While purees in shelf-stable aseptic packaging are not new, Manitoba-based Canadian Prairie Garden Purees utilizes a patented ultra-high temperature direct steam injection process that ‘flash cooks’ legumes, fruits and veggies in 4-20 seconds, producing purees with an exceptionally ‘fresh’ appearance, CEO Kelly Beaulieu told FoodNavigator-USA.
Lab tests conducted by third parties also show that the purees - which have a shelf-life of two years and do not need to be stored in a fridge or freezer - are higher in vitamin C and other heat-sensitive nutrients than IQF (individually quick frozen) products, she claimed.
And while there are other steam fusion cooking systems out there, scraped surface heat exchanger systems - which take far longer to cook the purees - are much more common in the industry, she said.
“Our steam fusion cooking system is unique. The very high temperature with a very short cook time and the very rapid cool down are the key reasons we have a superior product.”
The industry ‘game changer’ for quality aseptic purees
The firm, which started manufacturing on an industrial scale from a new facility in Portage la Prairie in April, has had overwhelming positive feedback from customers interesting in using its purees in everything from soups and smoothies to baby food, hummus and sauces, added Beaulieu.
"Every customer who has looked at them from the biggest of the big food manufacturers on down has told us we have the industry ‘game changer’ for quality aseptic purees.”
Indeed, several wrote letters of intent to purchase the products after seeing samples made using Canadian Prairie Garden Purees’ pilot facilities - which helped Beaulieu and business partners Martin and Harvey Pollock raise the capital to build the commercial scale plant, she said.
The pilot plant has now been converted into an R&D facility, enabling the firm to work with customers to test products before they commit to full-scale production, she added.
Two-year shelf life, ambient storage, and no preservatives… but looks fresh
The fact that the purees are shelf-stable with no preservatives but look and taste fresh, is key to their appeal, she added.
"Our navy bean puree is exceptionally good - thick and white but with a bland flavor so it’s being used by companies looking to replace some ricotta cheese in lasagnas to reduce the fat/calories. Companies are also using it to add protein to a range of products. Our red beet puree also works really well in smoothies.
“The clean label aspect is very important, but not having to store them in the fridge or freezer also makes a big difference."
The price is also competitive because operational costs are lower than firms using alternate aseptic systems, she claimed, citing lower water and energy usage among other things.
We’re surrounded by miles of farmland perfect for growing vegetable, berry and legume crops
Beaulieu, an agronomist who has brought in experts who used to work at Campbell Soup to help build the business, says the most rewarding aspect of setting up as a food processor has been working with growers to use vegetables that were previously being discarded because they were not suitable for the fresh markets (eg. not the right shape, size).
“We’re surrounded by miles and miles of farmland perfect for growing vegetable, berry and legume crops. We have deep, rich black soils that are high in organic matter and that translates into better tasting vegetables.”
The growing areas are also close to rivers and aquifers while the soil has exceptionally low levels of heavy metal contaminants, she added.
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