Currently only innovation-driven and rather small and medium enterprises are taking the risk of applying Pulsed Electric Field preservation PEF-P. Up to now, the main application of PEF is for pasteurisation of fruit and vegetable juices. In 2011, 10.7 billion litres of fruit juice (1.7 billion of which in premium quality, not from concentrate) were consumed in the EU.. Approx. 650 European fruit juice producers have created a turnover of 8.9 billion Euros per annum. The majority of companies are small and medium sized enterprises. In recent years the share of chilled products with a short shelf life has increased and a diversification towards a broader number of flavours and mixtures has been observed, both are challenging factors for production management and distribution chain. The extension of the shelf life by PEF, e.g. from 7 to 21 days for orange juice, allows for a better production management and overall economic improvements. In addition to premium juice quality, the possible increase in production batches size, reduced cleaning efforts and less retail waste as well as an increased market reach will result in a 10-15% cost benefit in comparison to conventional processing. Main hurdles for Pulsed Electric Field preservation PEF-P are the lack of standardized process validation and control options as well as the absence of clear guidance on how to comply with the relevant food legislation for PEF treated food products.
There are only very few companies in Europe that develop and distribute PEF equipment, most of them are SMEs. These companies and their suppliers will clearly benefit from a higher market penetration of the technology.
High pressure thermal sterilization HPTS can be applied to ambient stable products with high quality, e.g. ready-to-eat meals, soups, sauces. The use for e.g. vegetables is also possible. This makes the market potential of this technology very large, however, it can be expected that the first applications of this technology will be products with a high added value as ready-to-eat meals for the airline market, where ambient shelf life can have a large impact on energy and costs savings, if high quality products can be achieved. It can be expected that the first applications of HPTS will be in these relatively small markets. A wider introduction of this technology will have an impact not only on the current market for ambient stable food products, but that it can also replace some chilled food products. HPTS has the potential to deliver a comparable – if not improved – quality compared to the current heat pasteurisation technologies for e.g. chilled meals, which can be stored at ambient temperature without cooling.
Regarding the opportunities for ready-to-eat products in Europe, these products meet the consumers’ demand for “fresh” and tasty food products, and for convenience; they are easy to pack, quickly prepared and have an acceptable shelf life. This opens the market for ready-to-eat food products which can be customized for specific consumer groups (health or cost-conscious, busy or cosy consumer).
There are a couple of companies in Europe that develop and distribute high pressure equipment. Some of them are SMEs, but there are also large food manufacturing equipment producers. Nevertheless, these companies and their suppliers will benefit from a higher market penetration of the technology.
Low shear extrusion of cold food products (ice cream): Extrusion has been a widespread processing technology for food products like pasta, peanuts flips or breakfast cereals for many years. Within the food processing industry, single and double screw extruders are standard tools that have been used for about 80 years. However, temperature control via active cooling is limited as well as its application for cooled food products, e.g. ice cream.
In 2009, the ice cream market in 14 major European countries reached an annual average consumption of 6.8 litres of ice cream per each habitant, which equals to a total sales volume of 2.2 billion litres (for 13 EU countries), and generated a total value of 8.9 billion Euros (11 UE countries). The vast majority of industrial ice cream producing companies are small and medium-sized enterprises employing around 15,000 full-time equivalents on an annual basis (i9 EU countries). According to the improved efficacy of the planetary gear extruders it can be assumed that energy savings in the range of 10 15% can be achieved and that the quality of the ice cream in terms of creaminess and melting behaviour will also be improved.
There are only very few companies in Europe that develop and distribute low shear extrusion equipment, most of them SMEs. These companies and their suppliers will benefit from a higher market penetration of the technology.