Food&Beverage Networker Issue 04/21

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ISSUE 04/21 | €15


LONGEVITY IN LABELLING – Labelling equipment innovation

GREEN BEANS – Utilising cellular agriculture to produce coffee

FUTURE LABS – Post-pandemic advancements in F&B labs

IMMUNE HEALTH BOON – Functional foods

Continuous production of high-quality doughs hether producing rolls, baguettes or other baked goods – the aim is always consistent, high quality. That starts with a perfectly prepared dough – now delivered by the innovative, continuously operating CODOS® mixing and kneading system. After further advancement, the renowned Codos® system concept has been repositioned and introduced to the market as Fresh-Up – a modular mixing and kneading system with new components. The complete system comprises CODOS® tower, DymoMix® and CODOS® NT kneader, which can be used in different combinations for various applications.


CODOS® tower – Liquid and solid matter dosage to feed the continuous system. CODOS® tower – the initial unit in the CODOS® system – consists of a storage container with mixing tool and a differential weigh feeder positioned underneath to

produce a continuous, constant mass flow of powdered raw materials. Additionally, CODOS® tower contains liquid dosing units for tempered water and other liquids (e.g., yeast suspension, salt solution). The liquids are continuously metered together with the powdered raw materials. Pumps (for dosing liquids), flow meters, and the necessary valves are located on liquid panels on CODOS® tower. DymoMix® – Special hydration leads to better dough quality. DymoMix® hydration system can be used as a premixer in the CODOS® system, and as a complementary production step between dosing and kneading, or other further processing steps. Unlike conventional systems (where a high-pressure water jet is used for hydration), the special feature in DymoMix® is that powdery components are hydrated with water or oil to immediately form a homogeneous mixture – a process that improves dough quality, even at low moisture contents.

CODOS® NT – Optimum dough quality via gentle kneading. Dough is formed in the horizontallyoperating, continuous CODOS® NT kneader. Special helical interlocking twin shafts apply the energy required to knead the dough, while the bowshaped kneading attachments ensure a gentle action without cutting the dough. Energy input can be controlled via the speed of the kneading shafts, as can dwell time of the dough. A doublewalled, temperature-controlled trough design ensures the dough maintains the desired temperature. Temperature control during the mixing process Where a chilled, laminated dough is required (e.g., for croissants), the flour is kneaded with ice water to attain a dough temperature of 18°C or lower. For hamburger buns, where a warm dough (28-30°C) is required, mixing water temperature is automatically controlled to ensure the correct temperature of the dough after kneading. Dosing of sensitive raw materials Ingredients can be added at any point in the mixing and kneading process. Process flexibility also allows the dwell time of individual components to be controlled, meaning sensitive raw materials (e.g., fruit chunks, flakes) can be fed at the end of the process.

More power, lower energy consumption The CODOS® system features a compact, space-saving design. With an output range of 500-6,000kg/h, the new generation CODOS® NT is a major advancement in terms of capacity and efficiency. Advantages include precise temperature control, raw material metering accuracy, and low energy and maintenance requirements, alongside ease-of-use and flexibility. The hightorque, water-cooled servo motor offers both energy and space savings.

Special features of the CODOS® system The continuous mode of operation results in extremely uniform dough preparation, and constant dough ripeness and stability – even before baking. Fluctuations in quality and weight are a thing of the past. The mixing of ingredients and kneading of the dough can be processed separately, thus increasing efficiency and shrinking energy demand by as much as 30% (and this with increasing yield). The main application area for the CODOS® system is monolines, where production can run around the clock.

EDITORIAL | Sarah Pursey, Editor

DOING MORE WITH LESS Manual operations have long proved a bottleneck to efficiency across the food supply chain. However, various pandemicinduced constraints imposed on F&B businesses over the past 18 months or so have served to open minds about what benefits automation could deliver – from boosting productivity and minimising waste, to creating safer operations, increasing process data visibility, assuring quality and enhancing sustainability. In tandem, robotic technologies not so long ago considered experimental are set to become viable to SMEs within the next three years, as a result of the cost and complexity of such tech coming down and the number of suppliers shooting up. Such research comes from HowToRobot (p32) – a revolutionary online platform connecting robot buyers with over 16,000 suppliers worldwide, whose mission is to empower F&B players to understand and leverage upon this brave new world of robotics. No segment of the food industry (or arguably even industry more broadly) has been as heavily impacted by Covid-related restrictions and lockdowns as Hospitality. And finally re-emerging from the gloom has only served to reveal the vulnerabilities of foodservice businesses, with enormous staff shortages today blighting such operations like never before. In response, advancements in robotics precision and cost, coupled with software advancements in AI, can now help to deliver lower operating costs and boost profits in the traditionally low-margin foodservice sector. The innovative ‘Flippy Wings’ cobot kitchen fryer, for instance, is designed to “cook more food with less waste, and save staff for higher-value contributions”, says the smart machine’s developer (p13). Beyond this, the new invention helps to create a safer kitchen environment by eliminating several hot touch-points and drastically decreasing spillages, according to manufacturer Miso Robotics – one of the most successful crowd-fund stories in history, with nearly 12,000 individual investors. Elsewhere, stagnating sales of more premium F&B products over the pandemic period brought to the fore the need for manufacturers to trim the fat from potentially wasteful processes – and soaring raw material prices have merely served to strengthen such resolve. In the labelling

machinery segment, for example, ‘lightweighting’ by reducing label thickness and surface areas can allow manufacturers to cut costs and also improve their carbon footprint. However, addressing such factors without sacrificing product quality is absolutely key, notes Artem Krukov of packaging tech giant Sidel (p6). Indeed, Krukov says it is more accurate to call what machinery companies like his are striving for in their innovations as “rightweighting” – that is, ensuring that the materials and processes required to make the package are minimised, while retaining the technical performance and high consumer appeal of such formats. Naturally, new machinery whose operation can achieve a reduction of required inputs – be it energy, water, or raw materials – will also deliver intrinsic sustainability benefits, creating a win-win situation. In Brazil, for example, Krones’ technology has helped a leading brewery outfit to develop its facility following the pillars of Industry 4.0 – aimed at maximising productivity, minimising the generation of industrial waste, and respecting the best water and energy consumption practices (p12). Meanwhile in the UK, L&G Engineering has developed an innovative range of fryers – underpinned by highly efficient gas burner technology – that can achieve fuel savings of up to 50 per cent when compared to competitor machine models, thus slashing costs and emissions alike for food manufacturers (p60). On a macro level, with the world’s population set to exceed 10 billion by the century’s mid-point, the need to do more with less could not be clearer – and in this respect, nascent tech like cellular agriculture holds clear promise as a way of fundamentally rewiring our food production systems. In Switzerland, technology giant Bühler’s new tie-up with major flavour company Givaudan and leading retailer Migros is focused on advancing this highly prospective market space (p19). Boasting expertise across the value chain, such collaborations will arguably be more important than ever in the years ahead, drawing down on deeper insight in order to better innovate the machinery and infrastructure that will transform our industry – for the sake of both productivity and planet. o

Sarah Pursey EDITOR

Gemma Kent


James Midgley Helena Haimes Karl Wright Matthew Spriggs


Kelly Frosdick Leza Briggs


James Miles


Adel Mhiri


Graeme Watts Gary Crooks Joshua Groom


Darren Fuller IT SUPPORT

Tel: +44 (0)1603 319450

Email: © Food & Beverage Networker 2021 No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form for any purpose other than short sections for the purpose of review, without prior consent of the publisher.


ISSUE 04/21



Editorial Doing more with less.


Business News Recent global developments in the F&B sector.


Machinery & Equipment Series Longevity in labelling – Labelling equipment innovation. Future labs – Post-pandemic advancements in F&B labs. License to krill – World’s first pilot plant for hydrolysing krill protein. Machinery & Equipment news.


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Science & Technology The loyalty link – Embargo’s CRM platform for Hospitality.


Sustainability Raising a glass to COP26 ambitions – Sustainable wine-making in Oregon. Swiss players aim for piece of cultured meat pie – New cellular agriculture tie-up. Green beans – Utilising cellular agriculture to produce coffee. Sustainability news.


New Products New product showcase.


Trends In Trade Immune health boon – Functional foods and health. Trading spaces – HFSS product restrictions.


Special Reports Building brands, boosting profits – Food Entrepreneur Show pre-event insights. New Delhi showcase for new era of F&B tech – ANUTEC-International FoodTec India pre-show. Meeting of F&B industry minds in Milan – HostMilano and TUTTOFOOD post-event insights.


Events A round-up of F&B sector focused events for 2021 and 2022.


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Swedish foodtech startup N!CK’S raises $100m equity investment SWEDEN: N!CK’S – the Swedish-born, global food-tech innovator of healthy and indulgent snacks and ice cream – has announced it has raised US$100 million in Series C funding. Led by Kinnevik, Ambrosia Investments and Temasek, the round is filled out by Gullspång – an early investor in Oatly, Peak Bridge, Capagro and Nicoya. The funding will be used to further bolster European and North American

growth, through expanding the product portfolio and doubling the firm’s store count in 2022. N!CK’S will also make significant investments in R&D efforts concentrated on innovative solutions that make the world a healthier place. Other priorities include hiring key talent and strategic marketing initiatives. Marketing itself as ‘a better-for-you brand that promises consumers they don’t have to compromise taste for

health’, N!CK’S delivers on that promise via proprietary food-science ingredients that offer an authentic texture to popular treats, with fewer fat calories and no added sugar. “Healthier lifestyles and nutritional science just got a 100-million-dollarboost,” said Niclas Luthman (Nick), Founder & Head of R&D, who launched the firm in Stockholm in 2017. N!CK’S products currently Niclas Luthman, Founder

reach millions of customers across 16 international markets, including the UK and US. “My dream is to change our relationship with snacking into an entirely positive thing. This investment round will make our message heard, and fuel the massive R&D effort ahead of us in making more and more snacks better-for-you and better for the planet.” Mirroring the trajectory of other Swedish breakout startups including Oatly, Skype and Spotify, N!CK’S has quickly achieved a category-leading position in markets across the globe. Notably, after only 24 months on shelf in the US, N!CK’S has become the dominant better-for-you ice cream as measured by same store velocity in US IRI data over the past year. Other key milestones include its status as #1 new snack bar release on Amazon, successfully doubling its year-overyear ice cream business in the domestic market (Sweden), and launching a vegan dairy line in the US featuring Perfect Day’s proprietary animal-free dairy proteins and plantbased alternative fat.

Better Future Award winners announced at TUTTOFOOD

ITALY: Winners of the first edition of the Better Future Award – a prize dedicated to recognising food excellence across three categories (ethics, innovation and packaging) – were announced at the recently concluded TUTTOFOOD exhibition in Milan. First place in the ‘Ethics and Sustainability’ Award category went to Adriani SpA Società Benefit with Esfai – Ethiopian Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture and Agriculture (pictured). With the intent to promote virtuous practices for sustainable agriculture beyond Italy, Andriani SpA Benefit Corp


launched a new supply chain project in Ethiopia for the cultivation of Teff. Today, ancient grain Teff is cultivated by local farming cooperatives using traditional methods that do not promote the best yields or quality for those farmers. Andriani's challenging initiative aims to boost productivity by intervening in the local agricultural techniques – while respecting the complex balance between innovation and tradition. The project involves the introduction of tools for initiating simple mechanisation of the work and the optimisation of subsequent logistical and analytical steps to boost the quality of the finished product. In the Innovation category, the award went to Pedon SpA for its ‘I Pronti’ range of ready-to-eat grains and legumes in microwaveable pouches. Steamed, natural, practical

and perfect for those who like healthy and tasty ready-to-eat dishes, the range has been expanded with two new references that are even more versatile and appetising, the company claims. I Pronti with vegetables is prepared with 100-per-cent natural ingredients, seasoned with Italian extra virgin olive oil, and is made without preservatives. Finally, in the Packaging category,

the Better Future Award went to Casa Olearia Taggiasca Srl for its collaboration with Italian fashion designer Antonio Marras. The company called on the creativity of Marras as the latest prestigious partnership in their ‘Food for Fashion’ project, with the renowned fashion designer creating a gift set for the label (pictured) – a duo of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Modena.

AVARA FOODS TO INVEST £4.7M IN WEST MIDLANDS FACTORY UK: Avara Foods, one of the UK’s leading food companies, has committed to investing approximately £4.7 million in a new factory in Wednesbury in the West Midlands. The new plant is expected to eventually generate more than 150 additional jobs for the local area. Work has already commenced at the site, and Avara has stated that it expects the facility to be operational before the end of 2021. The investment includes full refur-

bishment of the former site SV Cuisine cooked meat process facility in Wednesbury – both internally and externally – alongside new investments in food processing machinery. The company said the revamped site would be technology led, with automated processes to reduce the number of manual and repetitive tasks. Avara Foods supplies many of the UK’s largest supermarkets and most popular restaurant chains, and the firm said that its new facility would produce

a variety of poultry products to meet growing demand. “This is an exciting time for Avara and I’m really pleased to confirm that we’ll have a new facility in Wednesbury,” said Rob Bywater, GM at Avara. “The site will be a well invested modern food manufacturing operation and increases our presence in a region where we already have a strong reputation for success.” “It’s a big commitment on our part, but it makes perfect sense to double

down in a part of the country where we’ve enjoyed a lot of success,” added said Phil Davidson, Avara’s Operations Director. “I know the last 18 months have been pretty tough but we’ve worked really hard to keep the team at Avara safe and, by offering real careers, not just jobs, I hope that this is another piece of good news for the community.”

Ingredion to showcase ontrend prototypes at Gulfood Manufacturing (Stand: S3-C2)

UFlex’s Asepto to showcase pioneering ‘FOIL STAMPING’ innovation @Gulfood Manufacturing UAE: UFlex’s highly successful aseptic liquid packaging brand, Asepto, will showcase its first-of-a-kind revolutionary ‘Foil Stamping’ innovation for the beverage industry at the Gulfood Manufacturing Expo 2021 in Dubai, from 7–9 November. UFlex is India’s largest multinational flexible packaging and polymer science company, and the first Indian manufacturer of aseptic liquid packaging material and filling lines under its Asepto ( brand. Speaking about Asepto’s latest unique ‘Foil Stamping’ innovation, Ashwani Sharma – President and CEO of the Aseptic Liquid Packaging Business (Asepto) at UFlex – said: “Unseen remains unsold on a crowded shelf, so visibility is crucial – and the more eye-catching the packaging is, the more visible it is to the consumers. “Our premium range of Foil Stamped packs, one of our several USPs, has the ability to create a substantial market differentiation in this segment,” Mr Sharma enthused. “Foil stamping is an aesthetic rejuvenation technique that is used to make text and patterns on the packaging stand out.” To learn know more about Asepto packs with the unique ‘foil stamping’ effects, visit Asepto’s exhibition stand at Gulfood Manufacturing – Stall Number B7-28, Hall 7.

UAE: A leading global provider of ingredient solutions to the food manufacturing industry, Ingredion ( is set to showcase the latest consumer trends and ingredient innovations through six delicious recipe prototypes at this year’s Gulfood Manufacturing (7–9 November) in Dubai. The innovative concepts that will be presented at the firm’s stand (#S3-C2) are designed to show food and drink manufacturers how they can develop and formulate affordable products with the ingredients and claims that consumers are increasingly seeking out. Ingredion’s Senior Culinologist will be on stand at the event to freshly prepare dishes that tackle industry challenges – including affordability, reducing sugar, and enriching products with plant protein. Formulated with a variety of Ingredion’s textured pulse proteins, food systems solutions, flavour modifiers, erythritol sweeteners, and more, Ingredion’s menu at the event will feature a crispy-coated plant-based nugget, an affordable nacho cheese dip, and a no-addedsugar still lemonade, amongst other innova-

tive recipe prototypes. Technical experts will also be on hand to discuss visitors’ formulation and production challenges. “The Middle East and African food & beverage sector is predicted to achieve between six and seven per cent annual growth between 2020 and 2022,” noted Firas Abu Irshaid, Ingredion’s Sales Manager for the Middle East. “Coupled with consumers’ willingness to try out new trends such as reduced-sugar and plant-based, this presents an opportunity for F&B manufacturers to tap into this developing market,” he advised. “Our team of experts will be on hand to guide visitors through the latest consumer insights and their own individual reformulation challenges, looking at the latest ingredient innovations that can help to optimise costs without sacrificing taste, texture, nutritional appeal and functionality,” Mr Irshaid continued. To learn more about Ingredion’s solutions, visit their experts on stand S3-C2 (Shk Saeed 3 hall). To schedule an interview with an Ingredion representative at the event, contact:


MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT SERIES | Labelling equipment innovation

Artem Krukov, Labelling Business Development Director at Sidel

LONGEVITY IN LABELLING Artem Krukov at Sidel talks about trends in labelling, and how a greater focus on sustainability and flexibility is changing the way labels are created and applied. n light of increasing regulatory demands globally, labelling has become a highly intricate process that is today even more vital to products than ever before. F&B industry players are particularly concerned about the costs of materials, and are keen to optimise their investment while increasing brand recognition. With 45 years of experience in the labelling industry and over 5,000 machines installed worldwide, Sidel is one of the leading players in the market, providing the expertise to meet all labelling needs. Artem Krukov at Sidel talks about trends in labelling and how a greater focus



on sustainability and flexibility is changing the way labels are created and applied. Q. What are the most important challenges in labelling for the beverage industry? Vertical Melter

Artem Krukov (AK): “Similar to the manufacturing industry as a whole, beverage producers are searching for greater efficiency and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for their labelling equipment. There is also a significant focus on sustainability. The label is one of the main interfaces for communication with the consumer. Companies are changing their labels constantly to respond to fastchanging consumer preferences.” Q. How is labelling becoming more sustainable?

AK: “It is our goal to help customers cut costs on everything from material

tions minimise electricity and glue consumption via the new melter and glue distribution control. With an integrated glue tank in the roll-fed labeller, a patented vertical melter and heating control, glue is melted on demand and always circulated at a precise temperature and in smaller quantities, increasing label application quality. This enables reduced glue consumption and prevents glue degradation, glue filaments, and glue splashing, for better overall quality and improved sustainability. The solution offers 40-per-cent less electricity consumption and needs no gears and transmissions – and therefore no lubrication.” Q. On the subject of lightweighting – how has the move towards lighter bottles affected labelling?

Label application

consumption to maintenance costs. By reducing label thicknesses and surface areas, customers can cut costs and improve the carbon footprint of label production and the labelling process. Label producers are working to ensure that labels do not affect PET recycling. “Another important trend is the conversion of labels from shrink sleeves to BOPP labels (plastic roll-fed labels for wraparound application). This is a very important step in bottle labelling, since containers labelled with shrink sleeves are difficult to recycle. Hence, the shift to BOPP labels not only provides recycling capabilities, but also helps companies reduce their carbon footprint even further.” Q. Could you elaborate a little on what you mean by that?

AK: “Historically, labels have caused issues with PET recycling to food-grade standard because the label or the glue has affected the recycling process. Today there are several initiatives that can minimise this impact, namely label surface/size reduction, wash-off glue development and glue application minimisation.” Q. Drinks manufacturers typically focus very much on glue characteristics. What’s the reason for this?

AK: “We can observe this tendency via two

trends. Firstly, customers around the world are eager to reduce the amount of glue for three reasons: 1) more glue equals higher costs; 2) less glue usage positively impacts machine cleanliness, which leads to higher efficiency; and 3) glue affects the recycling process. Most importantly, customers want to address all of these factors without sacrificing product quality. The second trend can be seen only in some countries: customers want to increase glue distribution to make label application more solid and stable. “Sidel has developed a unique solution that fulfils both requirements – namely, by leveraging the BOPP solution, we have developed a laser-engraved glue roller (a standard scope for the roll-fed machine portfolio). Thus, we can have better control of glue distribution and repeatability. As a result, the label can still maintain its optimal quality even with less glue. At the same time, we can manage higher glue quantity as well, and it will be distributed more efficiently over the entire glue strip surface.” Q. How does Sidel integrate sustainable solutions in labelling?

AK: “Sustainability is always at the heart of Sidel. We make every effort to minimise the impact on the environment. “The Sidel EvoDECO labelling solu-

AK: “Packaging design has a critical impact on the efficiency of the entire supply chain. Over the past 30 years, we have more than halved the weight of a 1.5L PET bottle, while increasing output speeds by 2.5 times – with considerable savings in terms of raw material and gains from a productivity perspective. Therefore, it is a story about ‘rightweighting’ – making sure that the package is minimised while still maintaining its technical performance and high consumer appeal. “Some manufacturers use nitrogen to add resistance and stability to the bottle. Sidel has designed its labellers so that they can manage the extra demands of bottle lightweighting with or even without nitrogen. “The most advanced solution for handling lightweight bottles is the Super Combi, where the labeller is placed in-between the blower and the filler as part of an all-in-one solution. With this setting, labels are applied on the empty bottles handled by the neck, reducing the risk of scratches and improving overall bottle quality.” Q. Another crucial factor in labelling is flexibility, and this relates to product personalisation. What is it, and how does it affect labels?

