The story of how leading Florida-based High Pressure Processing (HPP) service provider HPP Fresh Florida came into being can be traced back to a game of golf one Thanksgiving between company founders Keith Sirois and Peter O’Hara. Hospitality industry professionals with a combined 80 years’ experience between them, Sirois was enthusiastically relating details of a visit to a salsa plant owned and operated by a friend in Michigan.
The owner of a business called Garden Fresh Foods, Sirois’ friend was using HPP for salsas to considerable success. “I was enamored with the whole thing,” Sirois recalls. “I felt like this is the future of food.”
HPP, a technology developed by JBT’s Avure Technologies business, can deliver an extended shelf life for liquid foods with a minimal impact on flavor, texture or nutritional content. The system pasteurizes liquid foods in flexible packaging by subjecting them to cold water at extremely high pressures – 87,000 pounds per square inch or 6,000 BAR – which has the effect of inactivating pathogens, such as salmonella, listeria or E.coli.
“HPP allows food manufacturers to take preservatives out of food,” explains Sirois. “It also gives smaller companies an opportunity to expand their marketplace, and that’s what Garden Fresh Foods did. They bought a small HPP machine and all of a sudden were shipping all over the world. From a little company that was schlepping salsa around grocery stores, they were exporting to Asia and other places.”
O’Hara was similarly enthused, so the pair started to look for a site in Florida, eventually finding a suitable building in the town of Bartow. “We’d been in the food business our whole lives, so we understood there is a shift happening in food and in what people want in their food,” says Sirois.
HPP Fresh Florida provides several ancillary services, such as labelling, date code and packing, but HPP remains its primary business, working with suppliers and products, including meat, seafood, juice, salsa, hummus and dips. “There’s a wide variety of foods that can be treated with HPP and we’ll do any of them,” explains Sirois.
“Of course, there are some foods that are not suitable for HPP, and there are some controlling factors when it comes it packaging – you can’t put glass or cans through HPP – but a huge number of foods are suitable.”
HPP Fresh Florida’s relationship with JBT began when the company enquired about ordering its first Avure HPP machine and has continued ever since. “We have a great relationship with JBT,” says Sirois. “I felt right from day one that we were partners.”
The company currently uses JBT Avure’s largest machine, the AV40X, for HPP processing, but has the plumbing and foundation work in place for a second unit, which Sirois expects to order next year to meet growing demand.
Overall, he says customer feedback to the technology has been very enthusiastic, and new customers continue to arrive on an almost daily basis. “What we are finding is a company may discover us through their relationship with JBT, and all of a sudden I talk to them and then I get calls from people they called and spoke to about us, so it’s very exciting,” Sirois adds.