The importance of food safety reached new heights for consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic — in fact, a majority of consumers still identified food and beverage safety as a top tier concern even as the pandemic began to subside. As such, food and beverage manufacturers began embracing new technologies not only to ensure high hygienic standards, but also to increase the shelf life of products and better combat the potential for spoilage with items like meat and dairy.
High-pressure processing (HPP) answered the call as an efficient method of manufacturing food and beverage products. But even with a wider integration of high-pressure processing in the food and beverage space, many manufacturers still struggle with identifying the right industrial enclosure solutions to facilitate HPP technology.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how high-pressure processing works, and the ideal enclosures food and beverage manufacturers need to leverage a high-pressure processing approach to production.
How does high-pressure processing in food and beverage manufacturing work?
Compared with traditional processing practices, high-pressure processing is a more efficient method that prioritizes food safety and quality. Food products like deli meat are packaged in batches using flexible containers and are then loaded into high-pressure processing chambers that contain a pressure transmitting fluid like water. The fluid is then pressurized and the resulting pressure is transferred through the packaging to the food product itself.
This extremely high level of pressurization — in some cases higher than 60,000 PSI — for up to five minutes inactivates potential bacteria or pathogens. This process effectively pasteurizes the food or beverage product without using heat.
Once this process is complete, the product is removed from the packaging and stored or distributed in a refrigerated environment. As with more traditional food processing practices that use a more direct heat source to prepare food for distribution and sale, high-pressure processing is ideal for products like deli meat, guacamole, seafood, ready-to-eat (RTE) meals, juices, and baby food.
Pet food producers have also experienced significant increases in efficiency, quality, and food safety practices with high-pressure processing — and this has made HPP a major value-add given the increase in pet food production and sales in the last few years.
What are the benefits of high-pressure processing for food and beverage producers?
There are a number of benefits of high-pressure processing for food and beverage producers. First, high-pressure food and beverage processing eliminates foodborne pathogens, bacteria, mold, or other hazardous containment without diminishing the product’s nutritional value. In addition, high-pressure processing can extend the shelf life of food and beverage products beyond what can be achieved with heat-based processing, in some cases for up to 120 days.
Plus, as consumers continue to look for food and beverage products that do not use chemicals or preservatives as part of production practices, high-pressure processing helps food and beverage manufacturers bring more natural products to market to better align with this consumer sentiment.
From an efficiency perspective, HPP is a faster and more reliable processing practice in part because of the difficulty in maintaining the consistent heat output and coverage that's associated with more traditional pasteurization practices. What’s more, the advances in pressurization technology have allowed food and beverage producers to increase throughput and diversify their product lines based on shifts in consumer demand.
What kind of industrial enclosure solutions are ideal for high-pressure processing applications
Automation architects specifying enclosures for high-pressure processing facilities may think that solutions designed for high hygienic standards — like Rittal’s Hygienic Design line of industrial enclosures and accessories — are the standard.
However, because the products used in high-pressure processing are already packaged, designers and engineers have more latitude to choose enclosures that can stand up to the rigors of 24/7 food and beverage production without having to worry about contamination of unpackaged or exposed products.
For example, stainless steel NEMA 4X and IP 66 enclosures provide the ideal durability and reliability for 24/7 high-pressure processing, while also offering high degrees of security and protection.
The growth of high-pressure processing has also moved manufacturers of high-pressure technology to produce equipment that prioritizes large-scale production. As a result, the footprint of high-pressure processing chambers and conveyor systems has also grown, and this only complicates the capability of food and beverage manufacturers to reduce their automation footprint and optimize their use of space. This is particularly important for food and beverage producers given the continued trend of retrofitting existing facilities for automation.
With a wide range of dimension widths and depths, Rittal’s VX SE enclosure system is the space-saving industrial enclosure to help food and beverage manufacturers optimize their high-pressure processing applications. The VX SE provides NEMA 4/4X and IP 66 protection against the introduction of water or airborne particles to the interior of the enclosure, while also offering superior durability in the face of frequent, intense washdowns.
The VX SE also provides maximum stability and torsional rigidity — an iron-based alloy used in the construction of the enclosure also helps prevent oxidation from a regular use of corrosive solvents, alkalis, and some acids.
Plus, our line of industrial enclosures designed specifically for food and beverage manufacturers offers a variety of NEMA 4 freestanding enclosures to help companies meet any number of application needs.
Food and beverage manufacturers that embrace high-pressure processing can increase their food safety practices and optimize efficiency to bring new products to market faster. Rittal’s industrial enclosure solutions for food and beverage manufacturing can help you simplify the task of onboarding high-pressure processing production programs.