Why CO2 production is vital to food and beverage industry

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) gets a bad rap in the larger scheme of things. It is the bogeyman of the climate change world. Yet, without it, the way people consume food and beverages – even how food is packaged – would not be the same.

Air Liquide is an industrial gas-producing specialist, and one of the key ingredients it supplies to the food and beverage industry is carbon dioxide, in all its forms.

Frank De Pasquale is the business unit manager for CO2 and Hydrogen (H2) for the company in Australia. He has been with Air Liquide for 15 years and has been in charge of its CO2 production for the past 12 months and is well versed in its place within the sphere of the food and beverage landscape.

There is an increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but as of today this is generally not economic to recover, so industrial gas companies need to identify a suitable CO2 emission source and give it a second life by purifying it to food or industrial grade for commercial use.

“Unlike some of our competitors, we never produce additional CO2 from burning natural gas; we recycle and purify existing CO2 emissions from others. We are proud of this commitment which is part of our Corporate Climate Objectives.”

All CO2 emissions are a mixture of CO2 and various impurities, but it is what makes up those impurities that matter when it comes to commercialising the product.

“It could be 99.99 per cent CO2, but has 20 parts per billion of benzene in it, which at parts per billion level is not very much,” said De Pasquale. “However, such a little amount of this kind of impurity means that the CO2 is not suitable for the food industry.”

And how does Air Liquide source its CO2? There are several avenues it utilises. Currently it sources feedstock CO2 from seven different industrial processes, all of which emit CO2 as they make their products – three produce ammonia, one is a power station, one is a steam boiler (both are combustion flue gas sources), while there is one that produces ethylene oxide and another is from a natural gas producer. Each feedstock source has its own set of impurities that has to be dealt with, and then the gas has to be collected so it can be made commercially viable. Take ethylene oxide as example.

“We can get CO2 from a chemical process, such as ethylene oxide production,” said De Pasquale. “When ethylene is reacted with oxygen, it makes ethylene oxide and CO2. The process then requires CO2 to be removed, which we can capture, then purify for the food industry.

“However ammonia plants are definitely the best feedstock source; CO2 produced this way has the least amount of impurities in it.”

The reason for this, said De Pasquale, is that to make ammonia you need to have a reaction between hydrogen and nitrogen which results in a relatively clean stream of CO2 containing less impurities than other emission sources.

“As you go from ammonia to ethylene oxide to natural gas processing to flue gas – you get different levels of purity for CO2 and different impurities that you will need to deal with,” he said.

The cost of production varies greatly because it’s based on the processes used within the different disciplines to ensure food and beverage grade quality. In most processes, there are a few steps.

“Typically, there is some level of compression – there is also, as a general rule, a degree of filtration and drying, followed by liquefaction and distillation,  to purify the feedstock to the required quality,” said De Pasquale. “The process produces CO2 in liquid form, which is approximately -22˚C and 20 bar pressure. Not only does producing liquid aid in the purification process, it also allows us to transport it more economically than you would if it was in a gaseous form.”

Once it is trucked to a customer’s site it is loaded into a bulk tank, and the customer typically uses it in a gaseous form, which is made possible using a simple air-heat exchange system to vaporise the liquid CO2.

Dry ice is another specialty of Air Liquide’s, which is the solid form of CO2 that typically sits around -79˚C. One of the special properties of dry ice is that it sublimes from its solid form directly to its gaseous form. This is important in the food and beverage industry, when dry ice melts into a gas it does not leave a residual on the food.

“Airlines use dry ice to keep your drinks cool and to transport fresh produce from Australia to export markets. The Red Cross use it when they transport blood and other human specimens such as plasmas,” said De Pasquale. “We have a large number of meat and poultry processors that have bulk liquid storage vessels on site. The liquid CO2 is piped to their processing equipment where it converts to dry ice, which chills the meat to prevent biological or bacteriological development and facilitates product forming into beef patties or chicken nuggets.”

CO2 is a product with highly sought after properties. This explains why it is used in the food and beverage industries in its liquid, solid and gaseous forms across a range of applications.

Quality and the supply of a safe product to these industries is paramount, so how do they carry out quality control?

“We continually test the quality of our CO2 in real time,” said De Pasquale. “We have a detailed and audited food safety management system known as FSSC 22000, which is a systematic approach to controlling food safety hazards within our production and distribution activities. This ensures that we provide a safe product to the food and beverage industries. It covers everything from plant design right through to pest control and waste disposal.”

According to De Pasquale, from the process aspects, it covers everything from the feedstock CO2 stream and process conditions,  through to final product testing and distribution to the market. It is not just testing the final product, it’s about assessing, monitoring and controlling all risks, all of the time.

“We produce and test CO2 in batches; we test it online and send samples to external labs; and we also monitor process conditions,” he said. “We know if the process conditions vary, then something could be impacting on our product quality. These are real-time variables, and the last part of the system involves testing of the final product.

“If we don’t have these systems in place, by the time the final  product is made, it is typically too late. We test the final product to confirm that everything else in our system is working. It’s not a catch-all last measure – the important part is making sure the processes are in place from the beginning.”

Another major and ever-growing market for CO2 is water and waste water treatment where it is used for pH control and remineralisation. Every Australian capital city’s desalination plant uses CO2. The plant is a critical water supply source, especially as drought takes hold.

“CO2 is also one of the most humane way to process animals like chickens and pigs,” said De Pasquale. “It is used in MAP (modified atmosphere packaging) as a bacteriostatic agent, thus extending the shelf life of chilled and ambient products. Australian supermarket shelves are packed with trays or packs of MAP products ranging from meat and poultry to dairy products such as cheese and milk powder to pasta and bakery products. CO2 is used with all these products and is a key component of the system that extends shelf life.

“Another application that I should mention is glasshouse enrichment. You can grow crops in a field, but to increase the yield of your crop and also the growing season, you grow them in a glasshouse where you control the temperature and you can control the CO2. The glass house operates at a slightly elevated CO2 level, which improves crop production.”

De Pasquale is also keen to point out that he doesn’t see the production of CO2 – in the context as to why Air Liquide makes it – as an industrial process.

“The way that we run our CO2 production plants is driven by the requirements of FSSC 22000, which is strictly a food and beverage industry standard,” he said. “Our CO2 plants have this certification because the food and beverage industry is our major market and CO2 is used by this market as an ingredient or as a processing aid. So these production plants are not industrial production plants, they are food ingredient production plants.”

And when it comes to the general public, the bottom line as far as De Pasquale is concerned on the merits of CO2 in the food industry?

“Take soft drinks, sparkling water – everybody wants drinks with bubbles in it,” he said. “And what about beer and soft drinks on tap? Pubs and bars use CO2 to dispense these beverages. At the end of the day, no CO2, no beer, no soft drinks.”

Stockpiling boosts food manufacturing in March

The Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index (Australian PMI) jumped 9.4 points to 53.7 in March, ending four months of contraction (readings above 50 points indicate expansion in activity, with the distance from 50 indicating the strength of the expansion).

This somewhat surprising expansion – in the midst of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic and emerging recession – is almost entirely due to a huge surge in demand for manufactured food, groceries and personal care items, as shoppers stock up on processed food, toilet paper, cleaning products and other household essentials.

The local manufacturing businesses that make these goods are in sectors (mainly ‘food & beverages’ and ‘chemicals’) that account for a large proportion of Australian manufacturing and make relatively large contributions to the headline Australian PMI® index.

“Australian manufacturers are being impacted in very different ways by the COVID-19 outbreak,” