Microwave-Assisted Aseptic Process Takes Top Edison Prize

Two suppliers of food processing equipment—one in a nascent stage, the other already impacting North American production—are recipients of Edison Awards, which recognize excellence in new-product innovation. The award was created in 1987 by the American Marketing Association and is now overseen by the Edison Universe organization.

Top honors in the applied technology-food processing & preparation category went to Aseptia Technology, a Raleigh, N.C., firm with roots in North Carolina State University’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing & Nutrition Sciences. Aseptia owns and operates Wright Foods, a contract manufacturer applying the aseptic technology to commercially available shelf-stable foods. Aseptia also is working with the Department of Defense’s Combat Feeding Directorate. For the past 20 years, the military has worked with food companies and their equipment suppliers to develop alternatives to retort in the preparation of Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs).

Hiperbaric S.A. received the category’s bronze award for its high pressure processing (HPP) system. The Edison judges cited HPP pasteurization’s ability “to naturally extend the shelf life of food with cold pressure as an alternative way to kill bacteria while maintaining the vitamins, nutrients and organoleptic quality of the product.” Two years ago, Hiperbaric estimated there were 222 HPP machines in service worldwide, with 56 percent operating in North America. Hiperbaric and Avure Technologies are the fabricators of all of those presses. The number of new installations is accelerating, with juice, coconut water and other beverages accounting for a growing proportion of HPP treatment. Machine sizes are increasing while capital costs are declining, but HPP presses still represent a multi-million-dollar investment, and today’s growth is coming from tolling servicess.

The silver award went to Nomiku, which produces an immersion circulator for in-home sous vide cooking. While that machine is a kitchen appliance, highly automated industrial systems using hot-water immersion cooking are being commissioned, with a large co-manufacturing system operated by Sugarcreek Packing Co. set to begin operating near Indianapolis in July.

Edison Awards were presented in 15 categories at a ceremony April 23 that drew 350 guests to the Capitale in New York. Candidates are self-nominating, and a steering committee reviews entries and selects the finalists. Final selection is based on the votes of 3,000 business and marketing executives and academics who receive ballots.