Driving innovation with alternative food technologies

FEATURED SPEAKER Expo FoodTec Content Hub
Alternative food technologies rely on other sources of energy rather than thermal ones for processing (e.g. mechanical, electrical, electro-magnetic). Among many technologies being researched, pulsed electric fields (PEF), high pressure (HPP), Ohmic heating, UV and shockwave are recognised as the most promising ones and were investigated for a long period. We interviewed Dr. Kemal Aganovic from the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL e.V.) ahead of his presentation on the latest developments in this field.

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Can you briefly explain what DIL is and how it works?
‘German Institute of Food Technologies (Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik DIL e.V.) is a research institute working in the areas of product development, process and technology development as well as food and process analysis. It has a form of a registered association with around 160 member companies from the food industry and related fields. With strong link to the industry, DIL tries to form a bridge between science and practice, and helps to increase the value of food and food ingredients. The principal function is the development of innovative processing technologies for more functional and healthier foods, based on a sound knowledge of the inherent molecular structure, chemical properties and interactions of the material. Through network and training, these results are transferred to industry, hence bridging the gap between academia and practice and making DIL a driving force for food processing innovations.’

You will be giving an overview of alternative technologies in food processing in your presentation at the Expo FoodTec Content Hub. Which specific challenges do alternative technologies help quality and operations managers to overcome?
‘In general these technologies have to face two main challenges: (1) they have to provide safe product and (2) they provide product with improved quality. What machine manufacturers and technology users also aim for is the process efficiency and scalability. HPP (High Pressure Processing) and PEF (Pulse Electric Fields) are suitable technologies for shelf-life extension of fresh, natural and heat sensitive products, where addition of preservatives and additives can be avoided, allowing for a clean label.’
‘High pressure homogenisation allows for production of reduced-in-fat emulsions containing around 30% of oil and no artificial emulsifiers or stabilisers, thus offering healthier tasteful food option and a clean label. ‘
‘Light and irradiation technologies allow for surface, contact-free, low-energy-cost-efficient decontamination without need of using chemicals. In certain cases, these can also work on the already packed product, which prevents risks of recontamination.
In short, these technologies are supposed to deliver products closer to the fresh ones, with improved nutritional and compositional value, free of preservatives and additives to meet consumer expectations.’

What is the potential of these technologies for F&B manufacturers and what are the main benefits?
‘We are using heat already for decades for food processing (drying, pasteurisation, baking, roasting, frying etc.), and it alters the original raw material quality in many ways. Beside raw material quality, efficiency, quality of the final product and sustainability of the processing is directly influenced by the choice of a suitable technology. Alternative technologies rely on other sources of energy such as mechanical, electrical, electro-magnetic, and their potential is to deliver safe and superior food with improved nutritional composition, sensory attributes and extended shelf-life. This allows for reaching new markets and different distribution channels. They often contribute to more efficient processing as well, as the machine manufacturers are aiming on performance at maximised performance, delivering optimum efficiency and low running costs.’
‘In particular for HPP (High Pressure Processing), it has been shown that application of pressure on proteins can have different effects, depending on the pressure and protein. Pressures in the range of 3000 bars often lead to protein solubilization and hydration. Lower pressure levels of 1000 bars allow for protein conditioning and gelation. This effect is normally achieved in presence of salt. Thus the technology has potential for development of salt reduced meat products. HPP can be also used to replace or assist in the “cold” cooking of meat products with reduced cooking loss.‘
‘The application of PEF (Pulsed Electric Fields) in the potato industry for softening of potatoes, as a replacement for thermal treatment, proved itself to be a major contributor in product quality, process efficiency as well as in energy and cost savings. Further application developments will allow for energy and time saving during drying processes of different products such as onions, carrots, berries and similar. The products can be dried at lower temperatures, while at the same time maintaining better quality attributes.’

From a food processing perspective, what are your predictions for the next 3-5 years?
‘In the next 3-5 years we are going to experience significant changes in consumer behaviour and expectations (we already are), and thus food production, distribution, retail and consumption will adopt accordingly. We are already facing a challenge of producing sufficient amount of high-quality food, meaning we have to face challenges beyond “from farm to fork”. Sustainability, clean label, free of, food origin, minimally processed, are just few of many drivers for changes and innovation. Some years ago food consumption was related with supplying the body with energy. Today it is much more than that. Alternative technologies as well as conventional will continue improving and finding new applications in creating new and better foods, finding and utilizing different natural resources, or utilizing the existing ones in a more efficient way.’

Join Dr. Kemal Agaonvic for the Expert Information Session: ‘Alternative food technologies for preservation and structure modification’ at the Expo FoodTec Content Hub 2017 on Wednesday, 29th November 2017 from 12:00–12:40.