Rapid shake method for canned foods poised for take-off

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food preservation Food

With the licensing of three equipment manufacturers in the US and
Europe, a company's quick sterilization technology for canned foods
has gone from prototype to market launch.

UK-based Zinetec claims its process of rapidly shaking tinned products during sterilization produces fresher, better tasting food at lower cost. The technology dramatically lowers sterilization times for many canned, flexible packed and bottled food products to about ten minutes, down from about 45 minutes, the company claims.

The company hopes the technology becomes the new standard for treating canned products.

The technology, patented as Shaka, will help companies lift their current canned foods brands into a better competitive position against the growing market for fresher foods in the chilled, fresh cut and "natural" categories, a company spokesman said.

John Emanuel, chairman of Utek Europe, said Zinetec's method for ambient storage packaged products produces foods with a better color, flavor, texture and "mouth feel". Utek is marketing the technology to machine makers and food processing companies on Zinetec's behalf.

When FoodProductionDaily.com interviewed him in September 2005, the company was still working on prototype testing of the machines at some major food companies.

Now Emanuel says the testing is over and he expects a major takeup by food companies across North America and Europe. Zinetec has licensed three manufacturers to produce the Shaka machines. They are Allpax Products in the US, Satori Stocktec in Germany and Steriflow in France.

The companies will manufacture the machines as demand develops, with the first ones expected by July or August.

"This is the takeoff year for the technology,"​ he said in an interview. "We would be very pleased if half-a-dozen products processed with the technology were out in the market this year."

Emanuel also revealed that Zinetec has its first deals in the making with what he described as "food giants" in Europe and the US, who have already completed trials in a number of food categories. He did not reveal the names of the companies as the deals have not been completed.

One food company that has been using the technology by adapting an existing machine. Others are waiting for the licensed manufacturers to produce the machines.

"The brands of big food companies are under pressure from fresh and chilled foods,"​ Emanuel said. "Now they can suddenly compete in these categories."

Zinetec claims that cooking times for foods can lowered by up to 95 per cent for canned goods, 90 per cent for many flexible pack products and up to 80 per cent for products in glass jars.

For example soups in 400g cans can have a total cooking cycle of about seven minutes instead of the current two hours. The process has been tested with a range of foods, including baby products, desserts, sauces, vegetables, fruits and those based on milk.

The process is based on the rapid agitation of canned and other types of packaged foods in a specially built retort or autoclave used during sterilization.

A retort or autoclave is a pressurized device that enables the heating of aqueous solutions up to temperatures above the boiling point of water, thus sterilizing packed products.

After canned produces are packed their are put into autoclaves for sterilization. The heat steaming process normally takes up to an hour plus additional cooling time. Food companies normally incorporate some rotating or shaking, swirling the contents to increase the speed heat penetrates the products, thus reducing processing time.

However, the long heating process results in foods that are overcooked, with a resulting reduction in quality, Emanuel said. Zinetec's founder, scientist Richard Walden, found that by rapidly shaking the contents a dramatic reduction in processing time can be achieved and fresher products result.

He developed the technology about nine years ago for a European packing company. The patented process lay unused until Walden bought the rights to the technology recently.

He brought in Utek to help with the marketing. The companies are using a process pilot plant developed with UK-based Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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