New food preservation company to launch locally next year
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New food preservation company to launch locally next year

Jul 10, 2023

A new Twinsburg company wants to help food manufacturers keep their products on shelves for longer.

Hydro Pressure + Pack aims to use a high-pressure processing machine to extend the shelf life of food without sacrificing texture or flavor.

President Tom Lane said the Avure brand high-pressure processing machine Hydro Pressure + Pack will be using typically extends the shelf life of the products preserved with it by "seven to nine times the normal," Lane said.

Lane also is president of Innovation Food Services, which provides meals to schools and senior centers.

"So, say for our meals, they're good, seven to 10 days, regular shelf life. This might get them up to 90 days for us, in terms of regular shelf life," he said.

Innovation Food Services traces its start back to 2002, when it was a restaurant and catering business called Red's Place. In 2008, the company partnered with a child care center, providing the food for the center and opening the business up to a new market. That led to serving child care centers, charter schools and senior centers, Lane said, which spun off and became its own company — Innovation Food — in 2012. Lane shut down the restaurants and retail side in 2015 and focused on Innovation Food.

Today, Innovation Food serves complete meals to more than 60 locations in Northeast, Northwest and Central Ohio daily, Lane said. That's primarily school programs, but also some senior citizen programs. At many of the schools, Innovation Food also provides the staff to heat and serve the meals, as well as the appliances needed for cooking and refrigeration, he said.

But the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of food preservation, Lane said. During the height of the pandemic, schools shut down, but some turned to delivered food programs for students. And Innovation Food was able to serve senior citizens in need in that time, too, connecting with apartment managers to find people who wanted meal deliveries, he said. It was during this time that the company discovered the need for alternate forms of extended food preservation; they could freeze their meals, Lane said, but that often affects quality.

With the high-pressure processing machine, food needs to be packaged in the appropriate containers and then placed into the machine's central chamber. That chamber then is filled with water, Lane said, and the water pressure is raised to 86,000 psi, which "denatures any microbiology" in the food. There's no heat, so products such as juice won't have a cooking-related flavor change, as with traditional pasteurization. And it doesn't need to use any type of preservative.

"You get that shelf-life extension without compromising the quality of the food by hot pasteurization or adding additives or preservatives," Lane said.

It also doesn't negate vacuum-sealing, which removes the oxygen available to microorganisms in food, and many of the items he plans to treat may also be vacuum-sealed.

And, because Lane expects to have excess capacity on the machine, he can serve outside food manufacturers as well. That's why, though the companies will both be located at 1550 Enterprise Parkway in Twinsburg, he's launching a new business in Hydro Pressure + Pack.

Hydro Pressure + Pack won't be the only company offering this service, but Lane estimated that there were less than 100 such machines in the U.S., and most are currently on the coasts. Extending the shelf life of fresh products like salsa could open up distribution and retail opportunities for local businesses, he noted.

Steve Schimoler, a former Cleveland restaurateur who does food innovation and product development consulting locally, said he helped Lane find the high-pressure processing technology he needed to extend the shelf life of his products. And now, he said, he'll help connect other customers who need those services with Hydro Pressure + Pack, once the equipment is up and running.

Schimoler said some big retailers are encouraging suppliers to use high-pressure processing to avoid preservatives and mentioned that he's already working with a local salsa company and a local meat company that would both benefit from the technology. The nearest high-pressure processing machinery available to outside companies is about three hours away, he said.

"There's going to be a wait list at Tom's place in no time," Schimoler said.

Lane is renovating 11,000 square feet of former Innovation Food warehouse space for Hydro Pressure + Pack. That space will include the new machine, as well as related equipment, like packing machines, to support it. Additionally, since the food treated in the machine still needs to be refrigerated, Lane said the space he's renovating for Hydro Pressure + Pack will serve as a large refrigerator itself.

Lane declined to share specifics, but said the renovations were a "multi-million" investment. Groundbreaking takes place this month, and the room and equipment should be operational by December. Lane said he expects the new company to officially launch in January.

Innovation Food employs about 110 people, Lane said, and he's working to hire a core team for Hydro Pressure + Pack in the coming months.