‘High Pressure Certified’ Consumer Seal To Debut This Month

High pressure processed (HPP) food and beverages have been on the market for years, but 2018 could mark a step toward greater consumer awareness of the non-thermal pasteurization technology with the launch of a first-ever certification seal.

This month, the Cold Pressure Council (CPC), an industry group focused on supporting and promoting the HPP industry, is launching a seal for use on HPP food and beverage packaging that certifies the item has been properly processed and independently verified for safety. The seal, which reads “High Pressure Certified” and is available for licensing from the CPC, will debut on select HPP juice products, with further expansion into other categories set to follow in the coming months.

HPP technology, in which unheated liquid and solid foods are subjected to pressure at cold temperatures in order to destroy pathogens, preserve flavor and extend shelf-life for liquid and solid foods, has given rise to a $12 billion per year industry. But aside from some breakout brands, efforts to educate consumers about the actual process have thus far been minimal. Now, similar to the way “organic” and “non-GMO” certifications have become common packaging callouts, the idea, according to Cold Pressure Council chairman Jeff Williams, is to further clarify for consumers how their foods and drinks are made.

“From a manufacturing side and processing side, HPP is really well known,” said Williams, the GM and VP of processing equipment maker JBT/Avure Technologies. “It is not as familiar to consumers, but that will be part of the ongoing work of the CPC.”

The launch of the consumer seal is the culmination of an ongoing effort on behalf of a group of industry leaders to bring greater transparency and uniformity to the HPP market. In April 2016, HPP equipment manufacturer Hiperbaric announced it was preparing to launch a “Cold Pressure Verified” program. That idea evolved into the Cold Pressure Council, an organization comprised of HPP processors, equipment manufacturers and CPG brands. Along with Hiperbaric and JBT/Avure, founding members of the group, which held its first meeting last April, include American Pasteurization, Universal Pure, Campbell’s, Evolution Fresh, Good Foods, SUJA and West Liberty Foods.

“For a number of us, it’s about helping build and grow the industry, because that’s to all of our benefit,” answered Williams when asked why companies should consider joining the CPC. “If you are supplier to the industry, whether it’s machinery or packaging materials or ingredients or other things, we all have a vested interest in helping the industry grow. From a processor side, one of the big drivers that we hope will be to join [the CPC] will become access to the seal.”

The “High Pressure Certified” seal is the group’s first effort at formalizing a uniform message the can be communicated across all categories that use HPP. Williams explained the CPC voted to adopt “High Pressure” rather than “Cold Pressure” on the seal to better reflect the actual technology and create a more consistent terminology around HPP products, which at times in the past have been confused with “cold pressed,” particularly in juices.

Jeff Williams, GM and VP of JBT/Avure Technologies and chairman of the Cold Pressure Council

To use the seal, brands are required to follow category specific guidelines published by the Council. The first published set of guidelines, for low-acid juices, requires companies to have a valid hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan and a completed study demonstrating 5-log reduction throughout shelf-life of the product that is validated by a third-party auditor. A verification of the outlined conditions must be completed annually to continue use of the seal. The licensing fee for using the seal is $250 per SKU.

Williams pointed out that the “High Pressure Certified” verification process can be an addendum to existing food safety audits for a participating company.

“We are not trying to incur a lot of additional costs” Williams said. “We are just trying to make sure it is done properly.”

In an email to BevNET, Ryan Ziegelmann, president and general manager of Starbucks-owned cold pressed juice company Evolution Fresh, said that HPP was an important step to “ensure safety and help protect the flavor and nutrients of the raw fruits and vegetables” used in its juice products. The brand plans to unveil a redesigned transparent plastic bottle package next month that will feature the “High Pressure Certified” seal.

Following the rollout on juice products, Williams said the Council will publish guidelines for two food categories: sauces, including dips and dressings, and proteins. The group will meet later this week to review drafts for each of those sets of guidelines, which could be finalized and published as early as next month.

Once consumers begin to recognize the seal on HPP products, the Council plans to move towards building promotion and awareness of the seal with food and beverage manufacturers, with which it will work to create educational content for consumers. Williams said the group will help create content for HPP food and beverage manufacturers to promote the technology, and that the Council is actively leveraging its members participation in trade shows and events to help spread the word.

Williams also noted the CPC hopes to work with regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help foster greater consistency for enforcement of safety violations.

“It’s pretty common feedback that there’s a lot of different interpretations of the regulations out there in how they are viewed and enforced,” Williams said. “The CPC, to the degree we can, wants to create greater uniformity and consistency in how the guidelines and rules are applied and enforced, we absolutely want to promote that. [The CPC] gives us an even bigger voice in helping us educate whoever, wherever, and have the rules applied consistently.”