- High-pressure processing (HPP) is an alternative processing method that kills pathogens but also preserves nutrients better than heat-based processing. It is particularly promising for fresher foods, such as juices, dips, and salsas, but HPP comes with its own drawbacks.
- The equipment required for HPP can be worth millions of dollars, which could be too large an investment for many companies. Also, products must be individually packaged and sealed and processed one batch at a time, which adds increased labor costs to production.
- However, cold-pressed juices and other segments that use HPP continue to grow and may prove the value of this processing method in responding to consumer health trends. Sales of HPP-produced products are expected to grow to about $12 billion by 2018, according to a Markets and Markets report.
Another issue manufacturers face with HPP processing is consumer perceptions. HPP enables fresh foods, such as cold-pressed juices, to remain fresh while retaining nutrients — but it's still a method of processing. Consumers have brought lawsuits against both Hain Celestial and Suja about using the term "fresh" to describe HPP-treated products, though both cases were dismissed.
HPP enables companies to produce more "clean label" foods by eliminating the need for preservatives that protect food during heat-based processing. Also, HPP enables a greater range of heath-related label claims because it doesn't destroy as much nutrient content as heat-based processing does. These are benefits from processing that can have an impact beyond ingredient labels and nutrition facts and also extend to branding and marketing.
Certain groups of consumers will avoid all "processed" foods, even if the processing method doesn't involve adding preservatives and helps the product retain its nutrients. But consumers who are on the fence may respond positively to HPP, and it could be a way for manufacturers to lure consumers back to processed foods. These segments have generally been struggling for sales and market share in recent years, but ultra-processed foods still make up a significant portion of American consumers' diets.