New kit for emerging technologies

Craig Leadley, Innovative Process Technologies Manager

New and emerging preservation and packaging technologies are helping to extend shelf life and improve product quality.

Craig Leadley discusses the new kit we have recently installed covering thermal preservation, non-thermal preservation and packaging technologies.

About Craig Leadley

From more than 30 years in the food and drink industry, the majority of which spent supporting clients and conducting research here at Campden BRI, Craig has a vast range of knowledge and experience, as well as extensive industrial and academic connectivity.

Over his career he has built our multi-partner collaborations, developed grant applications, overseen our research programme, and been involved in food preservation and manufacturing (with a particular focus on thermal processing and emerging technologies, about which he has published a number of books and journals).

Craig supports companies with accessing grants, and is currently focused on start-up and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through grant funding.

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I think emerging preservation technologies and conventional preservation technologies are going to become increasingly important in the years to come. I say that because we have global, societal challenges - things like population growth, climate change, soil degradation, water scarcity. All of these factors are going to put increasing pressures on the food supply chain in the future, and because of that it's going to become increasingly important that we don't waste the food that we do actually manage to manufacture. So, emerging technologies and traditional preservation technologies are going to be important, but we also know that consumers are increasingly demanding minimally processed fresh, light products that are as close to restaurant quality as possible. That's where I think some of these emerging technologies will have a niche because they will enable you to extend shelf life, preserve the food, but give you significant improvements in product quality.

Campden BRI has really been involved in food preservation and new food preservation research since it was founded, so right at the very, very start we were interested in this new technology called canning. Since then we’ve moved into different areas so we started working on frozen food production, chilled foods, modified atmosphere packaging, we started looking at aseptics and then, really over the last kind of 20 to 25 years, we've been involved in a whole range of alternative or emerging preservation technologies like high pressure processing, pulsed light, UV, cold plasmas and all of these technologies. The focus has been always around can we extend the product shelf-life but also give us the best possible product quality because that's usually the main driver in terms of the reason why food companies come in to talk to us.

There's not really any single type of project that we get involved with with our clients, we can help companies in lots of different ways. Sometimes companies are just looking for guidance on which technology might give them that step change in product quality that they want, while still giving them the shelf-life that they need. So, for example, we've worked with companies where we've produced their products using high pressure and pulsed light and plasma technology, lots of different technologies, and then looked at which ones give them the most benefits. We also work with equipment and technology providers that might have developed technology and they’re looking for independent data that they can take to the market which shows that the technology does what they claim. We're working with a technology provider at the moment, it has developed a continuous flow decontamination treatment for water. So, it removes microorganisms but it also reduces biological and chemical oxygen demand in the effluent. They think there may be some food applications, so while working with them to help them access that new market so to provide data to demonstrate whether or not will, or won't, actually work in the food sector for food pasteurisation applications.

As I mentioned earlier we're always looking for new technologies that might have applications in the food industry. I mentioned we're working on high pressure processing but we're also looking at rapid heating technologies. So, things like ohmic heating and microwave processing to look at what quality benefits it gives food companies. We're also looking at aspects like what's the cost of production, what's the energy cost used using these technologies and how do they benchmark against one another.

We’re working with another company that's developed a novel packaging solution and, we've not only helped them by generating some independent data, we've also helped them to access funding so that their business can grow in the future.

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