Heat sterilization of plant derived food products entails considerable organoleptic and nutritional quality losses. For instance, texture loss of fruits and vegetables occurs, next to turgor pressure losses, mainly due to chemical changes in the cell-wall pectic polysaccharides. High-pressure sterilization, i.e. the combination of high temperature (>= 90 degrees C) with high pressure (>= 500 MPa), could present a positive alternative assuring safety while minimizing quality losses, In this study, the potential of high-pressure sterilization in preserving fruit and vegetable texture was evaluated by investigating the effect of combined high-pressure/high-temperature (HP/HT) treatments on two texture related chemical pectin conversions in model sytems. First, a protocol was developed to perform reproducible kinetic studies at HP/HT under constant processing conditions. Subsequently, apple pectin solutions at pH 6.5 were subjected to different HP/HT combinations (500, 600 and 700 MPa/90, 110 and 115 degrees C) and the extent of chemical demethoxylation and beta-eliminative depolymerization was determined. At atmospheric pressure, both zero-order reaction rate constants increased with increasing temperature. At all temperatures, demethoxylation showed a higher rate constant than beta-elimination. However, a temperature rise resulted in a stronger acceleration of beta-elimination than of demethoxylation. When combining high temperature with high pressure, beta-elimination was retarded or even stopped, whereas demethoxylation Was Stimulated. These results are very promising in the context of the texture preservation of high-pressure sterilized fruits and vegetables, as beta-eliminition is accepted to be one of the main Causes of thermal softening and low methoxylated pectin can enhance tissue strength by forming cross-links with calcium ions present. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.