How Are Gases Used in the Food and Beverage Industry?

The food and beverage industry has undergone significant transformations in recent years. Increased nutritional and sustainability awareness has resulted in a heightened demand for effective and natural food and beverage preservation alternatives. In the food and beverage industry, gas is proving a practical option. Innovative packaging, preservation, cooling and water treatment techniques are critical to meet growing consumer demands.

The United States produced 36,353,023 million cubic feet of natural gases in 2022 alone. If you’re involved in any food and beverage business, using the right gases can revolutionize your operations, providing various efficient and cost-effective options that satisfy consumers and boost your bottom line.

Why Are Gases Important in the Food and Beverage Industry?

The food and beverage industry has enjoyed the benefits of industrial and natural gases for decades. Over the years, customer expectations around the freshness and nutrient quality in packaged foods have changed. Gases continued to ensure high food quality and cost savings for food and beverage manufacturers. Innovations like modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) allow for the preservation of minimally processed foods such as fish, meat and fresh produce.

Gases solve many food and beverage challenges, such as adequate transportation, processing costs and meeting consumer demands. Food industry gas can freeze foods in minutes instead of hours, maintaining their moisture, texture and flavor. They can facilitate the storage and transportation of fragile foods, enhance the texture and taste of many beverages and even provide alternative energy solutions for processing, serving and selling various products.

What Are Food Gases?

Food-grade gases are a category of industrial gas purpose manufactured for the food and beverage industry. They are common in the manufacturing, processing, handling, storage and sterilization of foods and beverages and are subject to stringent government regulations.

As they come into contact with food products, these gases must remain free of contaminants and be classified as high purity to be suitable for food and beverage applications. Although it depends on the specific gas, most food-grade options must be above 99% purity.

Gas in food creation and handling is limited to the following areas: 

  • Additives: Enhancing the taste or texture of food or drinks. 
  • MAP: Gases are permitted in packaging to preserve freshness, prevent damage during transit and ease processing constraints. 
  • Sterilization: Certain gases can sterilize food items without the use of solvents.
  • Propellents: Gases can help dispense food or beverages from storage vessels, like beer from a keg. 
  • Freezing and chilling: Food-grade nitrogen and carbon dioxide are available as cryogenic liquids for fast freezing, preserving the nutrients in food, lengthening the shelf life and streamlining processing. 

Liquified Petroleum Gas for Cooking

Aside from food storage, preparation and processing, non-food-grade gases are essential for restaurant owners and hoteliers. Liquified petroleum gas (LPG) is a non-toxic mixture of hydrocarbon gases, the most common being butane and propane. With the right mix of air and LPG, users can ignite the gas for cooking. It’s a growing phenomenon in food and beverage applications.

Compared to biogas, LPG is a clean fuel. It releases fewer pollutants than any fuel except electricity, making it safe for kitchens. It has lower greenhouse gas emissions than many other alternatives. LPG is used on gas stoves, cooktops and hot water systems.

Gas Applications for the Food and Beverage Industry

Gases are common in the food and beverage industry, from the gas in food and drinks to the LPGs used for cooking. Each gas has its own properties and benefits in the food and beverage industry, the most common of which include:

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the best-known gases in the food and beverage industry. It’s the fourth most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere and is colorless, odorless, inert and non-toxic. Although best known for carbonating various beverages, it has several other applications. Some of its many uses include: 

