23 December 2015
Coconut water, the low calorie, sweet drink packed with electrolytes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, has seen sales surge from zero to $500 million since its 2004 introduction to the United States beverage market – sales are even expected to hit $2 billion by 2025. In its shell, coconut water does not require processing for safe consumption. However, once a coconut is cracked, oxygen immediately begins to degrade the water by tapping the nutrition and taste, so it presented a challenge to beverage manufacturers.
Aseptic processing and packaging, which helps preserve nutritional value and delicate flavors, answered the problem. In the case of coconut water, facilities are sited near growing centers—mainly in Brazil and Southeast Asia—to minimize coconut water’s exposure to the environment. Tetra Pak’s Coconut Knowledge Center operates in Singapore, with a team working with growers and producers to optimize aseptic processing of the fruit’s delicate water. Here’s how aseptic packages keep coconut water so tasty:
The Lowdown on Aseptic Processing
- If a liquid contains fat, aseptic processing passes through a separator to remove it first since fat can cause spoilage.
- Then the fluid is chilled, and at this point additional flavors can be added to create distinctive blends.
- Next, the liquid is filtered and heated to 140 degrees Celsius for a few seconds, cooled to an ambient temperature, then filled into aseptic cartons. The six-layer cartons block oxygen and light, keeping taste and nutrition intact.
When preserving natural perishable items, aseptic processing can offer producers several benefits:
- Long shelf life: Aseptic processing and packaging preserves the product’s integrity for months and makes it possible to store or ship it for long periods without preservatives or refrigeration.
- More efficient supply chain: Most aseptically processed beverages can be processed and packaged close to growing sites before making the long trip to consumers across the globe. Without the need for refrigerated transport, the coconut water can be shipped at a much lower cost while still preserving flavor and nutrition. Additionally, the cartons can be sold at ambient temperature, offering additional cost savings.
- Nutrition preservation: Aseptic processing and packaging guards those nutrients in coconut water, which provides a bounty, and can do the same for the wide variety of other plant-based drinks, such as an emerging bevy of beverages made with artichokes, cactus, birch, barley and more.
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