AK: “Labels are key components of any brand marketing mix, allowing manufacturers to differentiate their products and give end consumers the information they need and increasingly expect. The growing variety of beverage types and bottle formats has made labelling increasingly challenging. More than ‡ 7

MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT SERIES | Labelling equipment innovation part of Sidel’s Super Combi settings, the labeller can run at up to 90,000 bottles per hour (bph).” Sidel EvoDECO Multi

Q. What are your observations on the impact of the pandemic on the labelling industry?

AK: “During the pandemic, many people reduced their daily spending due to economic reasons. This has resulted in stagnating sales for certain premium products in the beverage sector, and manufacturers have been forced to reduce packaging costs. For instance, the second-tier beverage producers have shown significant interest in converting from shrink sleeves to BOPP labels to save cost. That is the reason why low-cost beverages have been popping up recently in the market.” ever, flexibility has become a valuable benefit to beverage producers. Top priorities today are faster product and format changeovers, simple operations and optimised processes that use the same equipment for different label types, while still ensuring consistent uptime. “Product personalisation is about being able to produce smaller batches of products with their own labelling in a very short time. Hence, the main challenges are the short timeframe for creating customised graphics and labels. Personalising the label is a difficult process, as there are so many different elements involved. The change usually starts with marketing and then has to go through design and production phases and lastly storage and transport. In fact, the standard process for a label change can easily take over four months. “With the rise of online shopping, there has been a challenge to supply consistent, unique and durable packaging and label solutions. This has opened new opportunities to offer personalised packaging solutions for product protection during shipping, by rightsizing the packaging and making sure that it provides a seamless brand experience for consumers. “This is the reason why we also provide consultancy for customers regarding packaging design. We not only create bottle designs but also labels and secondary packaging, etc. Sidel’s packaging experts are ready to support our customers in figuring out the best option that fits the company’s brand identity and responds best to consumer preference.” 8

Q. How does Sidel react and help customers face this challenge?

Q. Finally, what will be Sidel’s next step when it comes to labelling?

AK: “We fully understand the challenge, and that is why we have flexibility in mind. With Sidel’s EvoDECO labelling solutions, manufacturers can deliver different stock keeping units (SKUs). They might either include several labelling applications in one multi-technology machine or a single labelling application through dedicated equipment for optimised uptime, reduced footprint and low total cost of ownership (TCO).”

AK: “Since 1976, Sidel has continuously ensured and promoted the image of various brands – that’s 45 years’ experience. At its dedicated labelling plant in Mantua, Italy, the company is not only manufacturing labelling equipment, but also providing outstanding services to support its customers worldwide. Earlier this year, we were very proud to have achieved installation of our 5,000th labeller – for Ting Hsin International Group (Ting Hsin) in China. “Looking ahead, we aim to play as an end-to-end partner in sustainable labelling – starting from offering packaging design to providing the proper equipment for advanced product manufacturing, including high-tech solutions for product shelf-life security.” o

Q. So manufacturers can use one machine for different labels?

AK: “Exactly. It gives businesses the flexibility they need and allows them to produce most product types on a single machine. Thanks to the modular design and a variety of technologies, they allow companies to adapt multiple application methods in one compact machine.” Q. What is the most up-to-date Sidel labelling solution with high flexibility?

AK: “The most flexible labelling solution to date from Sidel, the EvoDECO Multi, brings next-level modularity into labelling. It offers a standardised carousel that can be equipped with up to four different labelling technologies, including hot melt, roll-fed, self-adhesive and cold glue. Moreover, switching between various labelling modules is quick and easy thanks to Plug & Play connections, offering producers the freedom of labelling choice and total flexibility. Meanwhile, when being

Laser engraved Glue Roller

MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT SERIES | Post-pandemic advancements in F&B labs

Aleiya Lonsdale, Head of Marketing at Lab Innovations, explains the impact Covid-19 has had on food and drink labs, alongside the technologies and processes that such challenges have served to inspire.

FUTURE LABS ith the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw the mass stockpiling of food products like chicken, flour and eggs. This had a major knock-on effect on food and beverage labs, which are crucial to the task of testing products from the production line, and when it comes to developing new F&B items. Inevitably, health and safety came into the spotlight like never before when the pandemic hit. The highly contagious nature of the virus meant that more rigorous hygiene and safety practices were required to limit transmission. In a position paper written in November 2020, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) argued that air-cleaning systems in labs needed to be independently validated to ensure a Covid-secure environment.


Validating air and surface cleaning systems

One food and drink lab, Camden BRI, developed a new test procedure to validate air and surface cleaning systems in labs – one that had not been replicated anywhere else in the UK. The innovative procedure would test the air and surface activity, assessing whether SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease – was inactive or removed from those areas in the facility. Though this procedure had been created to stop the spread of the virus, it could be used in the future to test for a variety of viruses, in order to ensure

hygiene at the highest level – both in the air and on surfaces. Staff shortages were also a challenge at the start of the pandemic. At the peak of the challenge, some members of the Food and Drink Federation reported over 20 per cent of absences caused were by sickness and isolation. That, combined with social distancing in labs, piled further pressure on food and drink manufacturing. Labs had to invent new ways of carrying out important work safely in order to maintain the supply chain. Remote access for researchers

Isolation and lockdowns led to many scientists having to take their work home. Jan Hrušák, chair of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), has observed “huge, massive mobilisation of [the] capacities of research infrastructure” and said that he expects big labs to build more remote access schemes that allow researchers to send samples into the lab from home, especially with regard to non-critical projects. This new flexibility has become attractive for some labs, with suggestions that this could lead to a rise in recruitment, as more staff may be required to handle samples that have been sent to them by remote researchers. Remote monitoring systems

Flexible working conditions also led to a rise in remote monitoring systems for integral pieces of equipment in food and drink

labs like cold storage units. Monitoring and maintaining these units is essential to ensure product safety and meet regulatory compliance. Labs are now using new technologies like web-based remote monitoring systems to track conditions within cold storage units from home, 24/7. This data can be transmitted through the cloud, with notifications sent to devices from anywhere in the world. This technology is not just limited to temperature monitoring. It can also track variables like humidity, carbon monoxide, water traces and power failure. By giving staff a way to monitor lab conditions, alerting them in the case of any irregularities, this technology can change the structure of the lab working force by allowing staff to work from home or focus on more mission-critical projects. Watch this space

It is clear that Covid-19 has had a big impact on the world of work, particularly for industries like food and drink labs that have had to overcome challenges like lockdowns and social distancing. Through trial and error, new technology and processes have emerged; time will tell if these changes become permanent. o 9

MACHINERY & EQUIPMENT SERIES | World’s first pilot plant for hydrolysing krill protein

GEA is to design and deliver the world’s first pilot plant for hydrolysing krill protein. The new project for Aker BioMarine represents an important step for GEA in the strategic growth area of ‘New Food’.

LICENSE TO KRILL he partners signed the engineering, procurement and construction contract, which is said by GEA ( – one of the world’s largest systems suppliers for the F&B and pharma sectors – to be valued “in the double-digitmillion-euro range” in July 2021. Client Aker BioMarine ( is a biotechnology company based in Norway that fishes for Antarctic krill – tiny shrimp-like crustaceans – and uses them to develop ingredients for functional foods, aquaculture and animal feed. Slated to come online in late 2022, the new pilot plant will produce INVI – a highly-concentrated, premium protein isolate destined for the F&B and nutraceutical segments, aimed at both sports nutrition and general wellness consumers, as demand for alternative protein sources continues to rise.


Commercialising krill protein powder for human consumption

Now on order, the pilot plant represents the next step in commercialising krill human protein powder. It will expand the current small-scale process to a scalable, industrial production level with a capacity of 120 tons per year. “Thanks to innovative companies such as Aker BioMarine, the topic of New Food is currently developing into an increasingly important future market, which is also of strategic importance for GEA,” noted Ilija Aprcovic, CEO of the Liquid & Powder Technologies Division of GEA Group AG, adding that such advancements were “unlocking entirely new sources of human nutrition and 10

health”. “We are pleased to join Aker BioMarine on their journey into researching and commercialising krill protein – and to do so in a way that is absolutely climate- and environmentallyfriendly,” the GEA executive added. “With GEA’s experience in engineering facilities and systems for industries like ours, we aim for a highly innovative, technology-based plant, which will also house a research and innovation centre,” announced Kees van de Watering, VP Process Engineering at Aker BioMarine, adding that the plant is designed with high flexibility to facilitate further product development and innovation. Pioneer in sustainable marine ingredients

As a pioneer in sustainable marine ingredients, Aker BioMarine says it has “a responsibility to improve human health through product innovation and sustainable harvesting technology without compromising the health of the planet and its marine

ecosystems”. To this end, the company intends to decarbonise both its krill fisheries and production. After running a global site search process, Aker BioMarine selected Ski Næringspark in Norway as the location of the facility. In selecting this site, Aker BioMarine will contribute to the further development of the competence environment for marine biotechnology in Norway and leverage R&D expertise from its headquarters in Fornebu. The investment was made possible by the support received through Innovation Norway’s Extraordinary Innovation Grant to bring these activities home after early development in Denmark and the US. Aker BioMarine’s decision to co-operate with GEA was motivated in part by the systems supplier’s consistent pursuit of sustainability, together with the reduced carbon footprint offered by its many process technology offers. GEA has vowed to engineer the pilot plant for krill protein “with a view to sustainability”. o



ITALY: Packaging solutions expert ILIP participated this year for the first time at MeatTech – the trade fair specialising in innovative technology and solutions for the cold cuts, meat and ready meals production chain – at Fiera Milan to Rho (MI). ILIP’s ( exhibition stand showcased the firm’s innovative range of trays for meat packaging, consisting of two product lines: the SealMaster line and the WrapMaster line, available in five profiles, each declinable in different heights. The new range has been designed

following the logic of Eco-Design, so as to have the best product performance with the minimum use of material. Such principles have been followed with a view to the Circular Economy, for an end of life with the objective of recovering the secondary raw material, and therefore the recycling of the trays. SealMaster is ILIP's line of heat-sealable trays for meat – designed for use in heat-sealing molds that are already existing on the market, in order to guarantee perfect processability on the packaging lines, as well as being suitable for modified atmosphere packaging

(M.A.P.). SealMaster is available in three material formulations: EVO with recycled PET content up to 90 per cent; BIO made of compostable bioplastic certified EN13432, and DUO with a classic multilayer structure in PET/PE for excellent heat sealing integrity. Meanwhile, WrapMaster is ILIP’s range of meat trays is designed for packaging systems with automatic lines that use stretch film or flow-pack: this objective has led to the realisation of specific shapes of the corners and the junction of the bottom with the walls of the tray. In addition, the upper edge – with reduced friction and anti-cut ERGO+ (Extended Rounded rim + reduced Grip On) – helps to withstand the

stresses of the automatic packaging lines and ensures process reliability. WrapMaster is available in EVO and BIO structural formulations, which carry the same characteristics of the two homonymous formulations present in the SealMaster line. ILIP’s range of meat packaging solutions – encompassing both SealMaster and WrapMaster – is also characterised by the availability of two different solutions to absorb meat exudates: with Microcell bottom or with absorbent pad. Regarding the innovative Microcellbottom available within the Evo and Duo formulations: thanks to the surface tension, it captures and traps the exudates in the cells without the need for the classic absorbent pad. Such innovations are the latest in a long line to come out of Italian-headquartered ILIP, which for over half a century has developed thermoformed food packaging solutions that add value to customer products and improve the consumer experience.

Weber Maschinenbau invests in ultra-modern production plant GERMANY: The world’s most modern metal automation has gone into operation at Weber Maschinenbau’s production site in Neubrandenburg – a city in the southeast of MecklenburgVorpommern, Germany. Investments are part of daily business at Weber Maschinenbau, which has been producing pioneering systems for processing and finishing luncheon meat, meat, cheese and other foods for over 35 years. Throughout its history, the company has continuously invested in state-of-the-art production technology, and primarily in automation. The new sheet metal construction production plant at the firm’s Neubrandenburg site marks a particularly impressive investment of this kind, and its start-up was celebrated by the company, its technology partner and prestigious guests at the plant’s official opening.

In the presence of guests from commerce and politics, Tobias Weber (CEO of Weber Maschinenbau), company founder Günther Weber, Dr Stefan Rudolph (Minister of State for Economic Affairs of the Federal State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), and Bernd Jaehner, Sales at TRUMPF, officially pressed the button to symbolically mark the commencement of operations at the new facility. The new, fully automated plant from TRUMPF now enables the company to produce stainless steel parts and components that are required for the production of slicing and packaging lines in the food industry in a highly efficient and networked manner. “This investment first and foremost adds great value for our customers as new production capacities are available that allow us to work even quicker. This expansion also creates new

jobs,” explained Tobias Weber, CEO of Weber Maschinenbau. “In the past, the lasering and bending of stainless steel parts created a bottleneck in the production process. It was therefore impossible to grow further and increase capacities,” he continued. “The new lasering and bending automation resolves this bottleneck and a greater number of parts can be supplied for subsequent processing steps.” The new plant secures the location and creates both growth and more jobs in the downstream processes, said the company, stressing it had ‘always

relied on a great production depth’. “For me, development and production are closely linked,” commented Mr Tobias Weber, who is a second-generation member of the family-run company. Thanks to the high degree of automation and comprehensive network between the individual machines, the plant will operate 24/7, which will reduce the laser downtimes by 30 per cent and the bending processing times by 40 per cent. The new sheet metal automation cost around €3.4 million. The investment was subsidised with €800,000 in grants from the Federal State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Tobias Weber, Günther Weber, Dr Stefan Rudolph, and Bernd Jaehner



Krones helps Brazilian brewery achieve record daily performance, filling nearly 6m cans BRAZIL: German machinery giant Krones AG, in the role of general contractor, is supporting brewing conglomerate Grupo Petrópolis as it strives to boost production capacity by 8.6 million hectolitres (860m litres) of beer annually. To achieve this objective, the group decided in 2019 to build a complete greenfield brewery in Uberaba, Brazil. Led by Krones AG, the project included four filling and packaging lines: two can lines with a total capacity of 256,000 cans per hour and two returnable glass lines for 140,000 bottles per hour. In addition, Steinecker supplied two identical Steinecker brewing lines, with a total of 40 tanks. Fast-forward to 2021, and the initial numbers of the new factory are impressive. In early February 2021, the brewery achieved an output of almost six million cans filled in a single day

on the two lines of Uberaba, a record for Grupo Petrópolis. Initial tests already indicated a performance above the expected. Another Krones highlight at Grupo Petrópolis site in Uberaba is the Steinecker process technologies, which promote sustainability. The production process, for example, requires 3.3 litres of water per litre of beer – a result achieved only in breweries of a high international standard. In addition, Krones created mechanisms to recycle residual water from the brewing, allowing its reuse in production. The vapour condenser energy recovery system and the Stromboli wort boiling system allow a significant reduction in thermal energy consumption, respectively by 50 per cent and 17 per cent. “Krones’ German technology allowed us to develop a brewery following the pillars of Industry 4.0, aimed at maximum productivity, minimum

generation of industrial waste and respecting the best water and energy consumption practices,” enthused Diego Gomes, Industrial Director of Grupo Petrópolis. “Our production lines were designed with a level of automation and digitalisation that allows a predictive performance of our maintenance, monitoring and acting, in order to maximise the useful life of our components and equipment. The efficiency of the lines of a factory like ours is 92 per cent – that ensures world-class productivity,” he added. Naturally, amidst the covid-19 pandemic, the whole project was realised in challenging times. Nonetheless, with

planning, agility and synergy between the Krones and Grupo Petrópolis teams, the startup of the lines in Uberaba came without delay, and successfully ramped up to achieve maximum production efficiency in a short time. “Our relationship with Krones has existed since Grupo Petrópolis had almost zero market share. Krones has always given us the same attention and respect, believing in our potential,” noted Mr Gomes. “Transparency, empathy and trust made all the difference so that both businesses were little affected in the face of so many uncertainties and crises that we were experiencing in the initial commissioning phase.”

Robopac and OCME register strong comeback at PackExpo Las Vegas USA: Robopac USA and OCME America, together with US group company TopTier, marked a successful presence at Pack Expo Las Vegas – as the industry itself marked a strong return to in-person events after the difficult pandemic period, amidst strong demand from F&B professionals to explore value-adding innovations. Demonstrations included the precision and flexibility of the OCME automatic laser-guided vehicles (LGV), capable of easily moving in any industrial layout as they are not bound to fixed structures and are guided directly by dedicated software. Two of the most advanced Robopac wrapping machines were also on show at the leading packaging expo. Firstly, the Robot S7 (top right) is the new self-


propelled machine for packaging with stretch film, ideal for loads of different shape, length and weight. The Robot S7 controls the quantity of film and uses

Multi-Level technology to ensure a perfect pre-stretch. The machine is interconnected thanks to the R-Connect remote monitoring system, which allows complete control of the operation of the machines remotely, and total support to the end customer. Meanwhile, Robopac’s Technoplat – the latest-generation semi-automatic turntable stretch wrapper (left) – features an exclusive automatic cut and clamp device that cuts the film at the end of the wrap cycle. The Technoplat saves two minutes of labour per load by keeping the operator on the forklift truck. For the average customer, such time reduction translates into labour savings of US$29,000 over five years, and US$60,000 over the life of the machine. To complete the range, visitors were also able to discover the advantages of the RT Automatic solutions (bottom right) – a compact, 17RPM, US-made automatic wrapping machine.

MISO ROBOTICS UNVEILS FLIPPY WINGS LINE WITH LEAD INNOVATION PARTNER INSPIRE BRANDS USA: Miso Robotics – the startup transforming the foodservice industry with intelligent automation – has announced its newest product line, Flippy Wings. Flippy Wings is touted as the only robotic chicken-wing frying solution designed from the ground up for high volume restaurants – such as those of lead innovation partner and multi-brand restaurant company Inspire Brands. Restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings – part of the Inspire family of brands – recently began testing Flippy Wings at the Inspire Brands Innovation Center. Built on Miso’s latest Flippy platform, Flippy Wings is an all-new edition designed to meet the specific needs of restaurants, particularly those that specialise in buffalo wings.

‘As operators look for ways to maximise efficiency, Flippy Wings gives restaurants an immediately impactful solution that streamlines operations in a cost-effective way,’ the firm said in a statement. ‘Through a Robot-as-aService (RaaS) model, restaurants can see a positive ROI from the first day of operation by making Flippy Wings an easy and affordable addition to kitchens. The robotic solution also allows restaurants to redeploy team members to more guest-facing functions, ultimately improving the guest experience’. “We’re incredibly proud to not only unveil Flippy Wings, but to also have an exceptional brand like Inspire share our vision of kitchen automation,” said Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics. “From day

one, Flippy Wings will cook more food with less waste and save staff for higher value contributions. Flippy Wings fries fresh, frozen or hand-breaded products like a pro, avoiding cross contamination and increasing throughput while reducing costs. It is fast, safer to operate than traditional fryers, and the whole system can be set up in just a few hours over existing equipment. We think team members in restaurants everywhere are going to love having Flippy Wings working for them.” Flippy Wings includes an all-new AutoBin system, which provides kitchen staff an array of food-safe bins where products are dropped to be cooked. AI vision automatically identifies the food, then Flippy Wings picks up, cooks and drops it off into a hot holding area. Team

members are able to cook more while spending far less time attending to the deep fryer. The frying area is also made safer as Flippy Wings eliminates several hot touch-points and drastically decreases oil spillage. Additionally, Miso’s tests show a 10-20-per-cent overall increase in food production speeds when deploying the machine. The first Flippy Wings unit, dubbed ‘Wingy’ by the kitchen team, is currently installed at the Inspire Brands Innovation Center in Atlanta, Georgia, where the robot is being tailored and tuned to specifications. A Flippy Wings unit will be installed at Inspire’s Alliance Kitchen, their pioneering ghost kitchen, to test it in a real cooking environment, before eventually making its way to a standalone Buffalo Wild Wings location next year. In addition to Inspire, Miso Robotics has several other pilot agreements with leading national brands in place, with more partner and product announcements planned for 2021. Miso Robotics is primarily funded by individual investors and is one of the most successful crowdfund stories in history. With nearly 12,000 shareholders, the company has raised more than US$30m in crowdfunding to date and is currently in their Series D round, which kicked off with a market valuation of $350m – a $270m increase since their $80m Series C open – and which recently passed $6m in new investments.

Universal Robots to host APAC’s largest virtual cobot expo in November ASIA-PACIFIC: From 9–10 November, Universal Robots will once again host the largest virtual collaborative robot (cobot) exhibition in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region: Collaborate APAC – Cobot Expo. Universal Robots President Kim Povlsen will deliver his first keynote in Asia Pacific since being appointed to the position earlier this year. He will be joined by Regional Director for Asia Pacific James McKew to delve into the topic of redefining automation. The session will be facilitated by Australia New Zealand’s Senior Technical Support Specialist, Ian Choo. “Last year’s expo, WeAreCobots,

featured 15 insightful keynote sessions, 15 exhibitors and daily live product and application demonstrations. Due to popular demand, we are back for another round in 2021, and this time we go deeper into detail about how cobots are implemented in end-of-line automation,” informed Mr McKew. The expo is geared towards manufacturers and potential users of robotics, ecosystem partners, as well as system integrators. It is designed to evoke real-world conversation around the future of automation – both regionally and internationally. “This year our message is clear:

automation is about collaboration and automation is empowering change across the globe. Both locally and internationally, the winds of change are upon us and those who aren’t paying attention are going to be left behind,” Mr McKew added. Visitors to the expo will discover new concepts and approaches to automation involving human-robot collaboration, take a deep dive on successful

cobot deployments, and exchange ideas among industry automation colleagues and Universal Robots’ cobot experts over live chats. There will be 12 keynote sessions over the two-day period, and the expo will be available on-demand until 31 December 2021. Register for the live event here:


SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY SERIES | Embargo’s CRM platform for Hospitality


Founded in 2017, Embargo is a loyalty and rewards app and platform for the hospitality industry, helping venues to stay in touch with regular customers and ensure they return, whilst enabling a seamless experience for users looking for rewards at their favourite businesses. In this Q&A session, Co-founders Tsewang Wangkang and Frederick Szydlowski discuss the role of loyalty and technology in the hospitality sector’s post-pandemic recovery. 1) What do you feel is the cause for the current disconnect between customers and the hospitality businesses that serve them?