  • Carbonated beverages: CO2 is highly soluble. It’s often infused into drinks, preventing spoilage during storage and making them fizzy. When it comes into contact with water, it reacts and becomes carbonic acid, giving people a tingling sensation when they take a sip. Carbonic acid also controls the pH levels of certain beverages, such as wine and fruit juice.
  • Cryogenic cooling: Carbon dioxide food-grade gas is used as a cooling agent, allowing manufacturers to freeze and chill food and beverage products, sealing in their taste and texture for longer. Using COeliminates the need for potentially harmful chemical preservatives.
  • Food preservation: Fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are susceptible to pest infestations during storage. Introducing CO2 into storage facilities can prevent this because it’s deadly to pests at certain levels but non-toxic to humans.
  • MAP: Aside from pest control, COcan preserve the freshness of fruits and vegetables for extended periods in the MAP and controlled atmosphere packaging (CAP) processes. It prevents oxidation, slowing ripening and preventing mold development.
  • Meat industry: CO2 is used to immobilize and stun animals before slaughter. It increases their blood pressure and improves meat quality. After slaughter, it’s often used as a refrigerant. The cooling and freezing process is faster, ensuring better storage and preservation of meats without losing taste or texture. 
  • Dry ice: Dry ice — made from CO2 — is often preferred in transporting frozen foods. It evaporates as a gas, whereas regular ice evaporates into water, keeping food dry during transportation. 
  • Fresh produce: Plants use sunlight, CO2 and water to grow, and farmers often control CO2 levels in greenhouses to promote growth. 


Nitrogen gas (N2) is ubiquitous in the food and beverage industry, occupying approximately 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s inexpensive, widely available and inert, making it a chemical-free alternative for several essential processes. There are many uses for nitrogen in food, from preserving freshness to limiting damage during transit. Some of the most common uses for nitrogen in food and beverage applications include: 

  • MAP: N2 is used to displace oxygen in food packaging to preserve freshness, protect nutrients and limit microbial growth. It’s commonly used to protect fragile foods like potato chips, inflating the bags to cushion them during transportation.
  • Aeration: When you aerate certain foods with nitrogen, it creates a specific look at texture, like the tiny bubbles you see in certain chocolate bars. 
  • Pressurization and beverage dispensing: Pressurized nitrogen is often used to dispense beverages like beer and coffee. Nitrogen bubbles are smaller than CO2, keeping the carbonation in these beverages and giving them a smooth, creamy texture. Nitro-beers and coffees are increasingly popular due to their unique silky texture. Typical beer gas consists of 75% N2 and 25% CO2
  • Beverage processing: N2 is often used to regulate the fermentation process of high-quality wine, beer and other beverages, enhancing their flavor and aroma. It’s also used for non-alcoholic drinks made from fruits and vegetables.
  • Cryogenic cooling: Like CO2, nitrogen plays a significant role in the rapid cryogenic cooling of food products, allowing them to freeze while maintaining their nutritional value. 
  • Food processing: Various food processing techniques require N2, including purging, inerting and blanketing — typical applications that displace oxygen with nitrogen gas to control microbial growth, prevent oxidation and enhance the quality of food products. 


Oxygen (O2is becoming increasingly popular in the food and beverage industry. It’s an environmentally friendly alternative for many standard options and meets several regulatory standards. Food-grade oxygen has several health benefits and helps maintain the visual appeal of various food products, making them attractive to customers. Some typical uses of O2 include:

  • Oxidizing agent: Oxidizing meats can help them maintain their red color, eliminating the gray color that makes them look unappealing before purchase. 
  • Preservation: O2 improves the breathing rates and extends the metabolism of fresh fruits and vegetables, retaining their freshness. 
  • Ozone: O2 is used to produce ozone in food and beverage applications. Ozone is essential for controlling pest infestations and sterilization in industrial manufacturing. 
  • Fish breeding and transportation: Fish and seafood farmers can protect their stock against O2 deficiencies by oxidating their water, ensuring their growth, health, appetite and general well-being. Transporting live fish and shellfish involves placing them in sealed plastic bags with small quantities of water and pure O2
  • Drinking water: Infusing drinking water with O2 improves the taste and texture. It’s also an effective wastewater treatment, allowing for effective water cleaning and recycling. 


