We have helped develop a world-first, energy efficient spray drying technology that preserves more flavour in powdered foods such as protein powders and coffee, and is creating brand new and improved food products.
Spray drying - widely used but energy-hungry
Spray drying is a common processing technology used to remove water from liquid food streams and make products we eat and drink every day such as coffee, tea, milk powders, spices, flavourings and pharmaceuticals.
However, spray drying uses a high amount of electricity to heat the liquid stream and evaporate the water component. Although thermal treatment is important in making food products both safe and convenient, new technologies are emerging that can still preserve food but that use less energy. These products can retain more of their natural flavours, aromas, colours and nutrition than in conventionally processed foods as heat can damage sensitive food components.
Extrusion porosification technology: a better, greener drying technology
France's leading extrusion technology company, Clextral, along with Australian food process expert company, Inovo, and CSIRO, have invented a world-first transformative technology that could develop brand new food products with improved properties and can be made using far less energy than currently needed.
The patented extrusion porosification technology (EPT) process can dry numerous products and ingredients from thicker slurries than conventional spray drying can, which gives products a unique internal honeycomb structure. In addition, EPT operates at lower temperatures, therefore using significantly less energy than regular spray drying and causing less damage to the food's flavour and nutritional composition.
While the technology allows new products to be created, existing products can also benefit from the process. For example, when processed with EPT, coffee retains more flavour and aroma compared to spray drying, and powdered dairy proteins become easier to reconstitute in milk or water.
Creating brand new powdered food products
Likely new products and ingredients to appear on Australian supermarket shelves are food products with new flavours, probiotics and delicate bioactives that cannot be made using a traditional spray drying process.
The potential value in future manufacturing of foods and ingredients such as dairy powders, flavours, coffee, nutraceuticals and beverages is estimated in hundreds of millions of dollars. The world's first pilot-scale set up is at CSIRO's food innovation centre in Werribee and Australian company, Flavourtech, is a commercialisation partner of the technology for tea and coffee globally.
Food Innovation Australia (FIAL) through the Enterprise Solution Centre have provided funding for the development of applications of the EPT technology.
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