Tsewang Wangkang (TW): “Customers are the lifeblood of every hospitality business. For years, many hospitality businesses have relied on outdated methods of 14

loyalty schemes to make customers return – from inconvenient stamp cards (which can easily be lost) to relying on front-ofhouse staff to recognise regulars. As such, they have found it difficult to effectively track the behaviour of loyal customers, or to recognise their loyalty with tailored rewards. This has fuelled a great discon-

nect, as customers perhaps feel that every hospitality business is interchangeable.” Frederick Szydlowski (FS): “Of course, Covid has only exacerbated this disconnect between customers and hospitality businesses – cafés, bars and restaurants were forced to close completely for prolonged periods. And even

not be recognised a regular anymore. Thus, they have been less likely to return to that establishment.” 2) What impact has the pandemic had on this dynamic, and are there any other challenges that may have exacerbated the task of cultivating customer loyalty in recent years?

when they were allowed to reopen, they had no way to communicate with their key regulars to get them back on the first day. Many of those businesses sadly had to rely on fewer customers around – with fewer tourists, many people moving out or staying at home. The only way to keep their revenues on a good level was to make that relatively small group of guests return more often. However, having had paper cards in place or fully relying on staff that often would have changed didn’t allow them to do anything about those issues. Those customers that did return often felt their experience was hindered, as they would

(TW): “As Frederick pointed out, the pandemic has had an undeniable impact on this dynamic. With people unable to visit their favourite cafés, restaurants and bars – as well as huge staff turnover – they were unable to rebuild relationships with members of staff or establish themselves as regulars (e.g., if there were limits to the number of customers allowed in a venue at one time, or there was general wariness about having prolonged interactions). Such circumstances will inevitably hinder the customer experience, as it will be nearly impossible to build relationships.” (FS): “With a limited number of customers visiting the venue, businesses were forced to limit their menus and offerings to ensure that they were not wasting food or money – this meant that some customers may have been left dissatisfied with what was on offer, further hindering their experience. “Covid will have forced cafés, restaurants and coffee shops to switch their attention from long-term strategies to safeguarding their immediate survival – although I must say many did realise that investing in customer loyalty can solve both short-term and long-term issues. However, still more businesses must realise that if they want to thrive in the new normal.”

3) Please tell me a little about Embargo, in terms of the motivations for setting up the business?

(TW): “The foundation of our enterprise was, in fact, that growing disconnect between hospitality businesses and their customers that we discussed earlier. Every customer-centred industry is highly dependent on their regular customer base and should do everything in their power to make them return. While my background ‡ Tsewang Wangkang and Frederick Szydlowski, Co-founders of Embargo


SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY SERIES | Embargo’s CRM platform for Hospitality

was in investment banking and top-level leadership, I approached hospitality from the consumer side, wanting to combine my enthusiasm for the sector with my experience of how enterprises operate at the very highest level. I could tell there was a need for smarter solutions in the loyalty space, and with the right partner I knew I could do something about it – that’s where Frederick came in.” (FS): “Myself, I came up through the hospitality sector, having worked as Head of Marketing for two of London’s leading venues before founding Embargo. When I met Tsewang, I knew he could offer more than just his experience – he saw loyalty through the eyes of the consumer. We agreed right away that there was a real, growing disconnect between hospitality businesses and their customers, and that the solution needed to be smart, to be tech-based – but above all, built with an in-depth understanding of the hospitality sector – starting from what it is that owners want, how to implement it fast so that the floor staff don't get discouraged, and how to handle the whole customer journey in an environment as busy and hectic as a coffee shop or restaurant during their rush hours. We knew the problem and why many others failed in providing a suc16

cessful loyalty platform. That’s when we left our jobs and focused 100 per cent on making Embargo happen. When we betalaunched Embargo in mid-2017, we knew that we were perfectly positioned to create solutions that businesses can integrate quickly and seamlessly.” 4) To the uninitiated, could you describe the role of a CRM (customer relationship management) platform, and outline what Embargo’s CRM system does?

(FS): “Absolutely. Say you were a hospitality entrepreneur, and you wanted to manage your regular customer base better. You need a CRM platform that effectively identifies your regular customers, and that can engage with them through different communication channels to not only engage but reward them. Our CRM platform, The Portal, is a system that allows you to understand your regular customer base, and communicate with them, but on a much more personal, relevant level – exactly how a loyal customer should be treated. After all, they generate the majority of your revenues, so you need to know how many regulars you have, who they are, if they stop returning, and you also need to be able to reward them. This data is

incredibly valuable to businesses, as retaining regular customers is cheaper than trying to attract new ones.” (TW): “The other side of our offering is the app, which customers use as their wallet for their paperless loyalty cards, allowing them to collect digital stamps at their favourite businesses – you keep all your cards in one place and use them contact-free. The app also ensures venues can actively engage with their customers as there is an intuitive customer-facing product. The relationship between customers and businesses is a two-way street, so an effective loyalty platform needs to operate the same way: the app feeds the portal with the data, info and analytics businesses need, and the portal provides info and rewards for customers.” 5) What are the consumer incentives for using Embargo’s The Portal app?

(FS): “Consumers like to have their favoured establishments recognise their repeat custom and reward it with tailored rewards. The analogue for this was the old loyalty card: get a stamp with each coffee – and after seven stamps, your eighth coffee is free. But how often would you have left your wallet, or forgotten to get stamped or – worse still – lost the card?

Embargo puts all your favourite participating businesses into one intuitive app, and offers you rewards tailored to your purchasing habits, giving you an unparalleled customer experience.” (TW): “Loyalty should be rewarded in every way the customer interacts with the business. Therefore, we started covering online orders such as pick-up and delivery too – so if retailers add online ordering through Embargo, consumers can complete their orders through the loyalty app, further streamlining their experience and ensuring they get rewarded in whichever way they interact. Creating a great customer experience is all about getting the little things right, and having a CRM platform like Embargo makes this easier than ever.” 6) What are the benefits for bars and restaurants in adopting/integrating the platform into their operations?

(FS): “Firstly, Embargo’s CRM platform is incredibly easy to install – it’s a plug-andplay platform, so businesses needn’t dedicate days on end to installing and studying the new software. Businesses are granted access to an online platform, which allows them to easily create their own loyalty scheme, access customer analytics, and drive more repeat business – all on a plugand-play basis. The CRM platform, called The Portal, becomes our customers’ main tool to identify and communicate with their customers. “Crucially, hospitality businesses that use Embargo have access to powerful tools

that don't require any tech knowhow or lengthy implementations from the venues. With a two-minute setup, they can have a digital loyalty scheme and access to key analytics. For the first time, businesses can actually understand who their regular customers are, how many customers they rely on to drive most of their business, and finally communicate with them and reward them seamlessly.” (TW): “What’s more, businesses are able to communicate with their regular customers, by sharing any new offers or reminders that they are only ‘one point away’ from receiving a reward. Such prompts will be crucial for many businesses’ customer engagement.” 6) Looking ahead, what’s next for Embargo in terms of growth strategy and investments?

(TW): “Embargo has just enjoyed a very strong funding round, raising a total of US$1.1 million (£830,000), which we are so proud of. We received a great deal of financial support from multiple sectors, including hospitality, real estate and even sports. We’ve had significant investment from some prominent figures as well, including Nick Telson of DesignMyNight, Faraz Nagree of Lean Kitchen Networks, the restaurateur Loui Blake, and the founders of Hex Digital.” (FS): “It’s clear that such cross-sector support is promising when it comes to future growth. Embargo already operates nationally in the UK and Poland, but also has a presence in countries like

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Portugal and Serbia. We are already planning to scale up our international operations over the coming months – and given the momentum we already have, we feel very confident about the future.” 7) What are your predictions for the hospitality sector’s future prospects and market environment?

(FS): “There are so many considerations for the future of the hospitality sector that it’s hard to know where to start! Take, for example, health & safety: hygiene has always been important for venues, but in the wake of the pandemic customers expect regular deep-cleaning, increased access to hand sanitiser, one-way systems, contactless interactions and much more from their favourite locations. Not only are hospitality businesses going to have to be cleaner in the future, but these expectations are also likely to speed up the adoption of a cashless future.” (TW): “No doubt, there are big changes already underway in the sector. To ensure they will not only survive but thrive, hospitality businesses need to consider the bigger picture – this is no time for complacency. They need to review and update their businesses strategies and consider more cost-effective, smart solutions to address changing trends within the industry.” (FS): “This is where tech-based solutions can really help the hospitality sector. However, it is key to keep them simple and quick to launch. As we said in the beginning, all hospitality businesses have to act promptly; they don't have the time to implement complex solutions for months, only to then have to try to explain them to their customers. Beyond that, on the endcustomer side, the tool has to be extremely intuitive – or else the adoption won't be big enough to deliver value for the venue owners and management. Each tool has to be built with an understanding of how the hospitality sector operates.” (TW): “The same goes for customer communication. A generic marketing email from a business will likely be ignored, but a tailored message will be eye-catching and make them feel valued. Again, only better data analytics will make this possible. It will be challenging, but harnessing smart, tech-based solutions will certainly help the sector to cope with the new normal.” o 17

SUSTAINABILITY | Sustainable wine-making in Oregon

RAISING A GLASS TO COP26 AMBITIONS As Glasgow hosts the COP26 UN Climate Summit following its hottest summer on record, the need for a global response to the climate crisis could not be clearer. In the US, Oregon winemakers are doing their part and setting new standards in environmentallyfriendly winemaking. ncompassing more than 700 wineries and 1,000 vineyards, and growing 72 grape varieties, Oregon’s wine industry may only be around 60 years old, yet it is already making waves in the industry – first in terms of the high quality of its wine: Representing just one per cent of US production, Oregon wines made up an impressive seven per cent of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines in 2020. Secondly, the state’s winemakers’ are leading the way with their progressive dedication to sustainability. Indeed, many of Oregon's vineyards are setting ambitious zero-emissions goals, rewilding land and experimenting with innovative packaging.


From animal-only operations, to autonomous tractors

Beyond that, an increasing number of producers, like the Left Coast Estate (see inset box), are using biodynamic farming – a multi-faceted approach to land stewardship, with the highest standards for

LEFT COAST ESTATE The Left Coast Estate is organic, biodynamic and committed to using solar power, as well as establishing a 100-acre oak restoration project. Left Coast has also embraced creative initiatives such as using thinner glass in its bottles to cut transport emissions.


ethical and sustainable agriculture, resulting in one of the smallest carbon footprints of any agricultural practice. A large number of wineries in Oregon are using strategic vine management techniques to mitigate plant stress and adhere to strict non-irrigation based agriculture techniques for the long-term health of vines. Some wineries across the State are using autonomous, electric tractors that can even predict when it will rain, while others have returned to farming exclusively with animals. This offers not only a carbonpositive method of farming but is also a prescient strategy for wildfire mitigation. When it comes to packaging, natural wax closures are being used as an alternative to tin screwcaps, while at some vineyards pouches made from recycled materials are replacing glass. Progressive policies for natural landscape protection

Supported by the state of Oregon, which

has adopted the most protective land-use policies anywhere in the United States, winemakers are leading the change they want to see in the industry. Oregon lawmakers passed an ambitious 1889 law prohibiting the pollution of waters from livestock and farming, to forge ahead in protecting natural landscapes. The 1973 Senate Bill 100 placed restrictions on urban sprawl – and much of that land is now home to premier vineyards. And today, landowners are taking the lead with agreements such as the Oak Accord, a promise to protect and restore the native oak habitat on their properties in the Willamette Valley. As COP26 sets new targets for action on climate change, the Oregon Wine Board – which was formed in 2003 and financed by a tax on wine grapes – says that Oregon winemakers are proud to be leading the way in sustainability. Given how Oregon wine contributes US$5.61 million in economic activity to the state each year, alongside generating 29,738 wine-related jobs and more than US$1 billion in wages, such progressive policies at a state-level, and progressive practices at a business level, not only place Oregon in a good position to lead in sustainability, but also to safeguard revenues and livelihoods for the future. o For more information on Oregon wines leading sustainable practices, visit the Oregon Wine Board website:

SUSTAINABILITY | New cellular agriculture tie-up

SWISS PLAYERS AIM FOR PIECE OF THE CULTURED MEAT PIE Three major Swiss companies – Givaudan (a multinational manufacturer of flavours and fragrances), Bühler (a multinational plant equipment manufacturer) and Migros (Switzerland’s largest retail group) – have formed a new entity, The Cultured Food Innovation Hub. Located in Kemptthal near Zurich, the new company aims to accelerate the development and market penetration of highly prospective cellular agriculture. here are many arguments supporting the mass suitability of cultured meat: meat without slaughter or factory farming, a significantly better climate balance, no use of antibiotics, and ensured food security. Located in The Valley (pictured) in Kemptthal – a hotbed of innovation and technology just outside of Zurich – a new all-Swiss tie-up aims to leverage upon this direction of travel in terms of consumer sentiment. A self-sustained, standalone company wholly owned by Givaudan, Bühler, and Migros, the new entity – The Cultured Food Innovation Hub – will “provide facilities and knowledge to accelerate other companies on their cultured meat, cultured fish and seafood, and precision fermentation journeys”, the three partners said in a joint statement. The Cultured Food Innovation Hub will be equipped with a product development lab as well as cell culture and bio fermentation capabilities to help start-ups develop and go to market with the right product.


More sustainable food cultivation is critical

vation and sourcing is critical. Cellular agriculture for cultured meat provides the means for the farming of animal products without raising animals. Animal cells are used as a starting point, and then technologies such as fermentation are employed for the cultivation of meat products. The result is meat that is identical in structure and in taste to its animal counterpart with vastly reduced environmental impact and no mass farming or slaughter. “Cellular agriculture offers a solution in several areas from reducing land use and water, to animal welfare, to the safety and quality of the food chain,” advised Ian Roberts, Chief Technology Officer at Bühler. “The three partners in this new venture are each committed to sustainability as individual companies; the combined effort enables the journey to a more sustainable food system.” Combined expertise in industrial scale-up, taste, and market cultivation

Fabio Campanile, Givaudan’s Global Head of Science and Technology, Taste

& Wellbeing, agreed, adding: “Bühler contributes with industry leading solutions that are used in the scale-up and production of thousands of food products around the world; Givaudan brings in centuries of experience and knowledge in every aspect of taste, including all kinds of meat alternatives, and deep expertise in biotechnology, to product development; Migros is known for its competence in customer interaction and market cultivation. The combination of the three partners is remarkable.” Matthew Robin, Managing Director Elsa-Mifroma at Migros-Industrie, described the new collaboration as a “truly unique partnership” with “the potential to be groundbreaking” and “ have an incredible, positive impact on the world”. Mr Robin added: “Consumers are beginning to understand the idea of cellular agriculture and the benefits it can provide; the market is poised for exceptional growth. When you put it all together, it is a winning combination for the planet.” The Cultured Food Innovation Hub will go live in 2022. o

The significant rise in demand in recent years for plant-based foods worldwide has demonstrated consumers’ broad concern for the environment, as well as their expectation of producers for healthful foods that are ethical and sustainable. In a world facing great challenges from climate change, combined with a population expected to exceed 10 billion people by 2050, the need for sustainable food culti19

SUSTAINABILITY | Utilising cellular agriculture to produce coffee

Finland – the world’s top coffee consuming nation per capita – has produced its first batch of coffee cells with the help of cellular agriculture.


TT Technical Research Centre of Finland successfully produced the coffee cells – which smell and taste like conventional coffee – in a lab bioreactor through the use of cellular agriculture. The innovative process could have strong potential for making the production of coffee more sustainable. With increasing demand and numerous sustainability challenges concerning traditional coffee cultivation, there is a pressing need for alternative ways of producing coffee. Due to the everrising demand for coffee, more acreage is required to produce enough coffee beans, leading to deforestation – particularly in sensitive rainforest areas. In response, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is developing coffee production through plant cells in its laboratory in Finland. In the process, cell cultures floating in bioreactors filled with nutrient medium are used to produce various animal- and plant-based products.


Microbes and plant cells used for biotechnological production

“At VTT, this project has been part of our overall endeavour to develop the biotechnological production of daily and familiar commodities that are conventionally produced by agriculture,” advised Research Team Leader, Dr Heiko Rischer. “For this, we use many different hosts, such as microbes, but also plant cells.” 20

The work was started by initiating coffee cell cultures, establishing respective cell lines in the laboratory, and transferring them to bioreactors to begin producing biomass. After analyses of the biomass, a roasting process was developed, and the new coffee was finally evaluated by VTT’s trained sensory panel. The whole procedure required input from several disciplines and experts in the fields of plant biotechnology, chemistry, and food science. “In terms of smell and taste, our trained sensory panel and analytical examination found the profile of the brew to bear similarity to ordinary coffee. However, coffeemaking is an art and involves iterative optimisation under the supervision of specialists with dedicated equipment. Our work marks the basis for such work,” noted Dr Rischer. Towards more sustainable coffee production

Currently all coffee material produced in laboratory conditions represents experimental food, and it would require regulatory approval by the FDA to be marketed and sold to consumers in the United States. In Europe, the lab-grown coffee would first need to be approved as Novel Food before being marketed. Technically, the production process is based on existing and established technology such as conventional bioreactor

operation. In fact, the idea that coffee cells could be used to make coffee was initially presented way back in the 1970s, by P.M. Townsley. “The experience of drinking the very first cup was exciting,” enthused Dr Rischer. “I estimate we are only four years away from ramping up production and having regulatory approval in place. “Growing plant cells requires specific expertise when it is time to scale and optimise the process,” noted the scientist. “Downstream processing and product formulation, together with regulatory approval and market introduction, are additional steps on the way to a commercial product. That said, we have now proved that labgrown coffee can be a reality.” The project links to VTT’s strategic research targets to solve the world's biggest challenges. Cellular agriculture is one of the routes towards more sustainable food production. “The true impact of this scientific work will happen through companies who are willing to re-think food ingredient production and start driving commercial applications,” remarked Dr Rischer in closing. “VTT collaborates and supports large enterprises and small companies in adopting opportunities in their product development. Ultimately, all efforts should result in more sustainable and healthy food for the benefit of the consumer and the planet.” o


Stora Enso introduces unique carbon-neutral cartonboard offering

SWEDEN: Performa Light CarbonZero is a carbon neutral, renewable and recyclable cartonboard offering that helps Stora Enso’s customers to achieve carbon-related sustainability targets and show concrete and measurable actions on climate change through their packaging. The new cartonboard innovation is produced at Stora Enso’s Fors site in Sweden, which is fossil carbon emission-free in its electricity and steam production alike – and from the beginning of 2022 also in its internal logistics. Continuous efforts and investments in

improving the operations has meant that production at the Swedish plant is already very low on greenhouse gas emissions. However, to make Performa Light CarbonZero carbon neutral, the currently unavoidable emissions originating from raw material production are compensated with a well-established offsetting service provided by external partner South Pole. “Since sustainability is more and more a deciding factor in consumer purchases, we expect the demand for carbon neutral products to grow in the future,” said Dmitry Panfilov, VP, Head

of Business Line FBB and SBS. “Carbon neutral Performa Light CarbonZero will help our customers to have a smaller climate impact and to differentiate on the market through their packaging,” he asserted. Stora Enso aims to become 100per-cent circular, net-biodiversitypositive and net-carbon-positive by 2050. Already ambitiously reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its operations and value chain, while the share of fossil fuels in the group’s overall energy consumption is low, such efforts have made the move towards offering carbon neutral material possible. “Our priority is always to reduce fossil emissions in our operations and value chain as much as we can, and our goal is to eventually offer

carbon-neutral products without offsetting,” noted Kristiina Veitola, VP of Sustainability within Stora Enso’s Packaging Materials division. “However, some emissions are still currently unavoidable, which is why we use carbon offsetting to be able to offer carbon neutral packaging material today.” In addition to carbon neutrality, given its superior quality Performa Light CarbonZero is ideal for use in folding cartons for chocolate and confectionery, the firm has stated – alongside cosmetics and beauty care, healthcare and other premium packaging. It has an exceptional visual appearance and thanks to FiberLight Tec™ by Stora Enso – a patented fibre treatment technology – the product is lightweight without compromising on strength.

