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Hpp, hpp, high pressure processing comes to SA!

HPP LA state-of-the-art high-pressure processing/pasteurisation ‘tollgate’ has opened in Midrand. What’s all the excitement about? Food & Beverage Reporter’s Bruce Cohen went to find out….

HPP technology, long and slow to take off, has become a game-changer for the food and beverage industry and is gaining rapid momentum worldwide.

For manufacturers, HPP the holy grail of significantly-increased shelf life without compromising safety or using nutrient-destroying heat or preservatives while still retaining fresh and flavourful products.

And consumers, too, demanding healthy, chemically-free, clean-label foods, are fast recognising the value of HPP.

Until recently South African manufacturers had very limited access to HPP technology, which requires considerable plant investment and know-how. But all that changed earlier this year with the opening of HPP South Africa’s plant, which is offering a contract service to the industry on a “tolling” basis.

You could build a Boeing in HPP South Africa’s giant, state-of-the-art facility in Midrand. And you get the sense, too, that the team behind the company is also thinking big, really big.

HPP people

The HPP SA team, from left, Heinrich Zandberg, Willie Brand and Claudio de Freitas.

Willie Brand (CEO), Heinrich Zandberg (COO) and Claudio de Freitas, are a trio of entrepreneurial disrupters who, having spotted the opportunity that HPP offers South Africa, have thrown themselves passionately into the deep-end.

Their confidence in the future of HPP seems well-placed. In the USA, HPP is growing at 40% per annum and is already a multi-billion dollar business. It looks like the future of fresh foodbev preservation staring you in the face.

Zandberg says he first stumbled on HPP while researching starting a business in cold coffee brewing and excitedly pitched the idea of opening an HPP plant to Brand, an entrepreneur and capital raiser for small businesses. Their excitement grew and the pair identified Avure in the USA as a leading player in HPP technology.

Brand and Zandberg were soon on their way to the US where they secured an exclusive SA tolling license from Avure which allows them to offer a contract processing service here (in the USA they call it “tolling”).

Now they needed money. Lots and lots of it because HPP equipment doesn’t come cheap. We’re talking tens of millions and that excludes the vast cold rooms/refrigeration systems required to make the plant viable for large-scale processing and handling.

The pair was successful in bringing on board TMM Holdings, the engineering, security and technology group. With funding secured, they placed their order with Avure for the largest HPP installation in Africa.

The machinery arrived in January and by March the plant was up and running in test phase, ready for full production in April. Already a second line is being planned for Midrand and Brand expects to open another plant in Cape Town by September.

The Midrand plant is currently able to process 1.8 tons per hour, and the type of product it can handle is vast, from sliced/processed meats (even raw fillet), juices, pork and chicken, cut fruit, ready-to-eat meals, sauces, dips, yoghurt, cheeses and sea foods such as oysters and lobster.

Looking for big and small customers alike

A group of blue-chip clients has already been lined up, but Zandberg is adamant they will make space for small manufacturers too.

“We want a balanced basket to help develop the sector,” says Zandberg. “Yes, we could fill the machine with just one product but that’s not what we are about.”

The Avure relationship is wide-ranging and deep, says Brand. The American company is committed to sharing its research and show-how with HPP South Africa to ensure the local operation is always using the latest, smartest techniques.

The SA plant is also under 24X7 remote monitoring by Avure, and Brand and his team have received intensive technical training in operations and maintenance.

Says Brand: “HPP can’t be done 97% – it has to be done 100%. It’s a complex technology and it has required extensive training.”

Zandberg points to the huge benefits that HPP offers. The shelf life of some meat products, for example, can be extended from 30 days to as much as 120 days if the cold-chain is properly maintained, while raw, pressed juices (a growing consumer trend) can go from 4-5 days to as long as 30-40 days.

In the case of processed meats, the pressure on manufacturers to drastically reduce salt content without compromising safety can now be met by HPP, and high-risk sea foods like oysters can be safely preserved for extended periods.

The huge advantage of HPP, though, is that flavour and nutrient quality is never compromised.

South Africa, however, is not yet ready for raw milk processing by HPP because, unlike countries like Australia (where raw HPP milk is already being sold) and the USA, our own laws specify pasteurisation of milk must be done using heat (HPP is a cold process).

Abundant prospects

Brand believes the opportunities for HPP in SA are huge. He says the airline industry in particular is ripe for HPP processing of in-flight meals. Airlines, he says, are looking for a food safety guarantee, and HPP delivers exactly that.

HPP South Africa is offering far more than just HPP processing. “We want to be a solutions provider,” says Brand, with the company offering extensive cold-storage facilities to clients for their incoming product as well as a full end-of-line solution – barcoding/labelling, packing and palletising – so the final product can be shipped directly to retailer distribution centres.

Being in Midrand close to the DCs of the major food retailers is an added advantage; reducing logistics helps make the HPP solution cost-effective, says Brand.

Although HPP South Africa works only with post-packaged product so food safety risks are very low, Brand says they will shortly be fully HACCP compliant.

HPP South Africa, he says, will only do contract work and never compete with its customers.

Brand and his team exemplify the start-up spirit so vital to drive game-changing advances that new technologies offer old industries. It’s a welcome breath of fresh (high-pressure) air.

Source: Food & Beverage Reporter

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How HPP works

By processing foods at extremely high water pressure (up to 6,000 bar / 87,000 psi – more than the deepest ocean), HPP protects consumers and companies by destroying dangerous foodborne pathogens that lead to illness, death and major recalls every year.

HPP literally crushes pathogens like listeria, salmonella, E. coli to death.HPP runs cold. It doesn’t alter food taste, texture or quality. Nutrients are unaffected by the pressure.

HPP can extend shelf life up to several times longer than traditional preservation methods.

HPP is a post-packaging solution: already-packaged products like PET bottles of juice or vacuum-packed meats are processed under evenly-distributed pressure which ensures that the packaging is never crushed/distorted. Glass packaging will not work with HPP.

Treatment by HPP takes around 10 minutes.

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