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Betting Big on HPP

As consumers seek ingredient transparency, manufacturers have begun to respond by sharing more details on where ingredients come from, how they are processed and ultimately packaged to reach the end products that we see on store shelves. Typically during the manufacturing process, refrigerated packaged products are heated to kill bacteria and prevent the risk of food borne illness; however, some consumers believe that this kind of processing diminishes the quality by requiring the use of preservatives and affects overall taste by changing chemical composition of foods.

HPP equipment can be costly, but hopes for its mainstreaming are high,

HPP equipment can be costly, but hopes for its mainstreaming are high,

In recent years, HPP (High Pressure Processing) has gained traction as an alternative to heat processing methods among refrigerated products. This is a non-thermal, post-packaging process where products packaged in flexible containers are submerged in fluid and exposed to high pressure, which eliminates food borne bacteria without compromising food quality or safety.

Benefits of HPP include:

  • Products can remain preservative-free, meeting consumer demand for “clean” labels;
  • Extends product shelf life, leading to increased distribution opportunities;
  • Meets food safety standards.
Popular HPP brands like Suja are growing in popularity across all channels.

Popular HPP brands like Suja are growing in popularity across all channels.

Consumers have become more aware of HPP methods with the burgeoning success of cold-pressed juices and functional beverages. HPP Refrigerated Juices grew to $30M (+15% vs Year Ago) in the Natural Channel and $68M (+98% vs Year Ago) in Conventional Outlets in the 52weeks ending November 29, 2015. These growth rates are substantial given the overall growth of the category was +8% in the Natural Channel and only +1% in Multi Outlet. Leading cold-pressed juice brands like Suja and Evolution, plus Harmless Harvest in the coconut water space have won consumers over with quality and taste, but have also begun to educate them on HPP and its subsequent benefits.

While HPP benefits are considerable, the process is still fairly new which means that investing in equipment can pose a significant obstacle for manufacturers. As this process mainstreams, becomes more cost-efficient and consumers continue to demand ingredient transparency and cleaner labels, more manufacturers may turn to HPP as a point of product differentiation.

It’s worth noting, though, that some brands have been using HPP since the late 2000s, despite little to no packaging or website communication. Beyond cold pressed beverages, a few other brands that use HPP include Wholly Guacamole, Hormel’s Natural Choice Lunchmeats and Bolthouse Farms Salad Dressings in PET bottles. Perhaps manufacturers felt processing details were irrelevant to include in a product’s messaging or that educating consumers was going to require too much effort.  As we turn the corner into this new age of transparency, we may start to see more brands communicating processing details- especially if it resonates with consumers and is a notable point of differentiation from competitors.

HPP methods are spreading to new categories like on-the-go snacks.

HPP methods are spreading to new categories like on-the-go snacks.

To this point, there are plenty of up and coming brands placing big bets on HPP innovation with hopes of disrupting other categories. Hope Hummus is at the intersection of converging growth trends offering an Organic, HPP Hummus in innovative flavors like Thai coconut curry and jalapeno-cilantro. Pure Spoon will be offering HPP organic fruit and veggie pureed baby food. Nomva is also offering organic fruit and veggie purees with added probiotics packed in portable, on-the-go pouches.

The success of these first movers in their respective categories will foretell the rate at which HPP infiltrates the broader food system; however, if the success of the Refrigerated Juice and Functional Beverage category is any indicator of success, I predict that more HPP products will be entering the market in years to come.