StePac launches lean, fully-recyclable top-seal solution ISRAEL: Fresh produce packaging innovator StePac Ltd has expanded its range of top seals with new solutions to extend the shelf-life of fresh fruits and ready-toeat salads for the retail segment. StePac Ltd’s newly upgraded portfolio includes lean, fully-recyclable, easy-peel film structures designed to be sealed onto trays or containers that house produce items such as summer fruits, freshly cut fruits and vegetables, and more, for onthe-go convenience. The user-friendly, appealing films are engineered with StePac’s flagship Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) condensation control technology – rendered with capabilities to significantly extend the shelf life of fresh produce, and designed to preserve their quality and nutritional value. Its built-in modified atmosphere properties slow respiration inside the packaging, effectively delaying the ageing processes and inhibiting microbial decay. “We are leading the transition from the use of traditional clamshells for packaging fresh berries to leaner, greener and more attractive top-seal solutions,” noted Gary Ward, Ph.D., Business

Development Manager for Israel-headquartered StePac (, going on to describe the multiple benefits of the new innovation: “Firstly, it generates as much as 25–30 per cent reduction in plastic use as it is a leaner product compared to the commonly used clamshells. Secondly, it is fully recyclable. And thirdly, it provides shelf-life extension properties, enhancing food quality while reducing waste – all of which fall in line with our sustainability strategy. Last, but not least, it also ensures food safety.” Rafkor, a firm that packs and markets fruits grown by farmers in the Upper Galilee region of Israel, is already using these solutions for preserving the quality of summer fruits in the domestic market. “Since we started using StePac’s fullyrecyclable top-seal solution for cherries, lychee, stone fruits and pears, we have noticed a reduction in both waste and quality complaints from our customers,” noted Haviv Aharon, CEO of Rafkor. “This has a lot to do with the shelf-life extension properties of the product. Furthermore, since the product is hermetically sealed, it helps enhance food

safety. This is driving sales of our products in the e-commerce sector. We are now looking to expand the use of the film to other fruits.” StePac’s elegant re-sealable top-seal solutions are also gaining traction. The innovative top-seal is comprised of a laminated structure composed of two layers, with a pressure-sensitive adhesive in-between. A die-cut in the lower film layer opens up a window that displays the produce packed in the tray and

can be cut to the desired dimensions. The adhesive between the two layers is sufficiently strong so that the upper layer of film can be peeled and resealed to the lower layer up to 20 times, making it ideal for multiple servings and can be applied to PET and PP trays, as well as eco-sustainable materials. Each time it is resealed, the Modified Atmosphere (MA) activity regenerates and continues to preserve the quality of the food inside the consumer’s fridge.



Barry Callebaut unveils its first nutraceutical fruit drink BELGIUM: Barry Callebaut, the world’s leading manufacturer of highquality chocolate and cocoa products, has leveraged its deep scientific knowledge of the cacaofruit and the fruit’s supportive health effect to present its first nutraceutical fruit drink. The new cacaofruit elixir – made from 100 per cent pure cacaofruit – has a zesty, fruity taste.

The cacaofruit naturally contains the required amount of flavanols optimise blood-flow across the entire body, claims the company, which also points out the product is a good source of iron, magnesium and potassium. “Besides the 100 per cent pure cacaofruit elixir, combinations with herbs and other fruits can be explored to enrich the range with

beautiful taste combinations and additional nutrients,” the firm said in a statement. The cacaofruit elixir has been tested and validated through consumer research by independent global research agency MMR in the UK and the US. As part of these studies Elix’s consumer appeal and purchase intent have been tested, indicating a high interest in the new nutraceutical fruit drink category. “The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated consumers’ interest in their own health as well as in the health of their environment,” observed Peter Boone, CEO of Barry Callebaut Group (pictured centre). “The introduction of this new

DALTERFOOD’S PARMIGIANO REGGIANO CHEESE CERTIFIED AS ‘MOUNTAIN PRODUCT’ ITALY: DalterFood Group – a leading producer of cheese and dairy products, exporting to 45 countries worldwide – has reached another important milestone: The firm’s ‘Solo di Pezzata Rossa Italiana’ Parmigiano Reggiano cheese – exclusively from Pezzata Rossa Italiana cattle – has obtained the ‘Mountain Product’ guarantee seal and designation. Pezzata Rossa Italiana is a breed of cow that originated in Friuli and then spread throughout Italy. The breed’s success has been due to its ability to adapt to even the most difficult environments thanks to its high fertility, resistance to disease, and suitability for both milk and meat production, which makes it particularly ‘sustainable’ for farmers. Since it is highly resilient and particularly suitable for organic farming, today the Italian


Pezzata Rossa breed is mainly concentrated in mountain areas – and, in general, in small-to-medium-sized family-run barns. ‘Solo di Pezzata Rossa Italiana’ Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese follows all the standards required by this denomination: it is exclusively made with milk from a single farm, the ‘Le Boccede’ farm in the Reggio Emilia hills. The raw material is exclusively processed by the ‘Colline del Cigarello e Canossa’ dairy, owned by the DalterFood Group, which is classified as a mountain dairy by the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium due to its altitude. ‘Sola Pezzata Rossa Italiana’ Parmigiano Reggiano cheese has a guaranteed maturation period of 24 months, at least 12 of which are spent in the mountains.

“The ‘Mountain Product’ designation for our ‘Solo di Pezzata Rossa Italiana’ Parmigiano Reggiano cheese adds further value to a very highquality product,” remarked Andrea Guidi, General Manager of DalterFood

category of nutraceutical fruit drinks is another proof-point of how Barry Callebaut, through its innovation capabilities and its profound knowledge of the cacaofruit, is able to cater to evolving consumer trends.” Composed of almost 20,000 different types of molecules, the seed of the cacaofruit is one of the most complex food substances on earth. The R&D behind the cacaofruit elixir ‘Elix’ took Barry Callebaut more than 15 years, the firm has stated. In addition, there is data available from more than 100 human clinical studies to provide sound scientific proof of the positive health effects of the cacaofruit flavanols.

Group, “In a market in which consumers are increasingly attentive and interested in enjoying healthy products, we believe that our proposal is totally innovative and perfectly in line with the needs of modern distribution,” noted the GM, adding that the product has also received animal welfare and organic certifications.

Native Snacks launches world’s first vegan prawn cracker range for retail

UK: UK snack brand Native Snacks has launched the world’s first retail Vegan Prawn Cracker range – its second range under the firm’s street-food-inspired portfolio Super Street Snacks. Coming in at under 99 calories per serving, the new vegan prawn cracker is light and crunchy, and delicately flavoured with all natural, plant-based ingredients – and with absolutely zero prawns involved. Native Snacks said it intended to ‘bring the cracker back’ for vegans and vegetarians who may have had to bin their crackers in the past. Asda and Planet Organic are leading the way in introducing this like-for-like vegan alter-

native to the much-loved classic snack in the UK. Tasting exactly the same as a traditional prawn cracker, the crustacean-free, egg-free, milk-free and gluten-free snack has been created for vegans, vegetarians, and the growing army of environmentally-conscious consumers looking to cut down on their prawn and fish intake as well as their carbon footprint. “The Native Snacks team were shocked to learn that prawn-farming actually creates as much as four times as many CO2 emissions than beef farming,” the firm said in a statement. “What’s more: excessive prawn farming is often accommodated by the deforesta-

tion of mangroves (trees/shrubs that grow in tidal and coastal swamps) to make space for farming. The destruction of these important trees that are vital for wildlife, coastal fisheries, and also serve as buffers to the effects of storms, contributes to the loss of entire coastal zones which in turn impacts coastal communities. When mangroves are ripped out to accommodate prawn-farming, a key infrastructure is lost that removes CO2

from the atmosphere, as well as disturbing vitally important, life-giving seagrass underneath. Furthermore, traditional prawn crackers use egg or milk, which require considerable inputs in terms of the water, grain and energy to first grow the animals before producing these by-product ingredients.” Native Snacks – which launched a street-food-inspired, vegan popped lotus seed snack in Sainsbury’s last year – set out to create a sustainable alternative to this much-loved snack – one that is lessdamaging to the environment, yet not compromising on crunch and taste. The firm’s Pr*wn Crackers are a like-for-like, plant-based alternative available in two tasty classic flavours: Original Prawn, the perfect accompaniment to any meal with all of the taste and texture of an original prawn cracker; and Sweet Chilli, a sweet and spicy pick-me-up at any time of the day and delicious when dunked into a dip or sauce. Native Snacks’ Pr*wn Crackers can be found in 222 Asda Stores with an RRP of £1.60 for a 60g sharing bag. The range will also be available from Planet Organic, and through the company’s website. The firm is also donating 1p from every pack sold to charity partner ‘Project Seagrass’ to support the conservation and planting of seagrass.

The Flava People launches Guinness Cooking Paste UK: The Flava People has teamed up with drinks giant Diageo to launch ‘Guinness Cooking Paste’ – a blend of Guinness, honey and soy designed to be the ‘secret ingredient’ that brings consumers’ favourite meals to life. Targeting the ‘wet herbs’ shopper, and placing itself firmly in the herbs and spices aisle, Guinness Cooking Paste is aimed at the ‘lazy garlic’ or ‘chilli paste’ consumer – people who enjoy experimenting with home cooking but rely on base, easy-to-use ingredients to create intense foodie flavours. Dubbed ‘the beer of taste’ and loved by chefs across the world, Guinness adds a recognisable malty, smoky flavour to this premium, sweet paste. A versatile add-on for a variety of meal types, the paste is suitable for vegetarians and can be used as a stir-in or as

a rub for meat and vegetables. “Guinness is a beer with a unique standing in the world of food, and has been associated with hearty home cooking for a long time now,” noted Olivia Parkes, Brand Manager for Guinness at The Flava People. “This new paste is designed to expand shoppers’ relationship with Guinness and food – providing a more premium and versatile experience, while remaining easy to use.” Recent data by YouGov showed a rise in home cooks during the last year, and many people are now cooking from scratch. Indeed, of the 93 per cent of Brits who claimed to prepare meals at home, as many as a third said they are cooking meals from scratch five times or more per week. “Consumers are braver than ever with flavour and

are always looking for new ways – and products – to take their dine-athome experience to the next level,” observed Ms. Parkes. The Guinness Cooking Paste comes in a fully recyclable glass jar (200g) and is available now in 850 Tesco stores nation-wide, RRP £3.00. The paste is part of a wider launch between The Flava People and Diageo, being one of 10 new products launching over the next six months to include sauces, rubs and more. Collaborating with the team at Guinness, The Flava People said it had

“worked tirelessly to capture the unique essence of Guinness, while making the range accessible to create a culinary experience at home no matter the skill level of cook”. In June 2021, The Flava People launched three hearty vegan stir-in Guinness mixes – Steak & Guinness Ale Pie, Chilli Con Carne and Sausage Casserole – also in Tesco, RRP £1.00. To learn more about the Guinness X The Flava People collaboration, or to discuss a bespoke solution for your business, visit:


TRENDS IN TRADE | Functional foods and health

IMMUNE HEALTH BOON The lines between functional F&B products and health supplements are increasingly fluid, according to Kerry Health & Nutrition’s new survey, which finds that consumers have never been more proactive when it comes to immune health through nutrition. he global Covid-19 crisis has triggered and accelerated numerous consumer trends, chief amongst them being a sharpened focus on immunity and health. Since the onset of the pandemic, 42 per cent of consumers have been purchasing more functional or fortified foods and beverages, according to findings from a new study released by Kerry Health & Nutrition.

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Surveying 13,000 people in 16 countries, the new report also found that 44 per cent have bought more dietary supplements amid the Covid-19 crisis. “Consumers were adopting increasingly proactive, holistic attitudes to health, wellness and nutrition long before 2020, but the pandemic has massively accelerated this trend,” informs John Quilter, Kerry ProActive Health Division’s VP for global portfolio.

However, the lines are increasingly blurring between health supplements and functional foods – the latter defined by Kerry as a product formulated with ingredients that offer a health or wellness benefit. “It’s not necessarily ‘either/or’ for consumers today – they may address one health and wellness goal via a daily supplement but look to a functional food or beverage to address another,” Mr Quilter points out.

Functional F&B drivers

‘Familiarity’ and ‘convenience’ are driving interest in functional F&B products, according to the Kerry executive. “Consumers want everyday foods and beverages instead of another pill – and products such as functional beverages are generally quick and easy to consume.” Indeed, in the 16-country-spanning consumer survey, one in three people said they would be interested in purchasing fruit and vegetable juices if they contained ingredients that promoted immune support. Beyond juices, many additional categories were seen by consumers as suitable products for boosting immune health, including spoonable yogurt (31 per cent of respondents), dairy-based drinks (28 per cent) and hot beverages (24 per cent). Despite the growing buzz surrounding functional foods, consumer interest in supplements also remains strong, with 21 per cent of consumers expressing interest in purchasing dietary supplement products if they contain ingredients that promote immune support. “While some consumers may experience pill fatigue, we see growth in a more diverse range of delivery formats for dietary supplements, including gummies, powders, stick packs, and even chewables – all of which provide additional options, enabling consumers to pick the format that best fits their preferences and lifestyle,” advises Mr Quilter.

“However, that’s changing as a result of the development of hardy, spore-forming probiotic strains such as BC30,” the Kerry executive points out. “This has created opportunities in a far wider range of categories. Their resilient structure allows them to withstand harsh processing conditions – for example, the exposure to boiling water, which allows them to be used in probiotic teas.” Consumer occasions, regional variations

Beyond a broader field of food product application for health ingredients, the type and time of consumer occasion is also another important consideration for manufacturers. For example, consumers tend to believe that breakfast and mid-morning snacks are the most optimal times to consume products with digestive or immune benefits. “This is primarily due to the notion that it’s important to jumpstart our day with something healthy and good for us,” notes Mr Quilter. Clearly then, based on targeted consumer occasions at that window of time during the day, such consumer perceptions will impact the kind of product those beneficial ingredients are incorporated into. Additionally, region can have an impact on what types of functional foods and beverages consumers favour. In Europe, for example, consumers said they most desired immune health benefits from the yogurt category, whereas in North America, it was fruit and vegetable juices that were most favoured to deliver such benefits, and in Asia, dairy-based drinks were the functional food category of choice.

“There can be a range of reasons for this kind of variation,” Mr Quilter explains. “Socio-economic, historic, cultural and regulatory factors can all affect the way consumers view different food categories.” Immune health is a priority for consumers

Kerry’s new survey also reveals the great extent to which consumers are prioritising immune support. Indeed, immune health emerged as the top health benefit sought by consumers in each of the 16 countries that were covered in the survey. In the study, consumers were shown a list of health factors and asked which were reasons for buying healthy lifestyle products. Globally, nearly six in 10 respondents (58 per cent) chose ‘immune system support’ – significantly more than the numbers of consumers who cited ‘healthy bones and joints’ (46 per cent), ‘digestive health’ (43 per cent), ‘heart health’ (40 per cent) and ‘improved energy’ (39 per cent). As many as 39 per cent of consumers had used an immune health product over the past six months, and a further 30 per cent would consider doing so in future, suggesting a total potential immune health market of 69 per cent. “Manufacturers should see the surge in demand for immune health products not as an opportunity but as a reason for increased responsibility,” noted Mr Quilter in closing. “Everyone in the immune health sector needs to earn the trust of consumers by communicating transparently about product benefits and using proven ingredients supported by high-quality research,” he concludes. o

Ingredient advancements opening the field

Impressive R&D in the area of health ingredients has caused the field to advance and evolve at a rapid clip, meaning the well-established health benefit associations that many consumers make with certain ingredients, products and product categories need to be brought up to speed, Mr Quilter asserts. Indeed, the limitations in terms of what has historically been possible with various health-enhancing ingredients may no longer be so narrow. Probiotics, for instance, have long been closely aligned with products found in the chiller aisle – chiefly yogurts and yoghurt drinks – because traditional vegetative probiotics were highly fragile and thus easily degraded over time at warmer temperatures. 25

TRENDS IN TRADE | HFSS product restrictions

TRADING SPACES The implementation of new high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) product restrictions in the UK next year is set to throw up all manner of challenges for retailers and brand owners alike. Yet there are also upcoming opportunities, with IRI estimating that 26 per cent of space will be ‘up-for-grabs’ in UK supermarket aisles after the new legislation comes into play. he UK Government has now confirmed that HFSS restrictions on both trade promotions and advertising will come into force late next year, throwing up new challenges for retailers and manufactures alike as they emerge from 18 or so moths of pandemic-related disruption to their operations. The first element of the new HFSS regs relates to volume promotions, with a ban on such offers (including ‘buy one, get one free’, and ‘two for the price of one’), while so-called cross-product promotions (e.g., Buy three of one product and save 25 per cent on another product’) as well as loyalty points to promote volume increases (e.g., buy three and receive an extra 1,000 loyalty points) will also be included in these



restrictions, which are set to come into force in October 2022. Next are the new restrictions relating to display space: a ban on displaying such products in prominent locations in-store (i.e., within two metres of a checkout area; at the end of aisles, or at store entrances). The implementation date for these two areas of restrictions has been pushed back from April to October 2022, in a move that many industry players see as acknowledgement from lawmakers of the difficulty retailers face in implementing such changes and the amount of time required to prepare. The final element of the policy focuses on blocking HFSS products from paid online advertising and pre-watershed

(before 9pm) TV – due to come into force at the end of 2022. While the incoming restrictions on advertising have received the lion’s share of media coverage, such changes are actually less severe than previously anticipated due to adaptations made after the final round of consultation. However, the impact of instore restrictions (which come in earlier, from October 2022) remains significant. Predicted £1.1bn in lost sales for UK grocery segment

FMCG research and data expert IRI ( estimates) that of the top 15 impacted categories, 64 per cent of SKUs fall within HFSS restrictions. By removing display and multi-buys

Of the top 15 impacted categories, 64 per cent of SKUs fall within HFSS restrictions. from these categories, the research firm’s analysis projects an impact of £1.1 billion of lost sales for UK grocery. HFSS categories – including confectionery, yoghurts and fruit juices – currently make up 38 per cent of actual store space. This will drop to just 12 per cent when the restrictions are introduced (Source: IRI Analytics: 2019 UK major multiples). Across all HFSS categories, IRI forecasts that around five per cent of sales are at risk, although some categories will be more impacted than others. Chocolate will be most impacted, with 14 per cent of sales estimated to be lost, due to chocolate gaining more incremental sales from being on display and from volume promotions. Sugar confectionery is estimated to lose around five per cent of sales. Opportunity for retailers to rethink their ranges

However, on the flip-side, the tightening regulations impacting in-store promotion and off-shelf display of HFSS products will create significant opportunities in other product portfolio areas. New figures from IRI estimate that 26 per cent of space will potentially be ‘up for grabs’ in UK supermarkets when new regulations impacting in-store promotion and off-shelf display of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products come into force next year. “With the ban on in-store promotional activity and display for HFSS products, this is a real opportunity for brands that have no in-category competition or that offer healthier alternatives, as retailers look to rethink their ranges,” remarked Joe Harriman, IRI’s HFSS

Strategic Consultant. “It’s not just newly available space either,” he continued. “With retailers rethinking their store layout – with initiatives like ‘power aisles’ and ‘premium’ in-aisle displays – there are plenty of opportunities for both LFSS (low fat salt sugar) and HFSS categories to benefit.”

despite taking up more than 50 per cent of shelf space. According to Mr Harriman, the lasting legacy of the HFSS regulations will be the impact on new product development (NPD) and how manufacturers plan to develop and launch new products in the future.

The race for space in the chilled aisle

The lasting legacy of the HFSS regulations will be the impact on new product development (NPD) and how manufacturers plan to develop and launch new products in the future.

IRI’s analysis shows that the impact of the new regulations will be felt strongly in the chilled category, where HFSS products currently have 52 per cent of display space – indeed, this is expected to drop to 18 per cent. The removal of products like desserts, pizzas and yoghurts will increase the amount of available off-shelf space. In terms of incremental value within chilled dairy and desserts, IRI data shows that butters, fats and margarines (with 13 per cent of off-shelf space) deliver the most value, with £4,608 of incremental sales per unit of display. Desserts and yoghurts have a much lower impact, delivering £995 and £1,060, respectively, on sales uplift –

IRI’s analysis shows that the impact of the new regulations will be felt strongly in the chilled category, where HFSS products currently have 52 per cent of display space

“We know that 91 per cent of products fail and are gone within 12–18 months. We also know that 16 per cent of all new products have some off-shelf support in the first four weeks after launch, but this will no longer be allowed for HFSS products. Manufacturers and retailers will need to make sure NPDs don’t fail and to think seriously about how they launch new products in the future.” o Further analysis and data on the impact of HFSS restrictions is available from IRI’s recent webinar: ‘HFSS Restrictions: Understand, Calculate and Plan’

“With the ban on in-store promotional activity and display for HFSS products, this is a real opportunity for brands that have no in-category competition or that offer healthier alternatives, as retailers look to rethink their ranges,” – Joe Harriman, HFSS Strategic Consultant, IRI. 27

SPECIAL REPORT | Food Entrepreneur Show pre-event insights

BUILDING BRANDS, BOOSTING PROFITS The Food Entrepreneur Show makes its much-anticipated return to London's ExCeL from 9–10 November, forming the biggest business growth event for the UK’s food & beverage industry.

fter a year filled with many challenges, organisers of the premier event have vowed to deliver the best show to date, ensuring to arm participants with all the tips and tricks they require to get their business booming. Indeed, The Food Entrepreneur Show is an unmissable event for all industry professionals looking to discover the newest products and solutions and stay ahead of the curve. The Food Entrepreneur Show is renowned as the go-to event for the industry-altering solutions driving the profits of venues across the globe. The reason behind such a reputation is that year-on-year the premier event has provided industry professionals with the tools and techniques they need to boost their profits, build their brand, and grow their business.


