Aseptic purees refers to a processing technique that takes perishable fruits and vegetables, and extends the shelf life by sufficiently eliminating harmful germs and filling it into a previously sterilized package, such as an aseptic bag, drum or bin/tote.
In many ways, the concept is similar to canning food. Aseptic packaging uses more sophisticated processes and systems, but the three fundamental steps in order to achieve a shelf-stable product are essentially the same.
Step 1: Sufficiently kill the microbial load. The most common methods to killing the bacteria are: thermally (heat-treated), along with chemically and radiologically.
For our purposes, the fruits or vegetables are processed into a smooth and homogenous, pourable product. The fruit is washed, and the skin, rinds, and seeds are removed. The puree is thermally treated through system of tubes that heats and then cools the product for filling.
Step 2: Once the harmful germs in the puree are killed, the product needs to be filled into a sterile package and in an aseptic, clean environment. For commercial and industrial uses such as ours, the aseptic bags are made of multi-layer, aluminum-plastic composite which is flexible; such as a bag-in-box or bag-in-drum. These high-barrier aseptic bags help to retain taste, texture, aroma, color, and nutrition without the need for refrigeration.
Step 3: Store under the appropriate conditions and maintain the sterility of the package. While some fruits or vegetables may be more sensitive to conditions such as heat and time, typically, many aseptic products are shelf-stable for a year or even longer. Care must be taken to ensure that the package, such as an aseptic bag, is not punctured or opened until it’s ready to use. Once the aseptic barrier is cut or perforated, it is no longer a shelf-stable product since barrier is broken. Typically, in the industries we serve, the whole package is used at the time of opening.
Anytime we’re dealing with food and beverage products, we need to be aware of the safeguards that are in place. Imagine the following scenario. A frozen mango puree and an aseptic mango puree both have the presence of spoiling microorganisms. In the frozen product, the presence of the microbial load might go unnoticed if the microanalysis occurred before the contamination. However, the aseptic product has a built in safety mechanism. As the bacteria grow, this would cause the aseptic bag to bloat which is visible indication of a problem.
In our view, the benefit and advantages of aseptic packaging, far outweigh the extra costs of filling under this method.
- Lower transportation costs for the final leg of distribution. Whether you’re receiving a box, a pallet, or a truckload of product, aseptic purees don’t require the costly and limited options of maintaining an expensive cold chain.
- Many manufacturers choose aseptic products for their inherent food safety attributes.
- Ability to protect the product’s organoleptic characteristics without adding a long list of preservatives and additional ingredients.
- Storage at your facility. Since aseptic purees don’t require refrigeration or freezing, it’s easier to order just-in-time or keep the product in a room temperature space.