Hydrogen gas (H2) has diverse uses in the food and beverage industry, from food preservation to semi-solid fats. It’s the most abundant element on Earth. Although not as prevalent in food and beverage applications as some other gases, hydrogen uses are diversifying in line with innovative technology like hydrogen fuel cells. Some typical applications for hydrogen include:

  • Hydrogenation: The hydrogenation process prevents oxidation in oils, ensuring a longer shelf life. Hydrogenated oils have a very high smoking point, making them suitable for frying. The fast food industry uses partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to give baked and fried foods the desired texture and crispiness.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells: As the name suggests, hydrogen fuel cells use hydrogen fuel to create a chemical reaction that results in electricity. While this process is a sustainable alternative to power generation, fuel cell technology also produces food-grade CO2, allowing manufacturers to work toward their sustainability goals. Manufacturers can use hydrogen fuel cells to create heat and electrical power while recycling CO2 into a valuable food-grade product. 


Argon (Ar) is an inert, water-soluble gas with multiple applications across industries like health care, welding and manufacturing. It’s the third most abundant gas in the air, and essential in the food and beverage industry for the following applications:

  • Preservation: Argon is often used to displace O2 in wine barrels to prevent oxidation. As an inert gas, it locks in flavor and freshness during storage. It’s denser than air, settling above the liquid to protect it from souring. The process is popular in the wine bottling process.
  • MAP: While O2, N2 and CO2 are popular options in MAP, argon can supplement or replace CO2-N2 mixtures to enhance the effectiveness of current MAP approaches. 
  • Beverage processing: Argon is a popular choice because it fulfills many processing needs, from purging and blanketing to flushing and dispensing. 


Helium (He) is the smallest molecular gas of all the food gases. While it may be less familiar, it remains helpful in the food and beverage industry. Helium’s reduced dimensions allow it to exit containers through minuscule holes, so it’s often used to detect leaks in packaging. 

How to Choose the Right Supplier for the Food and Beverage Industry

Whether you’re well established or entering the food and beverage industry, getting quality food-grade gases is essential. As they’re used in the processing, preparation and storage of food and beverages, they’re subject to considerable scrutiny. You need an experienced and trustworthy supplier to ensure your operational profitability.

Consumer needs are changing, and increased nutritional awareness is sparking interest in healthy foods and drinks, most of which require food-grade gases to carbonate, preserve, deoxidize, store and transport. Choosing the right food and beverage gas supplier involves several considerations, including after-sale support, timeliness of orders and industry experience. 

If your strategy involves healthy and sustainable options, your supplier should place the same value on contributing to the environment. Ask what steps your potential supplier has taken to minimize environmental impact in their processes. Establishing the availability of the various gases you require for your specific application is also critical, as running low and waiting for orders could result in costly downtime.

The Future of Gases in the Food and Beverage Industry

In a time of increasing health, ethics and sustainability, consumer views are rapidly evolving. The shift in consumer behavior is transforming food and beverage industry operations and allowing them to pay more attention to climate change issues. In line with the shift toward sustainability, regulation changes motivate food and beverage companies to take action and influence positive consumer choices. 

Using gases is vital to successful food and beverage operations, and the future is likely to reveal a shift away from harmful emissions, paving the way for eco-friendly gases. Like many other industries, food and beverage operations stand to benefit from improving energy efficiency, precision and safety. Innovative technology like hydrogen fuel cells could pave the way for additional gas applications. 

Trust Meritus Gas Partners for All Your Food and Beverage Gas Requirements

The food and beverage industry relies on gases for safe transportation and improved product quality. Natural gases support many food and beverage processes, allowing preservative-free and safe beverages while improving product longevity, flavor and appeal. Any business involved in this complex and dynamic industry needs a trusted supplier of specialty gases and food-grade products.

Meritus Gas Partners is a network of independently operated gas and welding supplies distributors positioned to support food and beverage industry demands. Food and beverage gas suppliers have vast experience in providing food-grade gases to businesses nationwide. Our shared commitment to superior customer service and innovation means we provide exceptional local service, ensuring you get your gases when you need them the most.

Feel free to visit your local branch and speak to an expert to learn how we can fulfill your business needs. Alternatively, contact us today, and we’ll be in touch to walk you through the purchasing process and answer any questions.

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