Building connections to transform businesses

Offering the perfect opportunity to connect with thousands of like-minded professionals, gain advice, and build longterm beneficial working relationships, the Food Entrepreneur Show is also renowned for providing unparalleled networking opportunities for professionals operating across the restaurant, coffee shop, takeaway, drinks and catering segments – and this year’s event offers participants the greatest opportunity yet to build those vital connections that will transform their business. The show floor will be packed with professionals operating across every facet of the industry, and the Food Entrepreneur Show will provide unrivalled access to a unique networking environment where both quality and quantity of connections 28

are very much achievable. Furthermore, the show’s Keynote Stage will play host to a fantastic line-up of speakers, including the likes of Pret A Manger, Marco Pierre, Dominos Pizza Group, Just Eat, BrewDog, TGI Fridays, Caffé Nero and Pizza Hut representatives. An array of educational and innovative features

The Food Entrepreneur Show will also be filled with educational and innovative features, including the Kitchen Innovation Zone – a showcase for the most state-ofthe-art, professional kitchen equipment that is both innovative and energy-efficient. Meanwhile, the show’s Delivery Zone offers technological solutions to get produce to companies’ customers, help participants discover numerous manufacturers of innovative packaging solutions, and aid them in adding a delivery service to their business. Running concurrently, the Hospitality Marketing Summit offers attendees the opportunity to learn from the experts how to get it right when it comes to marketing their brand. Crucially, the

event organisers have scoured the industry to locate the marketing agencies who know what it means to work with food and drink brands. The event will give 15,000 industrydefining leaders access to 1,000 exhibitors and their plethora of innovative products, ideas and strategies, alongside 500 inspirational seminars, panel debates, innovation awards, networking opportunities and much more. The Food Entrepreneur Show is the ultimate event to help F&B entrepreneurs boost their profits, build their brand, and grow their business. Moreover, it features six shows in one – Restaurant & Takeaway Innovation Expo, Restaurant & Bar Tech Live, The International Drink Expo, The Coffee Shop Innovation Expo and Street Food Live – all under one roof!! So, whether you’re an independent establishment or a big QSR, The Food Entrepreneur Show at London's ExCeL is the place to be from 9–10 November. Save the date in your calendar, and secure your FREE ticket now here:

SPECIAL REPORT | ANUTEC-International FoodTec India pre-show ANUTEC-International FoodTec India – co-located with PackEx India, Food Logistics India, and ANUTEC-Ingredients India – returns to New Delhi as an in-person event from 2–4 December 2021, offering a world of F&B technology solutions under one roof.


the gears of the B2B expo circuit start whirring once more after being greenlighted by the government in India’s capital city, ANUTEC-International FoodTec India and its ecosystem of co-located shows is set for a triumphant return to New Delhi in December. It will mark the first and most extensive food industry event to be held in-person in India following the myriad Covid-19related disruptions that have blighted faceto-face business over the past 18 months. And organiser Koelnmesse YA Tradefair Pvt. Ltd expects to see an impressive response in terms of exhibitor showcases and visitor turnout.


Innovating, networking and educating

As a vital industry platform, the multifaceted event will provide a chance to demonstrate the latest innovations in F&B processing physically, and will act as a meeting-place for the entire industry, noted Milind Dixit, Managing Director of Koelnmesse YA Tradefair Pvt. Ltd. “In addition to the trade fair, powerful on-site seminars will be presented by Logistics

Insider, the Association of Food Scientists & Technologists (India) and the Indian Flexible Packaging & Folding Carton Manufacturers Association,” he informed. “The whole industry is invited to explore groundbreaking revolutions in the food industry, engage in discussions with industry experts, share insights, network with F&B industry juggernauts, and much more – all under one roof, in a safe and healthy environment, without clicking any meeting link,” continued Mr Dixit. “Coming together will serve as a reboot for the industry. We look forward to meeting you at ANUTEC – International FoodTec India.” India’s leading F&B industry platform

Over 1,000 exhibitors, including around 200 from overseas countries, are expected to attend the ANUTEC-International FoodTec India and co-located trade fairs, India’s leading innovation and business platform for the food industry. Returning in 2021 for its 15th edition, ANUTEC – International FoodTec India has established itself as the biggest platform for suppliers to India’s food and drink industry. The leading names in the F&B processing industry gather to witness the brand-new technologies, and exchange ideas that help drive the industry forward.

PackEx India is the largest platform for suppliers and users of packaging materials and machinery on the sub-continent. Food Logistics India is an unmatched platform for companies to showcase the best in logistics, cold chain, intra-logistics, warehousing, material handling, refrigeration, storage, and automation solutions to key decision-makers from across the F&B industry. ANUTEC Ingredients India – the country’s specialised show dedicated to the food ingredients and nutraceutical market segments – returns for its second edition in December.


SPECIAL REPORT | HostMilano and TUTTOFOOD post-event insights

More than 150,000 visitors met 2,700 companies at the recently concluded HOSTMilano and TUTTOFOOD, alongside co-located Meat-Tech, strengthening Milan’s status as a European exhibition hub and an international showcase for Italian innovation.


he gamble of going back to meeting in person proved to be a winner,” commented Luca Palermo, CEO and General Manager of Fiera Milano. “There was a great desire to do business live, as shown by the meetings of more than 150,000 visitors with more than 2,700 companies. Together with the new agreements signed by Fiera Milano, this liveliness reinforces the supply chain approach that the Italian agrifood and hospitality ecosystem needs to present itself abroad in an organic way,” he asserted. The crowded aisles and lively exchanges at stands throughout the shows served to consolidate Fiera Milano’s ever strength-



ening role as a European exhibition hub and an internationalisation driver for Italian companies of all sizes. Indeed, the continued rise in the number of international buyers attending the event has served to validate the organiser’s organic growth strategy, in collaboration with ICE Agency.

to companies participating in trade fairs. “Our ambition remains unchanged: we want to strengthen ourselves as a European hub capable of hosting congresses and events with a global reach,” he continued. “This is why we are increasingly focused on activating partnerships with major international players.”

Alliances aimed at internationalisation

HostMilano and TUTTOFOOD return in 2023

In terms of agreements, a new partnership with Filiera Italia and Coldiretti will promote ‘Made in Italy’ agri-food products around the world in innovative ways going forward, with the aim of doubling the value of exports. Meanwhile, the recently inked agreement with Informa Market – one of the world leaders in the trade fair sector, with over 450 events within its portfolio – will bring the companies taking part in Fiera Milano events to even more strategic foreign areas. Among the first such events in which Italian companies are set to participate is the next edition of FHAHoReCA – a show dedicated to food and hospitality, organised by Informa in Singapore, running from 3–6 March 2022. “The collaboration between Fiera Milano and Informa Markets emanates from the Food & Hospitality sectors, where the former is an international leader, and it will continue into other sectors,” advised Mr Palermo. “We are certain that this alliance can represent a further opportunity for internationalisation to be offered

With successful conclusion of their 2021 editions, HostMilano and TUTTOFOOD have validated their status as effective platforms not only for business, but also for presenting data and research, sharing knowledge, hosting international competitions and discovering new trends. • TUTTOFOOD returns from 8–11 May 2023 • HostMilano returns from 13–17 October 2023 For further insights on the recently concluded events, visit the HostMilano ( and TUTTOFOOD ( websites.


NOVEMBER 2021 Gulfood Manufacturing – The world’s largest F&B processing and packaging event. Co-located with GulfHost, The Speciality Food Festival, Yummex and Private Label Licensing Middle East. Dubai, UAE 7–9 November 2021 Food Entrepreneur Show – The UK’s biggest growth event for the F&B industry. London, UK 9–10 November 2021 Food Matters Live – Providing F&B and sustainable nutrition professionals with the connections and the industry insights required to get ahead. (VIRTUAL EVENT) 16–17 November 2021 FoodEx Saudi – KSA’s leading international trade expo dedicated to the F&B sector. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 15–18 November 2021 Fi Europe CONNECT 2021 – New hybrid (virtual & onsite) event offering participants access to the global F&B ingredients industry. Frankfurt, Germany 22 November – 2 December 2021

JANUARY 2022 Winter Fancy Food Show – The largest US West Coast event focused solely on the specialty food industry. San Francisco, USA 16–18 January 2022 ProSweets Cologne 2022 – World’s leading supplier fair for the sweets & snacks industry; co-located with ISM Cologne, the leading sweets & snacks trade fair. Cologne, Germany 30 January – 2 February 2022

FEBRUARY 2022 Fruit Logistica 2022 – Leading fresh produce trade show. Berlin, Germany 9–11 February 2022 Gulfood 2022 – The Middle East’s largest F&B industry event. Dubai, UAE 13–17 February 2022 Packaging Innovations and Empack – Showcasing the future of branded packaging & technology. Birmingham, UK 16–17 February 2022

APRIL 2022 ISM Japan 2022 East Asia’s first dedicated trade fair for the sweets & snacks industry. Tokyo, Japan 13–15 April 2022 ANUFOOD China Leading expo focused on South China’s F&B market. Shenzhen, China 20–22 April 2022 Anuga FoodTec Leading international technology supplier fair for the F&B industry. Cologne, Germany 26–29 April 2022

MAY 2022 SIAL China Asia’s largest F&B innovation expo. Shanghai, China 18–22 May 2022 Thaifex Anuga Asia HYBRID 2022 – Hybrid (on-site & virtual) edition of the leading F&B trade show, powered by Thaifex and Anuga. Bangkok, Thailand 24–28 May 2022

JUNE 2022 DECEMBER 2021 ANUTEC International FoodTec India – Leading B2B platform for the F&B suppliers industry. Co-located with Annapoora Anufood India 2020, PackEx India, Food Logistics India, and ANUTEC Ingredients India. New Delhi, India 2–4 December 2021 PLMA’s World of Private Label – The Private Label Manufacturers Association’s international tradeshow. Amsterdam, The Netherlands 14–15 December 2021

FoodEx Saudi 2022 – KSA’s leading international trade expo dedicated to the F&B industry. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 28 February – 3 March 2022

MARCH 2022 FHA-Food & Beverage – One of Asia’s largest F&B trade events. Singapore 28–31 March 2022

Africa Food Manufacturing – Egypt’s biggest F&B processing & packaging expo. Co-located with Fi Africa and ProPak MENA. Cairo, Egypt 5–7 June 2022 Alimentec 2021 – The region’s leading expo for the F&B and hospitality industries. Bogota, Colombia 7–10 June 2022


Company Profile: HowToRobot Written by SARAH PURSEY





A global online platform connecting robot buyers and suppliers, HowToRobot helps businesses to access the world of robotics, as well as creating a clear pathway to automation for such players. Today covering more than 16,000 robot and automation suppliers worldwide, alongside a growing network of independent robot and automation advisors, HowToRobot is on a mission to make the robotics industry transparent, mature, and digitally connected. CEO Mr Søren Peters tells Food & Beverage Networker how the platform works, and how his firm is helping to empower F&B players to understand and leverage upon this brave new world of robotics.

ike any other industry, businesses in the food & beverage sector are continuously seeking to enhance their offerings and processes, optimising their operations to boost productivity and reduce labour costs. In tandem, many emergent robot technologies – previously exclusively the preserve of custom machine builders – have over the past five years reached a level of maturity and price point that today means they can be standardised. This, in turn, means lower cost and quicker implementation, opening the doors for food & beverage SMEs to adopt such technologies on a much more significant scale. Despite such opportunities, an enormous disconnect exists in the robotics sector today, with very few F&B businesses fully aware of what is available on the


market. Nonetheless, the rise of digital marketplaces is serving to open up the global robot market for SMEs – and the HowToRobot platform is at the vanguard of this revolution, helping F&B firms to embark on their automation journey – and to connect with the suppliers and solution providers worldwide. HowToRobot’s origin story

To understand the robotics industry today, and the challenges it faces, Mr Søren Peters says it is useful to look back at the early experiences of the IT industry – a world that he himself was immersed in for 27 years. “I was working in IT throughout the 1990s dotcom heydays – an era I’d describe as simultaneously fantastic and frustrating,” he tells us, adding that ‡ 33

while the level of innovativeness was immense, the intangible nature of IT at the time made it a challenge to navigate for buyers of the technology: “Even though everyone had heard of IT, and they knew they had to have it to be competitive and progressive, it was actually quite hard to get to the bottom of why, and indeed what was the right thing to do in terms of implementation.” In 2015, Mr Peters met with some professionals involved in the nascent robotics sector, and recalls how what he was hearing had distinct parallels to the IT scene back in the ‘90s. “There was a sense that the robots out there weren’t really a response to demand but rather that the industry was just inventing. So, I started investigating – calling up both large and small companies in the manufacturing industry to enquire if they had invested in robots, and if so, if they had got out of them what they were hoping for. More often than not, the answer to the last question was ‘no’. There was a strong sense that such manufacturers were on a journey, yet they didn’t know quite where they were going – some of their employees didn’t care for the robots; some were also quite scared of the technology.” Such concerns and ambiguities led Mr Peters to establish Gain & Co – an independent consultancy on robotics – to work with companies that were striving to boost their productivity and needed strategic, independent advice on how to achieve their business goals with automation. “We would work our way through their factory stating where technology could support a client, and other areas where increased automation may well be something the client desires (in a task that required many workers, for example) yet where the tech just wasn’t currently available or viable,” he tells us. “It’s about risk-assessing the factories and making what we call an ‘automation journey’ for the client – looking at the capability of their workforce and the maturity of the technology, as opposed to just going for whatever shiny robot might be on show at the next major trade fair. Above all else, it’s about leveraging on what the manufacturer is trying to get out of the technology.” Mr Søren Peters, CEO

Gain & Co (today HowToRobot’s sister company) has attracted a flurry of prominent global companies as clients, including Siemens, and has had contracts with myriad interesting British customers over the past year – the likes of British Rail, premium whisky-maker Chivas Regal, and brewery giant Carlsberg, alongside a wide array of factories and breweries across the country. Gain & Co continues to map out automation journeys for businesses across the globe – yet through that consulting process, it became apparent to Mr Peters that a few elements in the equation were missing: “Firstly, where were the suppliers? It’s great to be able to identify a particular type of robot that could improve your operations, but if you don’t know where the nearest supplier of such a robot is – who produces it 34

and who has expertise in that sub-segment of robotics – then that’s a problem.” The solution would be a map illustrating the world of robot suppliers – yet such a solution simply did not exist for this nascent sector, Mr Peters discovered. “It took the IT industry around 15 years to map itself – back in the ‘90s; IT companies were often categorised as ‘Other Telecommunications’ companies. Robotics was facing a similar challenge,” he reflects. “Our first task was therefore to find thousands of suppliers worldwide – over 16,000 to date – and categorise them.” The other element that Mr Peters identified as problematic in the robot sector was a tendency for the manufacturer’s requirements to be clouded by very technical enquiries directed at them from the engi-

neer-innovators. “Let’s say a mid-sized food & beverage company had already established that automating the canning process would be a good idea, but didn’t know how – if they were to ask a local robotics supplier, they would inevitably have a lot of highly technical questions directed towards them that they’d have difficulty in answering,” he points out, adding that HowToRobot effectively turns the tables on such interactions: “It makes far more sense to instead put out requests for information (RFIs) to the world robot market.” HowToRobot essentially combines those two aspects, enabling a manufacturer (potential buyer) to find the robotics solution supplier; but also empowering a manufacturer to gain more knowledge on something they may have been pondering for a few years, ‡ 35

in terms of automating a particular process. “If you put out a request – and perhaps post a few photos to demonstrate your current process, for example – you can find out anonymously (and for free) who could provide a solution,” Mr Peters advises. “It’s like a reverse AirBnB for robots.” Once a manufacturer has found a suitable robot for their operations, they must also consider total cost of ownership – including maintenance and reprogramming costs – and Mr Peters discovered this part of the market to be just as immature. “HowToRobot therefore also created a tool whereby a manufacturer could put out an RFI if, for example, they needed their existing robot reprogramming. As long as the price is right, that solution could effectively come from anywhere,” he tells us. “The current problem with robotics is that most people would have no idea how much such a task should cost, so while that solution might come from the original supplier, it might equally come from a freelance engineer who could be cheaper and even better at the task. So, with HowToRobot, our aim is to make the entire robot value chain visible.” The mind-set to make the robot market flow

Having been steeped in the rapid early development of the IT industry, Mr Peters clearly understands the parallels with the nascent robotics sector and what needs to be done to make the market flow. “IT in the 1990s was a brand new realm and had to evolve superrapidly – including the human understanding of why it was necessary and what benefits it would provide. Robotics is the same. It makes sense, but on the other hand it’s a little frightening and also pretty blurry to many people. So, coming from a background of buying and selling with that other nascent industry back in the day has helped me to see a clear path.” Then comes the challenge of building a team for a platform that no-one has invented before. “What became apparent early on in the process of establishing and expanding HowToRobot was that our offer resonated very much on an international level – with enormous interest coming from the UK, the US, the 36

UAE, and China, in particular,” he reports. “We therefore developed a multi-lingual team in order to communicate effectively with buyers and sellers across the world.” Offering suppliers a structured way to sell

And what advantages does HowToRobot provide for the technology suppliers that sign up to the service? “The most important thing that we give the robot suppliers is structure – essentially providing plenty of ‘hot leads’ on companies that are seeking out a solution that such suppliers have already classified,” Mr Peters responds. “Suppliers pay a nominal monthly fee of around €60 to actually reply to such leads – this serves to ensure that buyers aren’t subjected to unserious offers. Nonetheless, if you can find access to interested prospective customers, structured like that, anywhere else on the planet, then please tell me where.” Needless to say, it’s proven to be a very cost-effective service for such suppliers, he continues. “Moreover, many of the up-and-coming robotics companies are young – often fresh out of engineering college, in fact. It means that while they may have come up with a very good idea for building a particular kind of a robot, they often haven’t yet developed a structured way of selling their robots. So, for such an individual or startup, it’s a great way for them to get easy access to many interested and relevant buyers.” Buyers can communicate in their own language

On the other hand, for the buyer HowToRobot offers an easy and controlled way to open a dialogue with relevant robotics companies – and crucially “in a controlled fashion, on their terms”, as Mr Peters puts it. “If it’s the case that the supplier gets to decide on how the conversation with the customer is going to go, then it will be focused on components, bits and bytes. Most customers simply aren’t there – they’re understandably more focused on how many units of product they need to produce, and how much they need to save in the process, so they simply want to know ‘Can that be provided by the technology, and at what cost?’” ‡



Unfortunately, the aforementioned one-way, highly technical, supplier-led conversation is what most of the deals being done today in the advanced technology sector of robots actually look like, Mr Peter laments. “The supplier bombards the potential buyer with a barrage of questions that the latter understandably has difficulty in answering, while the supplier may feel they cannot build anything for the buyer until they know these specifics. It’s very similar to what happened back in the ‘90s with the IT sector – it’s two entirely different languages,” he points out. “In contrast, HowToRobot’s view is that the customer is the one with the money – hence, they get to say their part first. And as a seller, if you wish to bid, then you have to translate that into an offer. I respect that it might be a difficult task, but as a technology provider, you’re there to solve a problem. Nonetheless, you’d be surprised to see that this is not how the majority of negotiations are structured today – and the only one to lose from that exchange is the customer.” Global network of robotics consultants

HowToRobot also works with a global network of robotics consultants, and Mr Peters goes on to talk us through the process of how such partnerships work. “Many industries like F&B can be a little conservative – and companies within such sectors would undoubtedly benefit from someone going in and holding their hand to get an idea of where they should be going in terms of automation. The problem with consultants is that they’re super-expensive, and most SMEs understandably don’t want to spend £20,000– £40,000 just to figure out where they’re going. We therefore boiled down what a consultancy company does for SMEs for our Automation Programme – it means we can send out to your company a partner for, say, two to three hours, to observe your factory’s operation and help you get on your automation journey; using tools onsite and calculating a business case for deploying robotics on the canning process, for example. Having only paid for a few hours’ work, that consultation enables an SME to take the next step and be on their way – as opposed to engaging for a more lengthy period with a nearby consultancy firm, which could set you back tens of thousands of pounds,” he advises. “So, when we have people online who are unsure of where to go next, we normally send them to one of the partners: local, small consultants that can easily go ‡


onsite, and who know the local workforce and the different regulations that exist in that specific country, and actually help lead the SME to doing an RFI – putting a request out on the market to see the kind of price range they’d be looking at, and essentially getting a market response before forking out a lot of money.” Standardisation and ‘pay-per-pack’ trends

Moving on to trends in the design and functionality of robotics for F&B industry applications, Mr Peters identifies “standardisation” as something that both the supplier and buyer are now increasingly looking towards. “It means building robot solutions that could cover a wider variety of products with less effort. In other words, in canning tomatoes, for instance – instead of being very specific in terms of one dimension of can and one type of tomato, we actually see suppliers developing technology capable of multiple applications that covers multiple SKUs without so much re-integration and reprogramming.” The stringent requirements on food safety obviously drives the need for food processing robots to be cleaned regularly, yet this is often a time-consuming process – ironically, such downtime could serve to undermine the time savings that such automation sets out to solve in the first place. Perhaps as a result of this challenge, there is “a particularly strong and growing focus on using robotics after the product has been sterilised and packaged, when the food safety risk and difficulty level with regards to maintaining cleanliness of the product is far lower”, observes Mr Peters. “The final trend – and one that’s super-interesting, in my opinion – is the rise of ‘pay-per-pack’ as a concept,” he continues. “Instead of the food manufacturer going out and spending, say, $250,000 on a packing robot that they may or may not require two years down the line, we actually see companies hiring such robots and paying by the operation. This is not a big part of the market at present, and of course it only works on standardisation, but it’s certainly coming. As a concept, I suppose it’s akin to paying per print-out of a document, rather than forking out on the cost of an entire printer. We see that concept more and more in manufacturing – and specifically in the F&B industry. And HowToRobot obviously provides a platform for businesses looking to provide such a service.” The human factor is key

