Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) have created a university-industry consortium to further the development of and provide access to the licensing of a new, innovative manufacturing technology that preserves foods and beverages using wholesome, recognizable ingredients; no artificial preservatives; and reduced heat.
Called ultra-shear technology (UST), this new method of high-pressure-based shear technology will allow beverage companies to manufacture healthier beverages by reducing thermal exposure through the combined application of elevated pressure, shear, and controlled times and temperatures.
“Healthier beverage options that health-conscious consumers want that aren’t preserved using chemical additives and preservatives with names they can’t pronounce,” said V.M. “Bala” Balasubramaniam, a CFAES professor of food engineering who is leading the project. His laboratory—with a multidisciplinary team of microbiologists, chemists, and nutritionists—investigates innovative food manufacturing technologies and then works with industry to implement them.
And it’s not just drinks that might soon be preserved in a much healthier way. UST can also be used by food manufacturers in the healthier processing of sauces, condiments, and other foods, Balasubramaniam said.
“UST is a new processing tool that enables liquid food and beverage producers to meet the changing dietary desires of health-conscious consumers,” he said. “These consumers are interested in minimally processed liquid foods and beverages that not only quench thirst, but also satisfy their healthy lifestyle aspirations.
“Products such as plant-protein beverages, dairy beverages, sports drinks, fortified waters, juices, nutritional drinks, and pastes/sauces will all benefit from the reduced thermal exposure, shorter treatment time, higher end-product quality, and longer shelf life made possible with UST processing. UST-treated beverages also results in improved bioavailability, texture, and sensorial properties.”
Known internationally for his research on high-pressure and other types of nonthermal processing, or safely processing food using significantly less heat, Balasubramaniam holds joint appointments in the CFAES departments of Food Science and Technology and Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.
Other members of the CFAES research team include Ahmed Yousef, professor of food microbiology; Rafael Jimenez-Flores, the J.T. “Stubby” Parker Endowed Chair in Dairy Foods; and Christopher Simons, associate professor of sensory science.
Balasubramaniam’s team has partnered with scientists and engineers at Pressure BioSciences Inc., (OTCQB: PBIO) a Massachusetts-based company that manufactures high-pressure-based equipment and laboratory instrumentation for the life science industry, on the UST project.
Edmund Ting, a senior vice president at the company, led the development of the laboratory scale and pilot plant equipment that CFAES researchers use in the research project.
“The ability to modify products through UST-directed physical stress will create many new opportunities in the commercialization of liquid foods and beverages, as well as in such enormous markets as nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals,” Ting said.
Additionally, “the new UST treatment allows products to better retain their flavor, taste, and nutrients, and allows products that require refrigeration to be shelf-stable longer, which saves energy and reduces waste,” said Richard T. Schumacher, CEO of PBIO.
The team’s UST research is funded through a four-year, $891,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The UST equipment developed under the project will be used to demonstrate the technology to the beverage and food processing industry through pilot plant demonstrations and testing, Balasubramaniam said.
“Further, this will also facilitate the training of the next generation of workforce with knowledge on various advanced food manufacturing technology concepts” he said.
Interested food processors can join the consortium for further development of and access to the licensing of UST for use with plant, dairy, and functional beverages and other liquid food products, Balasubramaniam said.
“Access to UST technology through the consortium is expected to be particularly beneficial for medium- and small-scale food processors and entrepreneurs who otherwise have limited technical resources to evaluate such novel food manufacturing processes,” he said. “The ultimate goal is for consumers to benefit from the increased availability of wholesome, healthy beverage and food options.”
Food processors can learn more about UST technology through a pilot scale system at Ohio State’s Center for Clean Process Technology Development. Consortium members will also have first rights to nonexclusively license all new applications for commercial utilization in their own products, worldwide.
To learn more about the consortium, interested food processors can contact Balasubramaniam at 614-292-1732 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, they can contact Ting at 253-347-0026 or Eting@pressurebiosciences.com.