EPT: a better, greener food processing technology

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.

The Challenge

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.

An electron micrograph of a particle of EPT powder

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.

Our Response

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.

Partners Clextral, Inovo and CSIRO

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.

Clextral: New technology, new foods

Show transcript

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Clextral, New technology; new foods]

[Images flash through of Maxime Collado walking through a factory and then working on a computer and then the camera zooms in on Maxime Collado and text appears: Maxime Collado, Project Engineer, Clextral]

Maxime Collado: Clextral is a French company manufacturing extrusion production lines.

[Images flash through of Maxime Collado and two other employees working in the factory]

With the Australian company Innovo we’ve developed award first technology that could lead to big changes in the food industries.

[Camera zooms in on one of the employees and then images flash through of the employee looking at a screen and then the image changes back to Maxime Collado again.]

 The possible future commercial impact for this technology is estimated in hundreds of millions of dollars. 

[Image changes to show Maxime Collado and another employee operating a machine, looking into a stainless steel pot and then the camera zooms in on the powder in the pot]

Extrusion porosification technology, or EPT, is a technology used to dry high concentrated products. 

[Image shows Maxime Collado taking a sample of the powder from the pot]

EPT can handle much more viscous solids than conventional spray drying.

[Image changes back to Maxime Collado and then images flash through of employees working and then image reverts to Maxime Collado]

Advantageous for EPT compared to conventional spray drying technology are better functionality for the products, the flexibility of the platform, energy savings and finally better flavour retention. 

[Image changes to show an employee inspecting the sample in the pot and then images flash through of machinery]

We’ve searched globally for a partner to set up our first pilot plant. 

[Image changes to show an employee looking at a computer screen then the camera zooms in on the sample again]

We’ve choosen to come here to CSIRO because they were the only one able to provide the technical and analytical supports.

[Image changes to show Maxime Collado and then the camera pans along the machinery in the factory and images flash through of an employee operating a machine, Maxime Collado, Maxime Collado inspecting the samples of coffee and then the camera zooms in on the sample]

In collaboration with CSIRO and FIAL through the SME solution centre we’ve piloted EPT applications for high protein dairy and coffee products and we were able to confirm that coffee made with our technology retained more aroma than conventional spray drying does. 

[Camera zooms out to show Maxime Collado and another employee looking at a sample and then images flash through of Maxime Collado in the factory]

This means we’re able to make a soluble coffee powder which tastes the same as fresh roasted coffee. 

[Image changes to show Maxime Collado again]

The funding through FIAL means that we could develop new commercial prototypes and it gets new potential customers at the door.

[Image changes to show an employee working on a computer then the camera pans up to show the employee at his desk]

Overall the work showed that this technology offers real innovation opportunities for the food industry. 

[Image changes to show an employee walking into the Flavourtech building and then images flash through of employees working in the Flavourtech factory]

Our first commercial partner was Flavourtech based in regional New South Wales.  They’ve decided to license our technology for the coffee industries. 

[Image changes to show an employee pouring coffee beans into a hopper]

Partnering with global major company like Flavourtech gives us an access to the coffee and tea industries. The flexibility of the EPT is what is exciting for customers.

[Image changes back to show Maxime Collado and then images flash through of Maxime Collado with two other employees pouring samples and then the camera zooms in on the samples] 

We are able to imagine new ingredients for products such as probiotics, bioactives or flavour that could not be made on standard and conventional drying technologies. 

[Image changes to show Maxime Collado and then the image changes to show two employees operating a machine]

We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help from CSIRO and their access to a world range of equipment and expertise in the food industry.

[Image changes to show Maxime Collado]

The food application we’ve explored so far is only the tip of the iceberg and there’s a lot more potential application that could go through this technologies.  Companies are welcome to come knock on our door to see how this technology could help them.

[CSIRO, FIAL and Australian Government logos appear with text: The SME Solution Centre, A collaboration between CSIRO and FIAL]

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

Hide transcript

The Results

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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