For manufacturing companies, Covid will have definitely accelerated the drive towards automation, but it’s not that clear cut, Mr Peters notes: “It’s easy to think that if you’d automated 50 per cent of what you do, then you wouldn’t be so dependent on people – and of course that makes sense; it’s just that it’s a longer process, often involving a certain level of preparation to actually get automation to work.” In terms of making that transition, education of workers is clearly crucial, he stresses. “It doesn’t help that we as manufacturers are aware that the robot being installed in a couple of months will do a lot of 40

good – if the 200 or so workers on the factory floor, even those not working closely with the robot, aren’t understanding what’s going on, then it will fail to be of benefit,” stresses Mr Peters, who has heard anecdotal evidence of “sabotage” or of workers failing to grasp the technology and becoming scared of the consequences if production levels drop as a result. “It’s therefore absolutely crucial to skill up your workforce in preparation for the robot’s installation,” he tells us. “Introducing robots is not instantaneous – it’s a process, and that process must involve people. They need to learn – they need to feel confident with the technology,” he stresses. “For that reason, I’d say that people are today still the biggest barrier to a greater adoption of robots in industry. People need to feel safe and to fully understand the technology for that barrier to come down.” Regarding this human challenge, HowToRobot’s sister company Gain & Co offers a management procedure to help get a manufacturer’s workforce up to speed – and HowToRobot is now working to develop tools to support this process. “This includes surveys of the customers’ personnel, to find out, for example, ‘What would you like the next palletising solution to cover?’ ‘What could we do to make you more confident within that process? And what could we do to improve it? We want the buyers to put some such demands through in their requests to suppliers. It’s vitally important for us that the buyers convey the human factor, so the supplier can then fully consider the information he conveys about how to utilise the robot. Such aspects need to be there.” Understanding the market is crucial for buyer confidence

The other major obstacle towards greater adoption of robots in the F&B industry is “the market overview that gives buyers the confidence they need in order to press the ‘buy’ button”, as Mr Peters puts it. “When buying a car or a house, for example, these are significant purchases – there are plenty of considerations that must be made prior to embarking on such a major purchase, and the buyer will go through a process of checks and considerations in order to feel confident to actually go through with the purchase. Yet with a lack of market overview, price understanding surrounding robotics, or knowledge of who does what on the market, it’s understandably difficult for many companies to feel firmly enough to go through with a purchase – especially if they’re also finding it a challenge to encourage their workers to embark upon the automisation journey as well.” Directly responding to this challenge, HowToRobot is the only organisation out there today with a world map of the suppliers of robots, providing the buyer with access to the entire market, so that they can do market surveys and gain the knowledge they need. “Anyone could, in theory, just go and ring doorbells,” remarks Mr Peters. “That’s how it is happening in the case of the robot market right now – but it’s obviously an incredibly cumbersome process – it’s inefficient and ‡



it’s ineffective. Are you going to wait until next August to see what robots are at the next trade show in Germany? It just doesn’t work.” Expanding and evolving

Looking ahead, what are Mr Peter’s predictions for the future prospects of robotics within the context of the F&B industry? “Automation-wise, the food & beverage industry worldwide is going to evolve ever-more,” HowToRobot’s CEO responds. “My hope is for food & beverage industry players to continue to put out more operational demands to the robotics industry, and request that the robotics innovators demonstrate how their inventions relate to and improve the F&B sector processes. So, it turns the tables from being always innovation driven to getting the F&B players to be much more firm in their requests regarding automation – along the lines of ‘How many cans is your robot able to process, and what’s the cost per can?’ Of course that’s where we ended up with IT: We know today that if you want to get online with Office 365, you can do that for a small monthly fee. But 30 years ago, with a long list of licences, it was a nightmare calculating that. The adoption of automation in the food industry is clearly set to expand very rapidly – workforces are shrinking and everything is going that way – so it’s my expectation that the maturity of the robotics market will rise. We’re already seeing signs of this – buyers are becoming more educated, and suppliers are standardising their robotic solutions and expanding to the global market.” In connecting the dots between suppliers and buyers of the technology, as well as helping to demystify the dark arts of robotics for F&B manufacturers, and establishing the structure and the tools for such potential buyers to drive the deals, HowToRobot will likely prove vital to supporting this maturation of the industry. One final analogy from HowToRobot’s CEO sums up the current situation with robotics pretty accurately. “It’s a bit like the constant phone upgrades that people make – often not based on any tangible need for a better functioning phone, but purely to keep up with the trends and their friends,” he tells us. “That’s fine as a personal choice, of course – but it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever when you’re looking at a business case for purchasing new machinery. Year on year, Apple manages to jump that logic so that when they release a new iPhone people feel they need it but don’t really know why, other than having the latest gizmo. Robots is a little bit there at the moment – everybody knows they need one, but they’re not sure to what end, or what demands to put forth. And that’s what we’re trying to change.” o 43

Company Profile: Tropical Food Machinery Written by SARAH PURSEY

ITALY’S FRUIT PROCESSING INNOVATOR Backed by over four decades of expertise, Tropical Food Machinery has grown to become a technology leader in its segment, offering a wide range of multi-purpose solutions for industrially processing not only tropical fruit, but also deciduous fruit and tomatoes, into an array of finished products – from juices to purées, pulps and jam. Managing Director, Mr Stefano Concari, reveals the on-going and upcoming innovations helping to strengthen the Italian firm’s status as preferred processing technology partner for start-ups and multinationals alike in markets worldwide. ‡


ith health and wellness fast emerging as one of the most dominant consumer trends, interest in the safety and quality of produce is now at an all time high. Concurrently, food processors in increasingly competitive marketplaces face pressure to enhance efficiencies in order to drive down operational costs. In tandem, a strong impetus exists across emerging countries to achieve greater levels of supply chain self-sufficiency by adding value locally to agricultural produce. Meanwhile, the world’s major international players in the segment are looking to further penetrate markets in the emerging world and set up local manufacturing operations to claim their share of sales in these high-growth markets. These are just a few market dynamics front of mind for Italian



businessman Mr Stefano Concari, whose company Tropical Food Machinery is responding accordingly via cutting-edge technology and turnkey solutions that deliver quality, yield, innovation and efficiency to fruit processing players worldwide. With strong roots in engineering machinery for processing tropical fruits, the firm exports 95 per cent of its solutions today, with Latin America, Africa and southern Asia currently accounting for the lion’s share of sales. And, over the decades, Tropical Food Machinery’s unerring commitment to quality and continuous improvement has been vindicated, having advanced to earn the acclaim of some of the world’s most pre-eminent fruit processors, fruit ingredients producers and juice beverage

– and specifically as a designer of machinery. With the expertise of these two individuals combined, Tropical Fruit Machinery was born in 1991. They started out engineering full turnkey projects for foodstuff processing in general – and a few years later, they invested the profits into a workshop in order to start manufacturing their own machinery.” Today headquartered in Parma, Italy, Tropical Fruit Machinery has grown its footprint over the decades to also encompass a manufacturing facility situated in Brazil, alongside trade offices in India, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Ecuador, enabling the firm to be close to its customers in some of its strongest markets across the world. Moreover, the engineering firm has opened two fruit processing companies in northern Brazil. Processing around 10 tons per hour of pineapples at its plant in Flora, and six tons per hour of mango, papaya and passion fruit at Mirca, these two certified companies act as excellent field test sites for Tropical Fruit Machinery’s technologies, enabling the firm to hone its innovations and expand its knowhow to further advance its machinery development activities. Such activities today cover the design and manufacture of lines for processing all manner of tropical and Mediterranean fruits, for the production of natural juice and aseptic concentrate – and aseptic purée or derivatives, in the case of banana processing. The firm also creates reprocessing lines for fruit juice production; process lines for jam production, tomato processing and concentrated tomato production, as well as lines for the production of diced tomatoes, salsa and ketchup. The right quality and quantity

bottlers, as well as proving a key ally in helping new businesses commence their journey into such areas on an industrial scale. Over four decades of expertise

Tropical Fruit Machinery’s roots can be traced back over four decades to the decision of an Italian engineer to move to Brazil – in 1975. It was here, whilst working for TechniFood, that he would develop the technology for processing tropical fruits. “He worked at that firm for around 12 years, developing the specific technologies to extract the pulp and juice from a variety of tropical fruits, and all the time honing the specific knowhow required to create a good product in this area,” begins Mr Concari. “In the early 1990s, the engineer moved back to Italy and set about establishing Tropical Fruit Machinery together with my father, who had experience as a mechanical designer

“For each and every solution that we propose, our primary focus is on delivering a top-quality product. Just behind that is the focus on yield – i.e., doing the right quantity of product at the right quality,” outlines Mr Concari. “We’ve learnt over the years that if we wish to protect the business of our customers, then – quite simply – we must assure them top quality in terms of the product coming out of their machines.” Tropical Fruit Machinery’s other main aim has been to develop machines able to solve multiple technical challenges. “While we of course have some specific machinery, a key offer is to make flexible plants that can process a variety of fruits,” the MD attests. “At the beginning of the lines, that means utilising selective extractors to separate what is good (the pulp and juice) from what is not (the pith and stones). Further down the line, it’s the ability to handle both the thick pulp and the liquid without any issues.” Processing multiple fruits requires pasteurisers, evaporators and a selection of separating pumps, in order to accommodate the variety of products intended to pass through the machine, advises Mr Concari. “It’s an engineering task to ensure your machine doesn’t have problems passing a thick product, and to avoid it separating the liquid from the solid in juices, for ‡ 47

example”. Yet it is when faced with such technical challenges that Tropical Fruit Machinery has excelled over the decades.

injection and ascorbic acid injection, meaning we don’t expose the fruit to oxidative action. This preserves the original colour of the fruit and the organoleptic properties of the pulp.”

A leading innovator

Given its leading position in the segment, it is unsurprising to learn of Tropical Fruit Machinery’s strong R&D focus. “We’re always looking to develop new solutions,” informs its MD. “For instance, in the past year we’ve been developing a machine able to recover the aromatic essences of the juice and process them as a separate ingredient.” The firm is currently also very active in researching the waste materials generated by fruit processing. “The aim is for what is waste today to actually become a secondary product that can be utilised and monetised in order to derive greater added value from the fruit,” he states. Tropical Fruit Machinery’s most recent launch is an automatic peeler for bananas. “It was a challenge to achieve the same product quality mechanically as can be achieved via hand-peeling operations. But having cracked that, we were able to patent our machine in September 2019 and are now in the process of launching it into the market,” reveals Mr Concari, going on to list the machine’s advantages. “It can issue a really high quality of product, while not having the impact of manpower typically required on such a task – nor the associated errors and inconsistent rhythm in the feeding of the machine. Beyond that, we open the fruit in a protective environment via nitrogen


World-class reputation

Tropical Fruit Machinery’s strength clearly lies in its top quality and strong in-house capabilities, grounded in many decades of knowhow and expertise. “We obviously have a strong Italian mechanical background, as well as boasting a highly integrated operation – we hold the mechanical knowhow, the electrical knowhow and the automation knowhow,” agrees Mr Concari. “This means we’re able to develop our own mechanical designs; we develop all of our software, and all of the power and control panels too – it’s all done in-house. Beyond that, we provide consultancy services and advise the customer on the best solution for their business. We choose to be responsive and present in the plants of our clients, rather than outsourcing – if you outsource such tasks, then you also outsource the knowhow.” Such highly integrated expertise – and resultant world-class quality product outcomes – is appreciated by Tropical Fruit Machinery’s customers, who include some of the biggest companies in the field of fruit processing (Del Monte, Dole, and Chiquita), as well as major ingredients players (Dohler, Refresco), plus multi-national bottlers (Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co.). A distinct advantage for Tropical Fruits Machinery is that it offers a wide range of multi-purpose techno-

logical solutions – from the huge capacity plants that are fully automatic and supervised by SCADA system and remote control, down to small-sized plants on skid, or pilot plants, or mobile set-ups that are easy to use and transport. Resultantly, Tropical Fruit Machinery also counts many start-ups amongst its client base – companies that often benefit from a turnkey solution, informs the MD. “We can provide those new firms with consultancy services for the building design, as well as for designing the areas for logistics, and then finally we do designs for the plant machinery and piping.” Such contracts are backed by a strong after-sales offering spanning supply of original spare parts, online and computerised remote access assistance, alongside production, commercial and financial assistance, including customised payment plans. Other on-going contracts pertain to machine maintenance, to ensure the client’s equipment is operating at optimal efficiency. Quality and performance

When improving its solutions, the starting point is always to analyse the quality of the product that comes out, stresses Mr Concari. “The final goal of our machinery is to create a food product whose quality is in line with the highest requirements and standards. So, we’re always analysing what comes out from the machine – not only in terms of physical parameters but also microbiological parameters – to ensure, as standard, the long-lasting shelf life of the product. We also analyse flavour, as well as the waste generated from the process. Analysing all such parameters combined informs us whether we are ultimately getting a good product from the machine.” The second factor that has long been key in Tropical Fruit Machinery’s QA approach is the firm’s focus on ensuring the machinery achieves consistently highlevel performance. “That means monitoring for sound, vibrations, electrical consumption, and so on – data that informs us on how to prevent the halting or failure of the machine further down the line,” the MD tells us. “This aspect of deep analysis of any potential issues, and resultant preventative analysis, is a most important aspect of our quality process.” Tropical Fruit Machinery’s development of new machinery solutions is demonstrably grounded in the notion of continuous improvement – and that applies to aspects like energy efficiency too, notes Mr Concari. “Year on year, we’re installing engines that feature improved energy consumption. We also monitor the rate of energy consumption, so as to be aware of what’s happening and able to ensure against ‘oversizing’ devices that could raise a plant’s energy use and therefore also the cost of the end product.” Likewise, the drive to reduce water consumption in its machinery is another focus for the firm. “That’s important for many businesses – especially those located in areas where water is a scarce commodity,” he adds.

Making the right connections

Decades of mechanical, electrical and automation knowhow positions Tropical Fruit Machinery favourably to leverage on advances ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with the convergence of numerous smart technologies holding distinct promise for optimising the operations of F&B processors. Mr Concari speaks of his firm’s approach, and its distinct advantage in this area over many machine manufacturers. “Software as an industry is obviously growing rapidly, given the multitude of technologies that are emerging and improving every year – and we have the advantage of designing our own software in-house. It means that today you can view your plant’s operations in Vietnam via your smart phone in London, for example,” says the MD, advising that the integration of the most appropriate of these emerging technologies ensures product traceability and giving supervisors 24-hour-a-day control of their department or machine. “We create a centralised room for supervision,” he tells us, “and from there you can connect both remotely from outside of the plant via a smart phone, or from within the plant on the factory floor via a tablet, making all of the necessary data available in real-time.” As one might expect, the readiness of the client to adopt such technology varies on a case-by-case basis. “It depends on both the company and the country,” the MD admits. “If you’re talking about Coca-Cola, for example, they’re obviously very keen on ensuring high traceability for their products, so are looking for the top solution. However, if you’re talking about a start-up in Vietnam, for example, then the requirements there are obviously lower. Nonetheless, in such a scenario, we would still push for a centralised supervision room. We teach our clients the most effective way to work in order to produce a high quality product, as how the machine is handled plays an important role. We would therefore encourage the adoption of technology that may add some cost, yet that would be cost recovered through better handling of the factory.” Ready for a ‘new normal’

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has brought into keen focus the benefits for processors in having such advanced digital technology integrated into their facility – not least in the ability to gain remote assistance from experts at a time when a physical, on-site visit may prove unfeasible. “To provide such a service to our customers – to remotely connect to their plants and provide them with assistance – has been very positive for us,” remarks Mr Concari. Beyond that, Tropical Fruit Machinery is currently creating a network of customers and players in its field, in order to overcome some of the associated business disruptions. “This enables us to keep alive all of the business that was going to happen before the onset of the coronavirus,” advises its MD. “While maintenance contracts have continued to generate revenue, it’s obviously been more difficult to close big deals in ‡ 49

the present situation due to the challenges our customers are currently facing. However, we’re hoping to finalise a number of contracts once the situation is a little more clear.” What does already seem clear it that the industry will move into a ‘new normal’ of revised protocols – not least in light of the greater social distancing that may be required in factories as a result of Covid-19 risks. Such pressures are only likely to accelerate the advancement and convergence of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). As a technology leader in its field, Tropical Fruit Machinery was already harnessing and implementing such technologies long before the pandemic, delivering improved product quality, efficiency, traceability and more for its F&B customers in so doing. It seems logical to assume that interest in smart technologies will continue to grow across the sector in the months and years ahead – and this positions the Italian firm well to deliver on such advanced solutions for its clients.

proposals. “We have new solutions currently under development for citrus processing, which we see potentially as a big part of our future portfolio. Another area in which we’re developing new processing solutions is coconut. “Elsewhere, we’re improving our Chemical Department to gain better knowledge of the chemical aspects of our products – investing internally as well as outsourcing to some universities here in Italy,” he tells us, adding that such efforts will help accelerate Tropical Fruit Machinery’s research related to transforming waste into secondary products. “We take into consideration two aspects – chemical analysis and energy production – when determining what today may be waste but tomorrow could be a valuable resource,” informs Mr Concari. Indeed, as the ‘circular economy’ concept gains ground, such transformations will become increasingly crucial in boosting the sustainability credentials of F&B processors – alongside creating unprecedented value and efficiency for their operations.

Extracting greater value

A successful formula

Certainly, the zeal for innovation that has characterised Tropical Fruit Machinery’s progress thus far shows little sign of dampening, and Mr Concari reveals upcoming additions to the firm’s portfolio of technical

Tropical Fruit Machinery is expanding all the time, and its workforce is growing in accordance. “We’re experiencing good growth in Central America at present – particularly in Costa Rica, where we’re


recruiting more personnel to join our team later this year as we open a larger office out there,” informs Mr Concari, who also expects Africa to present enormous opportunities for his business in the years ahead. “There are challenges in those markets, of course, but we identify huge prospective – and fast – growth across many African countries, as well as in the Far East,” he remarks. For those largely agricultural-based economies, where GDP continues to expand, the next step is to transform and process the country’s farm produce, in order to add value to exports and to supply products domestically for a swiftly expanding consumer class. Via its leading processing technologies, Tropical Fruits Machinery is well positioned to support such industrial transitions, as well as helping international firms to set up local operations in these high-growth markets. Reflecting upon the key factors behind Tropical Fruits Machinery’s success and expansion thus far,

Mr Concari cites the firm’s ability to “remain at the cutting edge of its market segment; to be present in the places where growth is occurring, and to have the technical proposals to answer the requirements of those players.” Certainly, ‘innovation’ and ‘quality’ are two of the most cited reasons given by end-users for choosing Italian technology – and, benefiting from decades of engineering experience in its speciality segment, Tropical Fruit Machinery is resolutely driven by both. Looking ahead, as F&B manufacturers seek to maintain their leadership or penetrate new markets, this dynamic Italian firm will undoubtedly continue to deliver the advanced solutions and know-how required to help its clients extract greater value from their operations and ensure long-term growth. o 51


EXTRACTING VALUE Established in 1985, ZUMEX has grown over the decades to become a global reference in creating machinery required for fruit and vegetable juice extraction. Food & Beverage Networker explores some of the firm’s more recently patented technologies and exclusive systems for players in the HoReCa, retail and manufacturing segments. 52

rom its headquarters in Moncada-Valencia in Spain, ZUMEX has dramatically expanded its market reach over the past three and a half decades to encompass a presence in over 100 countries today via its extensive network of distributors and five subsidiaries (USA, Mexico, UK, France and Germany).


Over the years, the company’s commitment to developing innovative juicing systems that guarantee maximum quality and the best tasting juice have made it a pioneer in the industry – and, to this day, ZUMEX continues to strives to achieve technological excellence and optimum design in this specialist area. Food engineering excellence

The group’s operations are segmented in accordance with the three predominant areas in which ZUMEX is active today – namely, Foodservice & Retail, Vending; and Food Engineering. The Foodservice & Retail segment develops automatic juicers for the HoReCa and Retail sectors – from cafés, restaurants and juice bars, to self- ‡ 53

service locations, convenience stores, supermarkets and hypermarkets. ZUMEX’s Vending division creates revolutionary, latest-generation vending machines that offer fresh juice anywhere. And finally, Food Engineering is Zumex’s industrial division, and develops engineering projects to process fruit and vegetables, in order to obtain juice and other by-products on an industrial scale. The division offers bespoke solutions, adapted to the client’s needs. Since its setup, ZUMEX® Food Engineering has been growing at a swift clip, and has designed and implemented major projects around the world for a variety of prestigious companies. Producers and establishments in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Turkey, USA and Australia have placed their trust in ZUMEX® technology and know-how to offer a wide range of juices, with the guarantee of high profitability and a rapid return on investment. JuiceTech Pro

The JuiceTech Pro line of turnkey projects specialises in the design of plants and equipment for large-scale production – from the initial study through to the design, implementation, supervision and commissioning of the project. This includes post-harvest machinery (reception, sorting, washing and grading), fruit, vegetable and citrus fruit juice processing lines, and comprehensive pasteurising systems. The JuiceTech line offers modular juicing solutions for small and medium-scale production of citrus, pomegranate, stone fruit, non-stone fruit, and vegetable juices with equipment designed to cater for the needs of small producers, supermarket chains, hotels, restaurants, juice bars, and fresh produce stores. 54

Innovation at the sharp end

Proof of ZUMEX®’s success is the warm welcome given to its Citrus Z450, a robust and reliable industrial juicer which is ideal for the extraction of orange, mandarin, grapefruit, lime and lemon juice. Citrus Z450 is today used by firms across the world, including major brands located in the birthplace of cold press juice, such as Juice Press (New York), Solti (San Diego), and Urban Remedy (San Francisco), as well as in Europe (Frankly Juice, Copenhagen). The group also works with multinationals such as Del Monte, which utilise ZUMEX solutions in short-life fresh juice lines that use HTST (high-temperature short-time) pasteurisation in different plants across the world.

