Good Food

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Still fresh? A shelf-life-extending technology creates a rift in the juice world

Juice on shelvesFresh is de rigueur when it comes to cold-pressed juice, but as demand for liquified kale and cucumber grows, some brands are struggling with how that plays out on a larger scale.

Many, like BluePrint and Starbucks’ Evolution Fresh, have adopted a technology called High Pressure Processing (HPP) that allows them to extend the shelf life of their bottled products. Others, like Juice Press and CoolerCleanse, see it as a kind of selling out—a  practice that undermines the concept of juicing. (Organic Avenue does not currently use HPP, but a spokesperson had “no comment” on whether they would in the future.)

Why the hubbub?

High Pressure Processing (also called Pascalization and High Hydrostatic Pressure) kills pathogens by applying a uniform amount of intense pressure to already packaged products in a tank. It’s been used on packaged foods like guacamole and applesauce in the past.

Juice companies have recently jumped on the technology (which has been around a while) because while pasteurization destroys vitamins, minerals, and enzymes with intense heat, HPP is said to leave most of the healthy molecules of raw cold-pressed ingredients intact.

“For the enzymes and nutrients we’re interested in, there definitely is, from my perspective, ample evidence to show that HPP is able to maintain the fresh, natural, raw characteristics of the product,” says Dr. Jennifer McEntire, a food safety expert and spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists. Most research to-date supports that, showing little to no changes in nutrient quality. For example, this study showed that orange and orange-carrot-lemon juices treated with HPP retained nearly the same vitamin C and carotenoid levels as the fresh product.

Love Grace Foods

Indie brands like Love Grace Foods are turning to HPP for preservation.

So for the companies using it, like BluePrint, Evolution Fresh, Harmless Harvest coconut water (and even indie brands like Love Grace Foods), the process allows them to sell juices on a larger scale in markets like Whole Foods and Fairways, while still touting nutrient quality. “If you want to sell juice commercially, at the grocery store, it’s either got to be treated or bear a pretty nasty label,” Dr. McEntire explains.

That’s not to say that HPP does not affect the juice at all. It can change enzymes in not entirely predictable ways, and small studies have shown, for example, that tomato puree and juice lost some of its lycopene content or that protein in broccoli was reduced. These changes, while minimal, worry companies like Juice Press and Cooler Cleanse, who object to the process on a philosophical level.

Emily Parr, a spokesperson for CoolerCleanse/Juice Generation, said that the company had seriously considered using HPP but decided against it after doing its homework. “It’s important to us that we offer our customers unpasteurized and untreated juices as that’s ultimately why they’re looking to consume fresh juices,” Parr says. “To me, knowing that something has been sitting in a refrigerator for 12-14 days defeats the purpose of flooding my body with live nutrients and enzymes.”

Juice Press founder Marcus Antebi agrees, scoffing at the idea that his competitors would call juices treated with HPP fresh. “Everybody is trying to make the product cheaper and last longer. It’s not supposed to last a long time,” he says. Maybe not, but increasingly, it will. —Lisa Elaine Held

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