Food is pasteurized by ultra-high pressure

When it comes to pasteurizing and preserving foods, few methods are as tried and true as thermal processing. But now Avomex, Inc., is selling fresh avocado pulp, in a clear barrier pouch, that has a 30-day refrigerated shelf life thanks to a whole new processing technology: ultra-high pressure.

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Though some foods processed in this fashion have emerged in Japan, Avomex is believed to be the first in North America to commercialize the technology. "It's a matter of deactivating the enzymes, much like flash-pasteurization of oranges," says Phil Waugh (Roanoke, TX), the food consultant who worked with Avomex for the past five years. At first Avomex concentrated its new technology on a 4-lb foodservice package, which it still ships, in refrigerated trucks, to major distribution points around the country. But last month the Keller, TX, firm began distributing a 1-lb retail package of guacamole in limited quantities to Texas supermarkets, where it's selling at a suggested retail price of $3.89. The clear, unprinted pouches get graphic sizzle from a tuck-style folding carton made of 18-pt SBS and printed offset in five colors plus aqueous coating by Southern Champion Tray (Mansfield, TX). A die-cut window in the front lets shoppers see the product inside. Both products are packaged and processed at Avomex's Sabinas, Mexico, plant, close to where the avocados are harvested. As soon as mixing is complete, the guacamole (or avocado pulp for the foodservice package) is vacuum packaged and heat-sealed in premade bags supplied by Cryovac (Duncan, SC). Pouches are then placed on racks and wheeled into a press from ABB Autoclave Systems, Inc. (Columbus, OH). The press applies water pressure of 100ᄰ lb/sq" and temperatures as high as 158°F, which effectively destroys microorganisms and deactivates enzymes. The pressure is "isostatic," or equal in intensity on all sides. The chief advantage of ultra-high pressure pasteurizing, says Avomex, is that it has a minimal effect on flavor and vitamin content compared to thermal processing. In the case of avocado pulp or guacamole, no additives are needed, says Avomex's Art Taylor, which gives Avomex an advantage over the few marketers of avocado pulp and/or guacamole who currently offer their products in the refrigerated case. Other packers sell guacamole frozen. This too is a perceived disadvantage to consumers who clamor for fresh products, so again, Avomex should have a competitive edge over marketers of frozen guacamole.

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