Pasteurization is a word most people are familiar with, especially when it comes to milk, but as for how the process happens or the magnitude of products that undergo it, far fewer people are in the know. In short, any foodstuff with moisture content can be preserved and commonly are, including alcohol, soups and dairy products. “Pasteurization” was made famous by Louis Pasteur in the nineteenth century, but the process of heating for preservation purposes dates back hundreds of years before Pasteur’s invention and has undergone technological changes to its form today.
Just how big the market opportunity is depends upon what view an analysts takes, but safe to say it’s quite large even with narrow consideration for uses. For example, the global dairy market value is forecast by Statista for $442 billion in 2019 from $336 billion in 2014. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Global Dairy Sector: Facts shows that 770 billion liters of milk were produced in 2013, with a value of $328 billion.
And that’s just milk/dairy.
In the future, technology will shepherd the next evolution in preservation, which could include the unique technology of Pressure BioSciences (PBIO). The South Easton, Massachusetts-based company specializes in pressure cycling technology (PCT) centered on developing products based upon properties of both constant and alternating hydrostatic pressure for applications in the estimated $6 billion life sciences sample preparation market.
As Pressure BioSciences continues to grow, its global footprint in that space, including new partnerships and European market penetration via a CE Mark received in February, horizontal expansion with a new use for its award-winning technology into the food market is a logical progression.
In August, Pressure BioSciences announced for the first time that it had filed a patent for ultra-shear technology (UST), which the company describes as a novel technique based on the use of intense shear forces generated from ultra-high pressure valve discharge. Driven by pressure levels greater than 20,000 psi, UST breaks down two or more immiscible molecule types and combines them together.
As CEO Richard Schumacher explained in a recent conference call, “We believe that we have developed a lot-cost, scalable, commercializable method of bringing ultra-shear technology to an economical level.”
On Oct. 2, the company followed up on that with the announcement that it has been issued two utility model patents in China for this technology, and that patents have also been filed in many other countries worldwide. The Chinese patents mark a huge milestone for the Pressure BioSciences as it moves forward with ultra-shear technology.
A New $10 Billion Market Opportunity for Pressure BioSciences
The growth potential of UST for Pressure BioSciences cannot be overstated, particularly as it could represent an entirely new product category that could penetrate multiple multi-billion-dollar addressable markets like the food industry, but also pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, industrial lubricants, and even cannabis oil extracts.
The value of the ultra-shear method is that it is based on the application of pressure to create what are known as nanoemulsions, which enable molecules that don’t usually mix—think oil and water—to naturally blend into one liquid. Unlike conventional methods, which relies heavily on the use of chemical additives and preservatives, UST is a much more natural process to kill bacteria, extend shelf-life, and enable for more efficient delivery and higher absorption rate of nutrients in food, vitamin supplements and medication.
What’s more, given that clean labelling is now becoming a necessity in the food processing industry, Pressure BioSciences is uniquely positioned to leverage its expertise to capitalize on this opportunity. “It adds credence to the fact that high pressure can be used in multiple areas, in life sciences, the food industry and many other industries, and we as a company are experts in high pressure,” Schumacher said.
A key advantage for the company is that Dr. Edmund Ting, Senior Vice President of Engineering for Pressure BioSciences, is a pioneer in this technology. Dr. Ting was the Chief Technical Officer of Avure Technologies, a leading worldwide manufacturer of high pressure hydrostatic processing equipment for the food and materials processing industry, and once a subsidiary of Flow International Corp. During his time at Avure, Dr. Ting was a major proponent for the adoption of High Pressure Processing, or HPP) in the food industry. HPP is basically Ultra Shear Technology without the Company’s novel shearing forces.
A Better Way to Process Certain Food
It’s not that pressure isn’t part of the pasteurization process today; in fact, it’s used every day in what is called flash, or high-temperature, short-time (HTST), pasteurization. In ultra-heat-treating (UHT), hot, high pressure steam is used to sterilize, not pasteurize, milk and other products so refrigeration is not necessary. A third method used today is extended shelf life (ESL), a lower temperature process than UHT that involves a microbial filter to preserve milk.
Utilizing UST could deliver meaningful benefits as a gentler process and somewhat combination of today’s preservation technologies, including a fourth and fifth called microwave volumetric heating and high-pressure processing, respectively. Some heat would still be required, but UST would be the primary force to break down the food product at the molecular level. While necessary in all methods, heat is destructive at some level to constituents of food, so the less heat, the better the end product.
PCT, the Company’s proven patented technology platform, can break apart cells and other biological samples (e.g., bacteria, viruses, tissues) with intense pressure cycles, which allows for downstream analysis of DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids, and other biomolecules. If the scientists at Pressure BioSciences can replicate the quality of its existing PCT method with its new UST method – which seems more plausible than not – it opens possibilities of using UST equipment and related reagents to destroy or capture spoilage and harmful microorganisms to meet a variety of manufacturers’ needs, no matter which process they are most familiar with. Ultimately, the goal is always a gentler process with the highest possible natural nutrient retention and lowest amount of energy consumption during processing, attributes that just could be possible with Pressure BioSciences’ UST.
“UST is a very, very interesting project for us,” Schumacher said. “We’re very excited about it. This is a process that could change the face of the company. If the patents that have been filed in multiple countries throughout the world come to fruition, which we believe they will, it could be very exciting for all stakeholders in PBIO.”
Considering the potential applications for Pressure BioSciences’ UST in the food processing, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and even the emerging legal cannabis industries, it’ll be very interesting to see what the company will unveil next in the near future.
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