaning it does not rely on heat to achieve microbial reduction. This helps retain the freshness, flavor, color, and nutritional content of the food, making it an attractive option for producing minimally processed or "raw" food products.


Some common applications of HPP include:

- Ready-to-eat meats and poultry

- Seafood and shellfish

- Fruit and vegetable juices

- Guacamole and salsa

- Dairy products like yogurt and cheese

- Ready-to-eat meals and salads


HPP has gained popularity in the food industry as consumers increasingly seek minimally processed foods with clean labels and extended shelf life. However, it's important to note that while HPP effectively reduces microbial populations, it does not eliminate all microorganisms, and proper handling and storage practices are still essential for food safety.


So what are the issues you may run into when looking for a HPP facility? When searching for a high-pressure processing (HPP) processor, you might encounter several challenges or considerations:

1. Equipment Availability and Capacity: Not all food processors have invested in HPP equipment due to its specialized nature and cost. The availability of HPP equipment and its capacity to handle your production volume requirements may be a limiting factor.

2. Location and Accessibility: Finding an HPP processor that is conveniently located relative to your manufacturing facilities or sources of raw materials can be challenging. Transportation costs and logistics become significant considerations, especially for perishable products.

3. Cost Considerations: HPP processing can be relatively expensive compared to traditional food preservation methods. You'll need to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of HPP for your products and determine whether the benefits justify the investment.

4. Quality and Expertise: It's essential to work with an HPP processor that has expertise in handling a variety of food products and understands the nuances of the process. Quality assurance and adherence to food safety standards are paramount.

5. Packaging Compatibility: Not all packaging materials are suitable for HPP. Ensuring that your packaging is compatible with HPP equipment and can withstand the high pressures without compromising product integrity is crucial.

6. Regulatory Compliance: HPP processors must comply with regulatory requirements and standards governing food safety, labeling, and processing. Ensuring that your chosen processor meets these standards is essential for product legality and consumer trust.

7. Production Scheduling and Lead Times: HPP processing may have longer lead times or require scheduling flexibility due to equipment availability and processing constraints. It's important to align your production schedule with the processor's capabilities and availability.

8. Communication and Collaboration: Effective communication and collaboration between your company and the HPP processor are essential for ensuring smooth operations and meeting quality standards. Clear expectations, specifications, and timelines should be established and maintained throughout the partnership.


By addressing these issues through careful research, evaluation, and communication with potential HPP processors, you can find a partner that meets your needs and helps you leverage the benefits of high-pressure processing for your food products.


Finally, what type of packaging does HPP use? In high-pressure processing (HPP), packaging plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and quality of the food products being processed. The packaging materials must be able to withstand the high pressures applied during the HPP treatment without rupturing or compromising the integrity of the package. Additionally, the packaging must provide an effective barrier against oxygen, moisture, and other contaminants to maintain the freshness and quality of the food.


The most commonly used types of packaging materials for HPP include:

1. Flexible Plastic Pouches: Flexible pouches made from high-barrier plastic films, such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), or ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH), are frequently used for HPP. These pouches offer excellent flexibility and can conform to the shape of the food product, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.

2. Semi-Rigid Plastic Trays: Semi-rigid plastic trays made from materials like PET (polyethylene terephthalate) or PP are often used for packaging solid or semi-solid food products for HPP. These trays provide structural support and help maintain the shape of the product during processing.

3. Composite Materials: Packaging materials composed of multiple layers, such as plastic films laminated with aluminum foil or other barrier materials, offer enhanced protection against oxygen and moisture ingress. These composite materials are commonly used in HPP for products that require extended shelf life.

4. Flexible Stand-Up Pouches: Stand-up pouches made from multi-layer laminates are popular for packaging sauces, beverages, and other liquid or semi-liquid products for HPP. These pouches often include barrier layers such as aluminum foil or EVOH to prevent oxygen and light penetration.

5. Rigid Plastic Bottles: Some HPP applications utilize rigid plastic bottles made from PET or HDPE (high-density polyethylene). These bottles are suitable for packaging beverages, juices, and sauces that require a more durable container.

6. Composite Cans: Composite cans made from cardboard or paperboard lined with a thin layer of plastic or aluminum are occasionally used for HPP packaging. These cans provide a lightweight and environmentally friendly option for certain food products.


Regardless of the packaging material used, it's essential that it is specifically designed and tested for HPP compatibility to ensure product safety and quality. Manufacturers must consider factors such as barrier properties, seal integrity, and structural strength when selecting packaging materials for HPP applications.


As always, happy hunting!


The CVL Team

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