HPP: The Technology Taking Cold-Pressed Juice To The Grocery Store

You’ve probably had a conversation about cold-pressed juice this year. We’re not exaggerating when we say that everyone’s talking about it! A growing number of people head to a growing number of juice bars and specialty shops to get their daily fix, a practice that’s both expensive and inconvenient. Cold pressing—chopping then crushing produce without the use of heat—is de rigueur because it yields incredibly nutritious, natural, and delicious juice. The only problem? Unpasteurized juice without preservatives only lasts 3 to 5 days, a crippling shelf life. Luckily brands have found an alternative method to make these healthy elixirs last a full month, which means we’re beginning to see cold-pressed juices pop up at grocery stores and markets!

HPP stands for ‘high pressure pascalization or processing,’ and it’s replacing pasteurization and preservatives as the way to take a food product to the masses. Brainstormed in the late 1700s by French scientist Blaise Pascal, HPP has been used for jelly, salad dressing, shellfish, and guacamole as early as the 1990s. Luckily, more brands are jumping on the bandwagon Blue Print kicked off in 2012 when they started putting their juice through HPP. More brands using HPP means the more options you have at the store. Now that juice is having a moment, companies like Harmless Harvest, Evolution Juice (purchased by Starbucks in late 2011) and newcomer Suja are using HPP technology.

“HPP effectively kills pathogens and extends the shelf life the way flash pasteurization aims to, but without the harmful effects of heat on the nutritional value,” Annie Lawless, co-founder of Suja, says. “We’ve done extensive research on the before and after nutritional values of juice that has been HPP'd and there is little to no change in the nutritional value.” Whole Foods is on board: you can now get Suja’s single bottles and boxed cleanses in every single store, something unheard of a few years ago.

But HPP packs more than nutritional benefits. Compare a fresh-cracked coconut to a bottle of coconut water and you’ll be shocked at the taste difference. Harmless Harvest is the first brand to marry the two. “The flavor of our coconut water is left unchanged during HPP,” co-founder Douglas Riboud says. Why so different? “Imagine boiling a bottle of red wine: that's similar to traditional pasteurization. Keep cooking it and once the red wine is reduced to a syrup add water back into it. That's wine from concentrate.” (Most coconut waters you buy in the store are from concentrate.) You don’t have to be a food scientist to realize traditional pasteurization changes things.

So how does it work? After the juice is bottled and sealed the bottles are placed in a chamber of cold water. A high level of pressure is applied for a few seconds, and then they’re removed, dried off, and shipped out. So why isn’t everyone doing this? A brand either has to buy a HPP machine—Suja spent 1.2 million on theirs—or take their product to a facility that has a machine. “The process is more labor and time intensive than traditional methods,” Riboud says. “The food safety standards needed are much higher because it’s still a raw product.”

Like all technology, that supply and demand we mentioned above will eventually drive down prices, allowing more brands to take advantage of the process. At least we hope so. “When we began this project, heating coconut water was assumed to be the only way it could be sold on a large scale,” Riboud says. “But the way things have always been done in the past is not necessarily the way things should be done.” Amen!