Meeting the demands for all-natural foods and beverages

By Manny Picciola, managing director, L.E.K. Consulting

- Last updated on GMT

A look at High Pressure Processing (HPP)
A look at High Pressure Processing (HPP)

Related tags: Shelf life, Food, Food safety, Hpp

Consumers have long held a desire for fresh, all-natural foods and beverages. Quality and safety are among the most important factors for the modern-day shopper.

They look at the nutritional values in their foods and beverages and also seek to understand the ingredients. Preservatives are out—all-natural is in.

Retailers and manufacturers alike are making this a priority by producing and selling products that meet the consumer desire through a decades-old process that is only becoming popular recently.

Products like Oscar Mayer Natural Deli Meat, BluePrintJuice, Bolthouse Farms and Nature’s Variety Pet Foods have more in common than one may realize.

Aside from having a longer-lasting freshness and extended shelf life, these are just some of the products created through high pressure pasteurization (HPP).

What is HPP?

HPP is the long-evolving, cutting-edge technology that kills pathogenic bacteria while maintaining a product’s nutritional content and overall integrity.

Manny Piccola
Manny Picciola, L.E.K. consulting managing director

The non-thermal pasteurization process eliminates bacteria like Salmonella, E.coli, Norovirus and Listeria monocytogenes by applying 87,000 pounds per square inch of hydraulic pressure to foods without including additives.

During this process, products aren’t chemically altered or exposed to radiation. The desirable result for food manufacturers and retailers is that they are able to accommodate consumer desire to have all-natural foods. 

HPP products are growing in popularity and lining shelves at grocery stores like Stop and Shop and Whole Foods and coffee shops like Starbucks.  

Traditionally, retailers have experienced tension between shelf-life needed for supply chain efficiency and providing fresh and all-natural products to consumers. HPP opens up the door for retailers and food manufacturers that have adopted this technology.

HPP limitations

Though HPP application offers an alternative for several other means of food processing, many factors still limit the widespread adoption of the technology. HPP is expensive—often called the “mother of all batch processes.”

A process that only requires water and electricity, HPP isn’t well suited for high-speed, low-cost flow lines.  Next, the technology doesn’t work well on all products.  Depending on the contents and physical structure, the technology can deform packaging, distort the color or not have the intended impact on preserving foods.

Finally, the technical know-how and manufacturing capabilities required to deliver the product aren’t trivial, so it requires a large investment in resources and capital.

Retailers and food manufacturers unite

Less trusting of the brand label on the packaging of their foods, consumers want to be able to pronounce and have transparency in all of the ingredients and understand the provenance, domain and process used to make their foods.

Retailers can capitalize on this desire by encouraging their food manufacturer partners to investigate the potential for HPP. Retailers would also benefit from a review of their private label portfolio to understand how HPP can help their own brand value proposition. 

In addition, retailers can help educate consumers on the merits of HPP and which foods are using this new technology. 

While consumers and retailers are increasingly at odds, HPP can provide a ‘fresh’ common ground as consumers can have the cleaner label and transparency they want and retailers can have the shelf life and food safety protection they need.  

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