Process Produces Safe, Fresh-Tasting Satsuma Juice

Josh McGillMandarins, Orange Juice, Technology

Fresh-tasting satsuma orange juice with a commercially feasible shelf life is the goal of University of Georgia (UGA) Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center (FoodPIC) scientists and food technology company Food Physics.

A bottled sample of the minimally processed Georgia-made satsuma juice. (Photo by Ashley Biles)

FoodPIC and Food Physics are working together to perfect a technique known as pulsed electric field technology (PEF). PEF uses short bursts of high voltage —15,000 volts per centimeter — to inactivate any harmful bacteria that may be found in the product. It is an alternative to thermal pasteurization for processing food products.

“The idea is to have a product taste as close as possible to fresh-squeezed but be safe and have a commercially feasible shelf life,” said Jim Gratzek, director of FoodPIC on the UGA Griffin campus.

Steve Hellenschmidt of Food Physics has been working with Gratzek and his team on processing a Georgia-made satsuma orange juice blend and a watermelon-lemon juice blend using the PEF process. The raw product for the juices was provided by Mark Paulk, operations manager of Borders Melon East in Adel, Georgia, and Kim Jones, owner of Florida Georgia Citrus in Monticello, Florida.

The company uses satsumas because they want a high-end flavor that would be protected by the PEF process, Hellenschmidt said. The results from the test at FoodPIC were encouraging — the raw and PEF processed samples were indistinguishable in taste.

“The method we are using fundamentally changes the process for high-acid fruit juice production to create a higher-level product quality,” said Hellenschmidt. “Our aim is to be indistinguishable from fresh-squeezed juice.”

While working with FoodPIC scientists, Food Physics was able to produce test samples at a pilot factory scale, which helped confirm that taste performance was still outstanding at factory-comparable production rates.  

“Our strategy is a pull strategy, to create a product to show how great it is, and then have the companies contact Food Physics,” said Hellenschmidt.

Food Physics markets PEF equipment produced by Elea, a food-processing systems company based in Germany. Elea, in partnership with Food Physics, has been working to build a market in the United States for three years.

FoodPIC specializes in assisting food entrepreneurs and businesses develop and commercialize new food products.

Source: University of Georgia

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