In this article
Opportunities to small and medium-sized enterprises to be more competitive.
 2 min read

Consumers are increasingly choosing fresher and minimally processed products because of their perception of processed foods being harmful to their health. The main advantage of novel technologies is that they permit the extension of the products shelf-life and guarantee safety of fresh foods without affecting taste, appearance and nutritional properties.

Implementation

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), rather than multinational companies, are the ones currently introducing these new technologies in their processing lines. The commercialization of food processed by new technologies has significantly increased in the last decade, but the niche is still too low compared to products processed by traditional technologies. New technologies offer opportunities to SMEs to be more competitive: introducing new products in the market, improving productivity and reducing environmental impact.

Two groups

Novel food processing technologies can be divided into technologies that reduce the negative impact of thermal processing by improving heating (microwave, ohmic heating) and the non-thermal processing technologies (HPP, PEF and irradiation) that avoid the increase of temperature during processing. HPP stands for High Pressure Processing, using pressure to preserve the food and PEF stands for Pulsed Electric Field, using electricity pulses. These two technologies have many different applications in the food industry.

Consumers are increasingly choosing fresher and minimally processed foods

Initial costs

The initial cost of equipment is currently high, but this will significantly decrease once these technologies are more widely implemented. So, SMEs need to be prepared to introduce these new technologies if they want to be competitive. Renting of equipment in companies that offer the service is an alternative if the cost of the equipment too high.

Support

In recent years, there has been a lot of support from national and European agencies to SMEs for the integration of new technologies. For example, we are collaborating with 4 food companies to optimize the PEF technology for their products in an EU funded project called FieldFOOD. One of the objectives is to provide modular, portable, low-cost PEF generators with the possibility of connecting several modulators and transducers in series, according to the production capacity of the companies. These modulators have already been tested in the companies involved in the project with very positive results.

Development to industry-scale

The lack of reliable and viable industrial-scale equipment that accomplished food industry requirements i.e. high processing capacity, low energetic requirements and easy implementation in existing processing lines has limited the commercial exploitation of novel technologies in the food industry for many years. The technological developments recently conducted, has driven the successful transfer of the PEF and HPP technology for industrial applications. For other new processing technologies such as Pulsed light applications, Cold plasma treatment, utrasound etc., it is still challenging to have equipment responding to the food industry requirements’.

SMEs, rather than multinational companies, are the ones currently introducing new technologies

Novel foods regulation

A new production process applied in food production might mean the food becomes "novel”. According to the Novel Food Regulation (EU) 2015/2283, "novel foods" include foods resulting from a production process not used for food production within the Union before 15 May 1997, which gives rise to significant changes in the composition or structure of food, affecting its nutritional value, metabolism or level of undesirable substances. It is the responsibility of the party who wants to market the food to seek clarification on the regulatory status with its national food authority body.

Want to get more information about this topic?
Get in touch
Contact person:
Javier Raso
Function:
Professor of Food Technology
Company:
University of Zaragoza
Country:
Spain


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