The need for ‘The Speed’

A recent innovative addition is a solution for making pomegranate juice – The Speed – which was launched by Zumex in February last year. Typically, the hardness and thickness of pomegranate peel can make it a decidedly difficult fruit to process – however, Zumex’s solution means that freshly squeezed pomegranate juice can now be a fast and easy option for manufacturers. Featuring a titanium blade, a filtering system and a powerful motor that enables processing of 30 pieces of fruit a minute, The Speed is capable of over 100kg of non-stop production – claimed by the firm to be the highest figure for a juicer without the need for an operator. And Zumex CEO Victor Bertolini is clearly buoyant about the machine’s prospects, given the rising popularity of this superfood in the juice segment: “Freshly squeezed pomegranate juice is set to become a global consumption trend with which we intend to revolutionise the fresh produce area of supermarkets around the world once again,” he enthused. Juicing 4.0

Another new innovation from the company is Zumex Connect, which enables operators to stay connected to their commercial juicer from wherever they are, and access the most thorough reports on their machine sales and productivity using the firm’s exclusive Smart Juicing technology. Touted as ‘the most

advanced solution for juice professionals’, the Zumex Connect platform offers access to three different report categories – basic, advanced, and maintenance – enabling users to get the insights they need to optimise their juice business. The Basic Report offers real-time data about productivity and machine status – and access to this is included when purchasing any of Zumex’s Smart models. The platform’s Advanced Report provides data intelligence – a dynamic dashboard with key indicators about all of your machines – with three months of subscription now included when purchasing any Smart model. Finally, the Maintenance Report advises on preventive maintenance, offering status notifications, and optimisation of responses to possible incidents. Zumex asserts that a Smart juicer will ultimately lead to a Smart business, citing advantages such as increased profitability of the machines, sales tracking capabilities, enhanced productivity, real-time status notifications, insight into consumption times, and an accurate counting of squeezed fruits. Moreover, the company automatically extends the warranty to five years on all purchased Smart Juicers registered with Zumex Connect. Food engineering on five continents

The presence today of ZUMEX Food Engineeringdesigned plants and equipment on five continents demonstrates the company's ability to provide companies with the technology they need for juice and pulp extraction, pasteurisation, concentrates, formulation, reconstitution and packaging lines for a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Certainly, the rise in demand for fruit juices containing fibre, as well as fresh juices without preservatives, alongside the ever-expanding spend on health and fitness aronund the world are factors that were driving the juicer market worldwide prior to the global pandemic. In a post-covid-19 world, such trends have been turbo-charged as consumers pay greater attention to their health, wellbeing and immune support. All of this bodes well for manufacturers like Zumex, while the hospitality sector re-establishing operations in earnest following a flurry of lockdowns also presents opportunities for such machinery-makers that can add value to such businesses by providing juicers with better capabilities. And with hygiene an obvious heightened concern as the world reopens, Zumex’s exclusive ASP antibacterial technology is there to support more stringent food safety considerations. Throughout over three and a half decades in operation, the company’s commitment to developing innovative juicing systems that guarantee maximum quality and the best tasting juice have made it a pioneer in the industry, and ZUMEX® has said it will continue this mission to achieve technological excellence and optimum design in this specialist area in the years ahead. o 55

Company Profile: Cabelvey Conveyors Written by DEL WILLIAMS

THE HYGIENIC WAY TO CONVEY Having designed, engineered and serviced enclosed cable and disc tube conveyors for nearly half a century to clients across 66 countries, US-based Cabelvey Conveyors is an industry stalwart whose systems are today utilised for an array of food products, including nuts, cereal, snacks, beans, seeds and coffee. While its equipment can convey up to 2,000 cubic feet (almost 57 cubic metres) per hour of materials with numerous layouts using multiple inlets and outlets, it is Cablevey’s automated ‘wet cleaning’ capabilities that set its systems apart from the competition – improving food safety and boosting the speed of product changeovers without the need for conveyor disassembly. Food & Beverage Networker explores this more hygienic way to convey.

o meet increasingly strict compliance standards, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), food processors now regularly utilise ATP testing to monitor equipment surfaces for microbial growth. Add to this the need to minimize cross contamination of products or ingredients with allergens after production changeovers, and more processors are realising that the traditional means of cleaning conveying equipment may not be sufficient to meet today’s rigorous compliance requirements. When conventional conveyors need to be disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled to reach all exposed internal surfaces, potential downtime can extend to days. If this proves too onerous, some food processors dedicate separate conveyor lines to specific products



– yet this increases capital equipment costs, labour, and the production space required. As an alternative to speed up the process, a substantial number of food processors have turned to tubular drag conveyor systems, which gently move product through a sealed, enclosed tube using a drag cable and circular discs pulled through on a loop – ideal for delicate items. Because tubular cable conveyors are enclosed, such systems can be quickly and effectively flooded with water, flushed, rinsed, cleansed and thoroughly sanitised without disassembly – a process called ‘wet cleaning’. This ‘wet clean’ approach significantly improves food safety compliance and system reliability for a variety of food types such as nuts, frozen fruits and vegetables, grains, cereals, and powdered soups. The technique, ‡


in fact, thoroughly flushes out any potential allergens like nuts or gluten from conveying equipment. Typically, food processors must display a warning on packaging for consumers when product is processed on equipment that handles nuts. Since a complete and thorough cleaning can be accomplished without disassembly of the system, the entire process only takes 20-90 minutes. This can substantially reduce downtime during production changeovers and eliminate the need for unnecessary additional dedicated conveyor lines. For food processors conveying a specific product, regular cleaning can be set to run on an automated basis. More reliable, streamlined cleaning process required

“We were proactively aiming to meet higher compliance standards while increasing the speed of packaging. Our previous pneumatic conveyor system was not up to the task. We found a solution in a tubular conveyor system capable of providing an extremely reliable conveyance, automated cleaning of the system without having to take it apart,” reports Mark Koreis, Superintendent Processing/Packaging, at the Moses Lake (Washington State) plant of National Frozen Foods Corp., a leading US frozen vegetable company since 1912 that processes more than 400 million pounds of product annually. According to Mr Koreis, the Moses Lake plant previously conveyed frozen peas, corn, lima beans, diced carrots, and legumes using a pneumatic conveyor to move product to bulk packaging areas. However, this was less than ideal for their application. “Our previous pneumatic conveyor system generated a lot of heat, which is not good for frozen product, so we had to inject cool air into the system,” informs Mr Koreis. “Also, sanitation of the system presented challenges.” According to Mr Koreis, the cleaning process was inefficient and led to some downtime. As a result, the system was typically limited to conveying no more than 8–10 tons of product per hour. “We sought a more reliable, precise, streamlined cleaning process, as well as increased production speeds,” Mr Koreis adds. Automated wet cleaning capability

To resolve the issue, the plant replaced the pneumatic conveyor system with a tubular cable conveyor system with automated wet cleaning capability from Cablevey Conveyors ( The Oskaloosa, Iowa-based conveyor manufacturer has designed, engineered, and serviced enclosed cable and disc tube conveyors for 50 years, with its solutions in more than 66 countries today. In the food industry, the innovative company’s conveyors are utilised for products such as nuts, cereal, snacks, beans, seeds and coffee. Cablevey’s system can convey up to 2,000 cubic feet per hour of materials with numerous layouts using multiple inlets and outlets. 58

The cable conveyor’s wet cleaning process internally cleans the tube in several steps starting with a water rinse followed by foaming agent, a sanitising rinse, and a final water rinse. Once the system is thoroughly flushed out, drying is achieved by attaching urethane wipers to the tubular conveyor’s discs, which “act like a squeegee”, as Mr Koreis puts it, to remove any residual water. For the Moses Lake frozen food processing plant application, a six-inch diameter tubular conveyor system – approximately a hundred feet long – was installed to send product to be packaged in boxes or totes for shipping. To automate the cleaning process, Cablevey helped to integrate the conveyor with the plant’s distributed control system (DCS). “By automating the cleaning, the Cablevey system is essentially self-cleaning,” notes Mr Koreis. “It is very convenient to let it run through the cleaning process and have employees take care of other tasks.” Less downtime and less breakage

According to the National Frozen Foods Corp. executive, clear tubes were chosen as an option for the conveyor system to provide greater visibility into the cleanliness of the equipment and the cleaning process as it occurs. He also chose to add a unique inspection option that enables the running of a small, lighted camera system internally through the tubes, with video viewable on his smartphone via an app. Usually, this

level of inspection is performed on an as-needed basis to further verify or document cleanliness. “This clear tube system is transparent except where the clamps are, so we can visually check at any time, and the internal camera system allows us to see every nook and cranny from the inside,” advises Mr Koreis. “This, along with regular ATP testing, gives us confidence that we are reliably meeting all necessary QA and food safety standards.” “Compared to our previous air conveyor system, we are able to run significantly more – up to 15 tons an hour – with less downtime, and less breakage of delicate product,” he enthuses. Running more, with greater flexibility

In the food processing industry, the wet cleaning capability is advantageous when dealing with a wide variety of products, including nuts, vegetables, grains, and flours, according to Steve Ives, Cablevey Conveyors Director of Business Development. Mr Ives notes that the wet cleaning process often has the greatest impact in operations that rely on open systems, such as bucket elevators or belt conveyors, which traditionally must be disassembled, cleaned, or soaked, and then reassembled – a labour- and timeintensive process. In one example where the wet clean process was used, it dramatically streamlined cleaning, food handling and processing at a US West Coast nut pro-

cessor. The processor was using several bucket elevators to convey product in its nut conveyor system and had to spend several days a month on cleaning. To clean the equipment, the bucket elevators had to be shut down, powered off, protective shrouding removed, and then disassembled – with the process reversed to come back online. When the processor switched to an automated wet cleaning system, however, it cut production downtime to a fraction of the time required, and freed the work crew to take on other vital tasks, according to Mr Ives. In another example, a granola processor in the American Northwest switched from belt conveyors to tubular cable conveyors that could be wet cleaned without disassembly. The goal was to streamline cleaning and flush out any potential nut allergens from the system. “Instead of using basically dedicated lines, as was done previously, with the wet clean process they can run about five or six different products through the same line while remaining compliant,” Mr Ives notes in closing. “That has significantly improved their efficiency and production flexibility.” o


Over the past two years since L&G Engineering last spoke with Food & Beverage Networker, the process technology specialist has been gaining plenty of attention on the national and international stage for its super-energy-efficient fryers. Coming at the challenge of driving down fuel consumption from a gas engineering perspective has proved key to the UK firm’s success in slashing the energy bills of food manufacturers – ranging from startups right up to some of the largest snack producers in the market today. Director Mr Adrian Laurie describes the technological advancements that have helped L&G Engineering’s clients achieve new highs in terms of energy-efficiency, flexibility and connectivity.

or obvious reasons, the past few years have proven torrid for the vast majority of firms, with the pandemic disrupting operations, scuppering supply chains and upending many a business plan. And just as the wheels of the global economy had been eased off the blocks after a painful period of stalled growth, unprecedentedly high gas prices are now serving to further compound such challenges for manufacturers looking to minimise their overheads. Inevitably, the recent uncertainty and volatility has served to underline the importance for such players to invest in equipment and systems that can help reduce costs – and in turn safeguard their future operations. In tandem, the global market for potato chips is predicted to expand at a CAGR of around 3.1 per cent from 2019–2024 to reach US$35 billion (IMARC Group data), while the wider snack food market is expected to grow annually by more than 4.1 per cent from 2021– 2026 (Statista data). Within this context, many snack



food businesses are today faced with the conundrum of how to significantly and efficiently boost production capacity in their commercial frying operations in order to keep pace with ever-expanding demand, while simultaneously driving down operational costs. Squeezing higher production throughput from the same floor-space is the ideal scenario – and engineers at UK-based L&G Engineering have long made that goal their specialist focus. In fact, as a result of a process of nearly two decades of R&D spawning continuous improvements, the company has effectively solved the challenge with an array of world-class commercial batch fryers that consume considerably less energy than competitor models, thus providing snack manufacturers with arguably the most economical, sustainable and scalable solution to boosting product output on the market today. Furthermore, over the past year or so the company has developed and launched a range of continuous fryers – innovative technology ‡

Company Profile: L&G Engineering Written by SARAH PURSEY



that provides a world of options for snack manufacturers in terms of flexibility and agility. Crucially, the firm has recently extended its technology focus to encompass the entire line – from infeed to fryer and outfeed system, in a move designed to deliver even greater efficiency. Continuous fryer, endless applications

There has been considerable interest in L&G Engineering’s first continuous fryer innovation, which the firm developed – following an enormous amount of development work – for a manufacturer up in Newcastle, in the north of England. “Crucially, the new continuous fryer is underpinned by the same highly efficient burner technology as our batch fryers,” notes Mr Laurie. “In fact, the efficiency of our burner systems – that is, the low level of gas that they consume – is one of the biggest selling points of our equipment, given that the most important thing for any customer to consider with a new piece of kit is ‘how much is it going to cost to run?’,” he tells us. The new LG Continuous Fryer, manufactured for a customer in the north of England, was designed to produce a capacity of around 500kg of finished product per hour. However, Mr Laurie advises that the machine is completely scalable. “It could be as small as 100kg per hour, if need be, while for a larger


throughput we would simply build a bigger unit and install one of our larger burner systems, which are now designed and built in-house along with PLC-control to fit the process involved,” he tells us. “In fact, a large player recently asked us if we could use such a piece of kit with which to fry 800kg per hour of poppadom snacks. That probably wouldn’t be a bigger unit but slightly smaller, as it’s a very fast throughput for that type of product; the pellets have a very low moisture content and are only in the hot oil for seconds, so the fryer doesn’t need to be that long. They are now looking at this scalable compact fryer system for other products they produce within their range, along with a larger 11metre-long unit.” Mr Laurie advises that most of L&G Engineering’s clients have previously been looking to cook just one type of product on a fryer – however, in an indication of the way the market is heading, the firm’s new client in Newcastle wanted to do 11 products on the same fryer. “This is obviously a big jump to make, as you have to accommodate possibly a huge temperature range, and also be able to increase or decrease the throughput speed according to type of product. As you can imagine, such aspects made the project quite a challenge. Nonetheless, we’re currently in the process of commissioning the line – it’s had its first test run and is performing well,” he informs. “I would say – and we’ve

had a consultant friend of ours arrive at the same conclusion – that this kind of continuous fryer potentially has more scope than the batch fryers. In theory, there’s very little limit to what you could cook on it – everything from crisps to potato wedges, chips, noodles, nuts, poppadoms, chicken goujons, and even possibly fish fingers if need be,” he informs, pointing towards one of L&G’s customers who has recently trialled one of the firm’s baby fryers for cooking pork scratchings, and who is now also looking at this new continuous fryer for a pork product line. “It’s therefore a great bit of kit with a lot of scope for us in terms of market, and for the customer in terms of flexibility and being highly efficient,” he adds. An integrated approach

Beyond the fryer itself, L&G Engineering has actually expanded to offer the complete, integrated line. “To really complement our fryers, and make them run at the highest efficiency, you need to have a good infeed and outfeed system in place,” stresses Mr Laurie.

Comprising weighing, slicers and conveying system to deliver and launch consistent batch or volume of product into the fryer, such an infeed system must be able to preload and run at the correct feed-rate for the particular type of product, marrying efficiency with speed. “If you’re cooking a product with a frying time of six or seven minutes, for example, but it takes you a minute or more to get that product in the fryer, that obviously eats into the batch time, meaning some of the product would be cooked more or less than the rest – so, the faster you can infeed, the better,” he advises. “For other products – such as pork scratchings, where the cooking time is around one hour – the delivery time of product to fryer is less critical, but when you’re looking at a product with a short batch time, then delivery is key. If a customer is purchasing one of our fryers, for optimal performance we’d therefore advise them to opt for the entire system,” he tells us. “At the other end of the process, when the product comes out of the fryer it obviously needs to rest and drain somewhere, and we provide that outfeed system as ‡ 63


well. In fact, for certain clients we’ve engineered everything, including the seasoning system and then on to the end of the packing machine,” he reports. “Ultimately, it’s a more integrated approach that we’re now offering to manufacturers,” summarises Mr Laurie, “and we have a major player now interested in such a solution. We’ve been in talks for around 18 months with that major snack manufacturer, but they now understand the benefits that we’re able to deliver.” From startups to snack titans

Over the past few years, L&G has had plenty of interest in its solutions, with many of its contracts coming to fruition recently, as animal spirits have started to return to the market – with many manufacturers now emerging from the gloom, ready to commit to investing in new kit. “In Belgium, we have a good client – a major snack manufacturer and exporter that actually has one of the most efficient factory setups I’ve ever seen,” Mr Laurie informs. “They’ve been very impressed by our fryers to date and have actually just purchased a third batch fryer to add to the existing two LG 220 machines. That unit is due to be shipped by December 2021.” Elsewhere, one of the UK’s leading snack producers is currently “very interested” in L&G Engineering’s fryer technology, reveals Mr Laurie. “My business partner David Gowan and I met with the directors relatively recently, and gave them some figures on gas consumption as a comparison. Their Finance Director was a little bit sceptical – and I agreed that the figures being presented probably looked too good to be true. Nonetheless, that firm already has one of our small fryers installed, and the gas saving there was key to that contract. Regarding the prospective order with that major snack producer, the executive told us that if our figures stacked up, then the cost savings to his company would be massive.” Elsewhere, the company recently commissioned a complete line for UK startup Savoursmiths, which manufactures a range of high-end crisps. “We became involved with the project – based out of Duxford, Cambridgeshire – at the very early stages of developing their production plant, and the line took us around eight months from start to finish,” Mr Laurie reports. The lion’s share of L&G Engineering’s contracts today are for operations based out of the UK. However, in recent years the firm has supplied fryers to clients located in Kuwait City, the Czech Republic, Norway and Belgium, with current interest emanating from

the UK, as well as Europe and the Middle East. Beyond that, more or less since inception, L&G Engineering has enjoyed a strong local alliance with a renowned crisp manufacturer – initially undertaking contracts on the maintenance side of things, thereafter developing highly energy-efficient batch fryers for the company, which remains a key customer today. The company is also undertaking other machinery and plant installations for Norfolk-based potato producer Albert Bartlett. “A lot of our work at present revolves around gas, in terms of making burner systems for customers – including a recent bespoke contract for a major herb grower. That’s quite a new side of our business, and one in which we have very little competition,” the firm’s Director points out. “We’ve now also become affiliate members of the Institute of Gas Engineers, which obviously gives us more kudos.” Unbeatable for energy efficiency

Given the ever-strengthening focus on sustainability, and given the challenge faced by many businesses regarding rising fuel prices, it’s little wonder that energy efficient technologies like those developed by L&G Engineering are increasingly attracting the attention of manufacturers. The heat exchangers in the company’s fryers are the source of such impressive energy efficiency, as its Director tells us: “You want to be scrubbing as much energy as possible and putting that into the oil rather than into the atmosphere – and we do that very well. When we went to see this major company recently, they asked us: ‘What makes our equipment different?’ I told them the key giveaway is the flue temperature – if you have 600–800ºC going up the stack, then that’s an enormous amount of wasted heat. Our flue temperature is not that much above the oil temperature – we’re cooking at about 180ºC and we’ve got the flue temp down to around 200ºC. So, it’s a far more efficient process – and with the gas price going the way it is, that’s obviously more important than ever, which should play into our hands,” Mr Laurie tells us. Indeed, while such a saving might seem a little unbelievable, compared to some companies L&G Engineering’s units are using up to 50 per cent less energy. “It all depends on the process, of course, but in certain circumstances the energy consumption might even be lower,” he advises. “Moreover, some fryers can take the best part of an hour to heat up, whereas ours could be ready to go in about 15 minutes. So, for a company spending millions on gas, such savings would obviously ‡ 65

be astronomical,” he points out. “Perhaps the biggest problem we have is actually convincing the customer that we can save them money in this way,” continues Mr Laurie. “If you told the average person you could heavily cut their gas bill – possibly even halve it – most would probably say you’re talking a load of rubbish. Having outlined such cost savings that our fryers could deliver to a major snack firm, one executive asked us: ‘What are you doing differently to the big boys to achieve such savings?’ To put it quite simply, the difference is that we are gas burner engineers. Other companies will make a fryer and put a burner on it; we make the burner and the heat exchanger for the application. We’re coming at it from a totally different angle: because we understand the combustion side of things, which is a real science, then we can dramatically enhance the efficiency on the unit,” he asserts. “We’re also British made, and while we may not be able to compete on price with the likes of China, build-wise we’re creating very reliable and high quality machines – and crucially, ones that last.” Constantly evolving connectivity

