(Cincinnati, OH) June 22, 2015 – a leading full-service contract manufacturing partner for CPG and private label brands and key supplier of group feeding rations to the U.S. military — has announced its microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) Research and Development Center is now a fully-functional, semi-continuous test facility. Wornick Foods, a proven convenience food innovator since 1979, is welcoming collaboration with food brands and processors who want to explore the benefits of MATS technology relative to their current manufacturing processes and new product development efforts.
Higher quality convenience food products, achievable due to reduced thermal processing, is the specific value of microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS). It answers a challenge the food industry knows well — that cooking, one of the necessary steps in food preparation can diminish food in important ways. While heating serves to sterilize as well as allow formulations and packaging that add to food convenience and enjoyment, preserving natural food color, texture and taste are high quality hurdles. In the search for better food product offerings, temperature and thermal processing time are key variables with critical impact relative to food appearance, flavor and nutritional value. Microwave pre-heating as an integral phase of the retorting process accelerates in-package sterilization, helps preserve natural food properties and enables new opportunity for product innovation.
Wornick Foods’ MATS facility in Cincinnati, OH, began in 2011 as part of an industry consortium, a limited test facility serving its own innovation efforts. Today Wornick’s professionally staffed and fully-functional, semi-continuous microwave assisted thermal sterilization test facility, is unmatched in the industry in the ability to help industry clientele efficiently and thoroughly consider, test and evaluate the potential MATS may offer.
“Microwave sterilization has to do with potential and quality — more food companies reaching the potential of their new product ideas, with consumers reaping the benefits of better quality, food convenience and enjoyment,” said Wornick Foods Senior Technical Director, John Reitzel.
Wornick’s MATS facility and services, including a staffed, on-site development and test kitchen, allow companies to test the MATS process and its potential application to current or new products while saving the capital expenditure building such a capability in-house would require. Once process benefits are understood, investment in the technology is a more likely and feasible step for some. To date, Wornick’s MATS R&D center has served several clients in a variety of product innovation projects utilizing microwave-assisted thermal sterilization processing.
ABOUT WORNICK FOODS
Since 1979, Wornick Foods has been a continual source of innovation focused on delivery of great tasting quality meals and side dishes, with true culinary excellence, in industry-leading convenience packaging, including shelf stable MREs, pouches, semi-rigid trays and more. In keeping with its history of bringing innovation to the food industry, Wornick Foods has long been interested in the role microwave energy could play in reducing the overall impact of heat and processing time in food manufacturing. The company identified MATS technology as a priority in 2011 and joined an industry consortium similarly focused. Early this year the Center completed expansion from a small batch operation to a semi-continuous process, bringing added capacity and efficiency to product testing with microwave-assisted thermal sterilization.
MATS (microwave assisted thermal sterilization) is an FDA approved process for sterilizing foods that can dramatically improve food quality over traditional food processing techniques. In the search for better food product offerings, temperature and cook time are key variables with critical impact relative to food appearance, flavor and nutritional value. Microwave sterilization as an added step in conventional retorting significantly reduces thermal processing time while making food safe for consumption. The reduced processing time affords more fresh-like taste and texture while also retaining more nutrients.