CHICAGO — In the development stage for now, new heating technologies in the future may allow manufacturers to better retain color, nutrients and other characteristics in soup. Dave Watson, vice-president of engineering for Campbell Soup Co./Pepperidge Farm, spoke about emerging technologies that may benefit soup, cookies and crackers March 4 at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2014 in Chicago.
In soup manufacturing, the product is held at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time to kill off pathogens, Mr. Watson said. Then the manufacturer cools the soup back down. Nutrients may be lost during the high temperature phase, and color may be affected negatively, he said.
One recent innovation, Ohmic heating technology, primarily involves aseptic products and should lead to faster heating and processing when compared to conventional retort technology, he said. In Ohmic heating technology, electricity passes through the food to heat it up. While the dairy industry may count on Ohmic heating technology for sterilization, the Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., is experimenting with it on aseptic soups and fruit juices. For one benefit, the technology may allow Campbell to achieve an al dente bite in a product, Mr. Watson said.
Another emerging technology may allow soup manufacturers to retain nutrient content, to achieve better color and flavor, and to extend shelf life, Mr. Watson said. Washington State University has led research on the technology, called microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS), which has been in development for about 15 years.
“It’s at a very early stage,” Mr. Watson said. “It shows great promise for thermal processed foods.”
Robotics, originally developed for the automobile industry, has found a place in the cookie and cracker industry, he said. The next generation of robotics may feature a robot without a safety cage. Sensors in the robot may detect people and objects moving around it and either slow down or stop.
Mr. Watson spoke about two types of innovation. Sustained innovation may involve launching a product and continuing to improve the product. Sustained innovation, however, may leave untapped customers at the bottom end of a market, he said.
Disruptive innovation may reach the bottom end of a market. Mr. Watson gave the example of the Model T. Henry Ford mass produced the automobile and made it affordable for more people, including people at the bottom end of the market.
Disruptive innovations are risky, he said, but more companies are aware of them and more willing to test them.
“I know we are,” Mr. Watson said of the Campbell Soup Co.