On the client side, in the last conversation with Food & Beverage Networker, Mr Laurie described L&G Engineering’s ability to remotely access the client’s machinery so that any issues with the fryers could be diagnosed remotely. And certainly, such capabilities have come into their own since the pandemic-induced travel restrictions made on-site visits highly challenging at best and impossible at worst. “Being able to access machinery without having to travel to the factory inperson was a huge advantage for us. Just this week, we managed to help a customer in this way, swiftly resolving the issue online. That was a client in the UK, yet it was still a major advantage, given how fast we were able to get them up and running again,” the Director tells us. “Elsewhere, our clients in Kuwait City had an issue, and via the remote access we managed to give them 66

a crash course in gas engineering online – we sent the parts out; we managed to determine where the fault was; we gave advice on changes to make within the factory, and we got them up and running again without having to fly over to their facility,” he continues. “So, being able to interrogate the PLC on the machine and see the information online proved invaluable. It data logs certain information – and dragging back through that data enables you to see where faults had started to arise regarding gas pressures and other areas. Of course, the problem may not even be the fryers; they could be waiting for something on the infeed – if the infeed is faulty, for example. As cook profiles are logged and displayed on the screen, with the remotely accessible data you can even tell when a different person is running the machine,” advises Mr Laurie. “That can be very helpful, as some people have less problems than others – if you get a good operator, they can be key to making the customer a lot of money, as they’re able to run the machine to maximum efficiency,” he points out. “So, being able to interrogate such data online is invaluable for us in terms of determining where the fault lies (or possibly even who the fault is).” In terms of further enhancing the remote systems on L&G Engineering’s fryers, its Director informs that these are constantly evolving: “If you look at one of the early fryers compared to the models that are going out of the door today, the level of advancement is enormous,” he remarks. “There’s more software, allowing for a greater scope in terms of what the customer can do on these units – every customers’ requirements are different, of course, yet the tech is constantly evolving.” High frying prospects

While Mr Laurie counts L&G Engineering as fortunate over the pandemic period due to having the majority of its clients in the food industry – and thus a constant pipeline of work (albeit more on the maintenance side of things) – the company’s Director reports that since April 2021, new equipment orders have sky-

rocketed, and the company is today busier than ever. “We’re lucky to have such a hard-working team,” he remarks, going on to note that expanding the workforce will be key to his company’s future expansion. “We’re focused on attracting new personnel to join our team, and investing in them, in order to replace those engineers that are coming up to retirement,” he reveals. Aside from manpower, a major equipment investment has served to significantly enhance L&G’s inhouse capabilities, as Mr Laurie elaborates: “All of our products are made from stainless steel, and after the product is fabricated, it needs to have a finish applied through bead blasting. While we previously sub-contracted out this process, it was an expense and also proved very time-consuming as it involved significant logistics – in terms of getting our equipment there and having to pick it up again and bring it back to our facility. We therefore decided to create our own inhouse bead blasting facility, which has been a huge cost- and time-saving move for us, as well as opening

up the potential to provide bead blasting services for other companies as well,” he enthuses, adding that his company would also be looking to expand its workshop in the longer term, in order to further boost capacity. In terms of market trends, Mr Laurie observes that the crisp market is relatively saturated these days, yet the executive has also identified in recent years that his firm’s fryers can easily be adapted to cook a wide array of snacks and other foods. “Adapting our energyefficient technology to all manner of other products, as previously outlined, provides a real opportunity for our business,” he enthuses. And clearly, that dynamic feeds in nicely to the versatility that many manufacturers are seeking out for their operations today. Meanwhile, given the sizeable proportion of operational costs sucked up by energy in the case of most food manufacturing operations, the rising price of gas is also likely to make L&G Engineering’s equipment even more attractive to manufacturers large and small in the years ahead. Certainly, L&G’s competence strength on the combustion side has been crucially important to the firm’s evolution since day dot, while its development of technology and remote access capability on the controls side has arguably come into its own over the past 18 months of disruption. It is this combination of qualities that makes L&G Engineering’s fryers unique. “Ultimately, innovation is key to what we do – and I love coming up with the solutions to people’s problems. Our business is essentially driven by our customers and their evolving requirements – and, quite simply, our task is to come up with the most effective and efficient solutions,” Mr Laurie tells us in closing. With its extremely keen focus on R&D, it seems clear that deep understanding has driven this dynamic firm to where it is today – and given the impressive savings (in terms of cutting out energy, time and headaches alike) that L&G Engineering has demonstrated it can achieve for clients, few would bet against this process technology specialist’s continued upward trajectory in the years ahead. o


Company Profile: Niederwieser Spa Written by FOOD&BEVERAGE NETWORKER

MORE THAN PACKAGING From granules to flexible films, and from neutral to printed bags, Germany-headquartered Niederwieser is a €120m turnover group serving over 1,700 customers worldwide with innovative solutions for food packaging, with a special focus on sustainability. Matteo Pozzesi, Sales Director of Niederwieser Spa (the group’s Italian operations) and Marketing Director of the Niederwieser Group, describes the prospects for the sector in the coming months, with a view to the most salient trends and challenges.

xtrusion is the process that transforms plastic granulate into film – and for more than two decades, every day, this has been German company VF Verpackungen GmbH’s focus. Over the decades, what is today known as Niederwieser Group has expanded its footprint into



Italy, from where Mr Pozzesi speaks to us. “Today, Niederwieser Group is present in three location: one in Germany, where the extrusion of flexible plastic film takes place, one in Bolzano [in South Tyrol, northern Italy], where the group’s headquarters is located and a division that follows the processing side – i.e. the sale of machinery and industrial slicers – concluding with Niederwieser in Campogalliano [in the Province of Modena, northern Italy], where film processing takes place and then production on the converting side. Here we process both vacuum pouches and printed film for the top of the packaging.” The family company is today a key player in the flexible film market, both for vacuum and modified atmosphere applications. Its main target is the world of meat and cold cuts, advises Mr Pozzesi, although the Group also offers high-performance applications for vegetable and medical products. ‡


Three locations – a world of packaging

Sustainability minded solutions

VF Verpackungen GmbH’s site in Sulzburg, southern Germany, is specialised in the production of flexible, multi-layer films in PA / PE and PA / EVOH / PE for vacuum packaging and MAP. With the AMELEN FILMS brand, the company has firmly established itself over the years, to become one of the European leaders in the production of flexible, multi-layer medium and high barrier films. From extrusion to converting, Niederwieser Food Packaging offers a wide range of films and pouches for vacuum packing, MAP, thermo-forming, and flowpacks for the food (and non-food) industry. The plant in Campogalliano fully covers the film-converting processes: cutting, lamination, heat-sealing, printing and embossing. Thanks to the flexographic printing department, and a modern automatic formulation and colour dosing system, the facility is able to provide excellent graphic customisation of products. Finally, the Niederwieser Food Processing is the Italian leader in the sale of industrial food processing machinery – representing the brands Weber, Textor, and Tippertie. Located in San Giacomo di Laives in South Tyrol, it has established a solid co-operation with the best brands, to guarantee its customers the best product performance and continuity in the supply of appliance and spare parts. Thanks to a highly specialised team that undergoes continuous training, customers can rely on complete pre- and post-sales consultancy and assistance – both remotely and on-site.

Speaking of some of the key trends in the industry right now, undoubtedly the most prominent (and challenging) is the issue of sustainability, and Mr Pozzesi is keen to explore this theme. “Obviously the most important theme right now is sustainability, environmental impact. We have customers trying to find alternatives to plastic – a material demonised in recent years, but to which we see no alternative. “Our job is to preserve food for a long time. Producing a slice of meat has a very strong impact in terms of CO2 emissions, therefore securing it and being able to preserve it for a long time – thus reducing food waste – is an important goal for us,” he stresses. “This, of course, requires certain material characteristics – such as the ability to act as a barrier to oxygen or gases; sometimes to light, as for sliced meats. And plastic is the best element to perform this function. It’s lighter than other materials, such as aluminium and glass, but it has barrier properties that paper struggles to achieve,” he tells us. “Our concept is moving toward recyclability as we’ve created these thin, lightweight, ‘safes’ that protect food for a long time. We have invested in recent years on technology, to be able to reduce the thickness, thus placing less plastic on the market, but increasing the barrier capacity, to have a longer shelf-life of the product, with products that are also recyclable. Indeed, at the recently concluded MEAT-TECH event in Milan, Niederwieser Group presented a variety of recyclable solutions based on PP and PE that


can combine thickness reduction, longer shelf-life and recyclability. “In our sector it is not possible to use recycled plastics on an industrial scale, because there are no granules, polyamide or polyethylene that are recyclable in sufficient quantity,” Mr Pozzesi admits. “But we are developing pilot projects with our suppliers, who have made small quantities of chemically recycled material available to us. It’s a way to be ready when chemical recycling gets more international coverage. Chemical recycling plants will allow us to reobtain virgin material that can be put back on the market with a good dose of recycled material. The tests we have done so far lead us to have the possibility to replace 60 per cent of the plastic with recycled plastic, leaving the remaining 40 per cent as virgin material.” Moreover, since January 2021, the Group has set out on its journey to become a zero waste company, as Mr Pozzesi advises. “An in-house recycling plant has been installed at our headquarters in Germany. The results achieved so far are excellent, in fact we have managed to achieve zero waste impact in the extrusion plant. It should be remembered that extruders have very high waste: we are talking about many tons that, since January, no longer enter the waste cycle.”

“while the decline was strong on catering and restaurants,” he continues. “Then, restaurants and vendors started again.” Now the problem is raw materials, Mr Pozzesi laments: “These have increased significantly since January – and are continuing to do so, due to reduced oil extraction, which has had a direct impact on plastics, but also on the energy account. The raw material shortage problem is global and across all materials. For example, the cost of pallets has doubled, cartons have increased and aluminium has also risen. It is a crisis, therefore, that affects the industry, but will eventually have an impact on consumers,” he warns. We have noticed, however, that plastic is becoming a little more friendly again, because it’s still proving that, when there’s a health problem, it’s a great material for securing sterile and cleanly anything from food to medical.” Certainly, the protection of food from harm and the protection of the environment from harm is a balancing act that packaging producers will continue to grapple with in the years ahead. Innovative leaders like Niederwieser Group will continue to meet such challenges and evolve with agility and quality solutions to market demand. o

Food safety remains crucial

Observing the health of the market at present, Mr Pozzesi notes that his firm is seeing a restart of sorts – albeit a rather “spotty” one. “First the GDO channel sales started,” he says, in reference to ‘Grande Distribuzione Organizzata’ (English translation: major mulitples/large-scale retail channel – i.e., chain stores), 71

Company Profile: Sorma Group Written by SARAH PURSEY

MAKING THE GRADE Founded in 1973, Sorma Group is today the world's only corporate group able to offer a turnkey solution comprising the entire line of machines required to automatically grade, weigh and pack fruit and vegetable products, together with supply of the technical material for creating all forms of packaging. Food & Beverage Networker caught up with various executives from across the Group’s operations to learn more about the innovations that are not only making the grade but setting the standard in the fruit and veg segment.

was nearly half a century ago when Italian Nevio Lotti formed Sorma S.p.A., with an initial focus on the construction of chain conveyors systems to be used for the fresh produce to handling the boxes. Very early on, Mr Lotti understood the importance of packaging, and his business went on to develop all of the machinery required to support this process – from weighers, to packaging machines, and through to palletisers – continuously extending its field of competence year on year. Since then, the business has gone on to become a multinational group – and a world leader in the complete supply of automated machinery for the post-harvest of fruit and vegetable products and technical materials for packaging. Today spanning 15 companies in nine countries/ regions – Spain, Germany, France, Benelux, Turkey,



South Korea, Chile and Brasil, USA – the group employs over 800 workers, and boasts over 7,000 customers worldwide, including some of the leading references in the fruit and veg segment. Around 40 specialist distributors operating at a global level further bolster the group’s sales. Sorma Group today offers more than 160 automatic machine models, protected by 60 patents (entirely developed by an in-house team of 35 engineers). Through Sorma’s impressive portfolio of innovations, more than 30 fruit and vegetable products can be graded and presented with the utmost precision and reliability, to effectively respond to the increasingly demanding needs of large-scale fruit and vegetable distribution. Leading through innovation

Sorma’s deep-rooted history has seen it progress from industry-leading innovation in the form of its first packaging and weighing machines through the 1980s, to a period of expansion in the 1990s that would follow two distinct pathways: the expansion of packaging material through the establishment and development of

NETPACK, and the expansion of the group geographically through the establishment of numerous international subsidiaries. By the 2000s, that two-pronged strategy had seen Sorma Group rise to become a market leader in technology for the fruit and vegetable sector, producing a suite of innovations to serve everything from sorting through to packing of the produce, alongside supporting services. From initial consultation and subsequent technology design, up to the final realisation of the project and aftersales support, such services today make Sorma Group more akin to a strategic partner than a mere technology supplier. Over the decades, the success that Sorma S.p.A. gained has resulted in the establishment of new companies. In addition to the aforementioned Netpack (also based in Italy), other subsidiaries within the group today include: Sormaf (France); Sorma Iberica (Spain); Sorma Benelux (The Netherlands), S&B (Germany); Amros (Turkey), Sorma Interamericana (Brasil), and SORMA USA (United States). In total, the Group’s production area spans 100,000 square metres across its various packaging and packaging material subsidiaries. However, the group’s activities and market ‡

Sormapeel – ultra-light and easy-to-recycle packaging


Sorma Group’s exhibition stand at Macfrut

strength have extended far beyond its physical site presence to encompass projects and clients in countries the world over, and to Sorma selling over 1.1 milllion machines to date. Eco-friendly packaging

October 2020 marked a major milestone for Sorma Group – and the dawn of a new era in the sustainable packaging sector – with the introduction of fruit and veg packaging that is 100-percent paper-based, and thus completely recyclable. The distintive innovation that Sorma was able to bring to market – that is, what set its designs apart from other eco packaging on the market for fruit and veg – was the novel integration of a window composed of cellulose mesh. This biodegradable window enables the product inside to effectively ‘breathe’, prolonging its shelf life and ensuring excellent visibility. “With this new packaging line, we’ve enhanced our range with a focus on environmental sustainability – and we’re meeting the demands of consumers who are paying increasing attention to this issue,” advises Andrea Casali, Sales Director for Italy at Sorma Group. “Indeed, we have been constantly moving in this direction for several years: from the single-material recyclable plastic line, which we have gradually made 60-70-per-cent lighter, to the innovative Sormapeel line that we patented and launched on the market at the start of 2020 – which is revolutionary in terms of the way it integrates plastic and paper, offering a high-performance, robust and functional design, and finally the packaging made of 100-per-cent compostable material introduced in autumn 2019.” Sorma Group’s paper packaging is available in five models: ‘PaperPillow’ (with or without a finger grip), ‘PaperStandup’ (with or without a handle), and ‘Paper-Vertbag’. Each iteration is composed of 100-per-cent paper certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and features a cellulose viscose mesh ‘window’. This opening not only allows the product to breathe, 74

but also enables consumers to check the product’s quality and appearance. Another key advantage is the new material’s adaptability to existing packaging machines: it is possible to use the paper on the SBU model of Sorma packaging machines (which is already widely used) by applying a simple kit. This provides significant cost savings by negating the need to purchase special paper processing machines. Since launching, the new sustainable packs have been received very positively. “We initially introduced the paper line on the French market, which is one of the most receptive and discerning with regard to recyclable paper solutions, and conducted tests in Italy, including with the Bologna-based company Romagnoli F.lli S.p.A. – one of the main Italian companies operating in the processing and marketing of fruit and vegetables, especially potatoes and onions – who has always been committed to sustainability issues,” reports Mr Casali. “The aim is to ensure optimal service for all companies in the industry and retail chains that intend to invest in innovative, advantageous packaging, in all the Group’s target countries.” The appeal of SormaPeel

Another recent sustainability-focused launch is SormaPeel – an innovative pack that enables an average 35-per-cent reduction in the amount of plastic used when compared to traditional packaging. The ultra-light packaging line has already been selected for use by Esselunga, Carrefour, Coop, Aldi Italia, and Selex. Regarding the latter, the SormaPeel solution has been adopted for all the mesh packaging in the fruit and vegetable sector used for Selex-branded products in all of the group’s supermarkets across Italy. In addition to robustness, functionality and lightness, SormaPeel’s strengths include ease of recycling. With this inno-

Group’s commitment to tackling food waste: it’s therefore not just a question of production efficiency, but also of ethics.” Using SormaTech’s powerful deep learning algorithms and a large number of cameras – nine for each optical sorter machine line, three colour cameras and six NIR (near-infrared radiation) cameras featuring digital Ultra-HD technology with superior optics – HyperVision simultaneously analyses every point of the fruit’s skin over the entire bandwidth of visible and invisible light, guaranteeing accurate sorting. Accuracy is everything

vation, paper and plastic recycling is easy, quick and efficient: recyclers receive mono-polymer packaging, without inks and glues (which would otherwise compromise the quality of the recyclate). The paper, which has been awarded ‘Aticelca A’ certification, is fully recyclable through the usual production processes, making it possible to reuse the cellulose in the strip. Moreover, the incorporation of paper, with FSC certification, means that the packaging is made from 30 per cent renewable raw materials, and thus meets the goals of European regulations (Directive 904/2019). Finally, another major benefit of Sormapeel is the printable area, which is about twice the size found on normal packaging. Once the paper layer has been removed, the inner part has a second surface available for communications – for example, for brand storytelling, points for collection, recipes or drawings for colouring.

Indeed, when it comes to fresh produce, accuracy is everything. Resultantly, weighing machines have always formed a key part of Sorma Group’s machinery offering, and in September this year the business unveiled its latest model in this category – the WD4-S. With excellent performance in terms of compactness, precision, delicacy and speed, Sorma Group’s new highly innovative weighing machine outperforms other machines on the market, and completes the company’s range of fruit and veg weighing solutions. The new compact and efficient machine is distinguished by its internal feeder belts, which save space and allow it be positioned in any warehouse. However, its small size should not detract from its impressive efficiency: the WD4-S can feed up to four packaging machines. In addition to being adaptable and compact, the WD4-S also stands out for its impressive software technology, which guarantees speed and precision. Thanks to the latest-generation, Industry 4.0 software that operates electronically, fruit is weighed to a very high level of accuracy. Moreover, unlike other weighing machines on the market today, this parameter does not vary with increased speed, making it possible to weigh up to 70 packs per minute. Specially designed for citrus fruits, but also suitable for kiwis and avocados, the WD4-S offers equally high performance with both large and small fruits (from 40mm up to 110mm) thanks to a self-adaptive size recognition system. An additional photocell ‡

Optical sorting tech

Other recent technological advancement can be seen in SormaTech – the group’s proprietary optical sorting machine designed to sort fruit with extreme precision. The R&D centre run by the Group’s Spanish subsidiary, Sorma Iberica, has developed the ‘HyperVision’ platform – a cutting-edge, multi-wavelength lighting solution that offers superior fruit sorting and a high level of efficiency. Remarkably, the new system is able to analyse up to 15 pieces of fruit per second, compared to an average of 12 for other solutions on the market. Thanks to the exclusive SormaTech Hyper-Map system, up to 2,160 images are processed for every analysed piece of fruit. The result is a 360-degree view of the surface of the fruit, which makes it possible to detect, classify and counteract the smallest imperfection: “Consumers, when they see that one or more pieces of fruit inside the pack are damaged, may not proceed with the purchase,” explained Daniele Severi, Director of Technology at Sorma Iberica. “These new technologies demonstrate Sorma

The WD4-S, Sorma Group's highly innovative new weighing machine


Sorma Group’s eco-friendly paper packaging range

system then indicates when the fruit leaves one of the 108 individual cups, stopping the machine to present any damage to the trees and weighing cells, thus increasing processing safety. The software also features a so-called ‘delicate washing programme’ designed to avoid any bruising of the fruit. Finally, like other recent machinery recently launched on the market by Sorma, WD4-S features a touchscreen control panel: simple, intuitive and easy for operators to use. The WD4-S weighing machine was presented at Macfrut 2021 in Rimini, Italy, after six months of testing, during which no problems were detected. “We are very satisfied with the new WD4-S weighing machine,” comments Andrea Mercadini, the group’s CEO, “because it addresses concrete needs emerging from discussions between Sorma and users. We have created an innovative and technologically sophisticated machine that can be adapted to any packaging line. Thanks to its unique performance and features, we have already managed to sell the first 25 units,” he reveals

Italy’s ‘Serie C’ league – for the third season in a row. “We are happy to have participated, three years ago, in the rebirth of Cesena FC,” enthused Andrea Casali, Commercial Director of Sorma Group. He added that the partnership was an opportunity to support his local city team and also strengthen its exposure and general support in the area where the group enjoys a number of key relationships with key customers, including the likes of Orogel (a firm specilised in quick frozen vegetables) and Manuzzi Frutta Secca (a leading purveyor of dried fruit and nut products). Indeed, such exposure – heightened by a recent friendly match against top-tier Italian superstars Juventus – can only be good news for Sorma, as this innovative group continues to innovate, strengthen its presence and capabilities, and looks towards achieving its own future goals. o

Future goals

Looking ahead, Sorma will be seeking to strengthen the presence of a flurry of recent innovations in the market, showcasing its technologies at shows around the world as physical, in-person exhibitions open up such opportunities once more post-pandemic. Indeed, the resumption of these in-person exhibitions will undoubtedly prove welcome to any firm wishing to communicate the impressive features of new machinery to potential customers across the world – and Sorma Group certainly has much to report in that respect. Aside from the recently held Macfrut, at which Sorma Group is a stalwart participant, the firm is looking forward to exhibiting this year and next at upcoming editions of Fruit Attraction in Spain (5–7 October 2021), InterPom in Belgium (28–30 November 2021), and Fruit Logistica in Germany (9–11 February 2022). In other news, Sorma Group’s marketing activities have included renewing its partnership with an up and coming football team in Cesena – the hometown of Sorma S.p.A., where the firm started out almost 50 years ago. Sorma Group confirmed it would resume its sponsorship with football club Cesena FC – which competes in 76

Sorma’s new weighing machine, WD4-S

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