A new approach to processing coconut water is helping Harmless Harvest lightweight its beverage packaging while safeguarding the product’s flavor, nutrients and safety. The proprietary multi-step microfiltration process has enabled the company to reduce the amount of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in Harmless Coconut Water bottles by about a quarter.
Although heat pasteurization is typically used to assure the safety of low-acid beverages, Harmless Harvest knew thermal processing would destroy nutrients in its organic coconut water (a low-acid beverage) and leave a burnt taste.
For this brand owner, which is both USDA Organic- and Fair for Life-certified, the sacrifice of product flavor, fragrance and healthfulness was not acceptable. So the company developed its FDA-compliant, multi-step microfiltration process, which is linked to an aseptic filling and packaging system.
The result is delicious, safe coconut water with nutrients intact—plus a source-reduced package. Giannella Alavarez, CEO of Harmless Harvest, answers some questions about the process and the new packaging.
Is this the first time microfiltration has been used to process coconut water, to your knowledge?
Alavarez: There are scientific articles on microfiltration of beverages for food safety. Our breakthrough was in achieving both food safety and flavor objectives. Our new multi-step microfiltration enabled us to maintain the great tasting flavor our consumers know and love, while offering an added layer of product quality and safety.
How does the microfiltration process allow you to use less plastic in the bottle?
Alavarez: When we moved from HPP [high-pressure processing] to our new multi-step microfiltration process, we were able to adopt new bottle designs that have on average 24% less plastic than our previous bottles. We are committed to caring for our planet and are proud we were able to introduce these new bottles into the market.
What is the fill weight of the bottle?
Alavarez: We currently offer 8.75- and 16-oz bottles.
How is the bottle decorated?
Alavarez: We use a PET shrink label, which allows easier, appropriate recycling of the package.
When will the microfiltration-processed product appear on store shelves?
Alavarez: We are currently shipping the new product to all locations.
Is your microfiltration approach a patented process?
Alavarez: We are filing for a patent for our new process.
Could the microfiltration process be used for other products? If so, do you have plans to expand into additional product categories?
Alavarez: We anticipate that multi-step microfiltration can be useful for other beverages and products. The process will require tailoring to each specific product. You can expect a number of interesting new products from Harmless Harvest.
Is there an energy-related benefit to your microfiltration process versus heat pasteurization?
Alavarez: While our shelf life has increased as a result of the new process [editor’s note: the company’s website says shelf life was extended from 45 days to 60 days], our product requires chilled distribution to protect the delicate coconut flavor and to limit enzyme activity.
Cooked products are usually distributed at ambient temperature, which requires less energy.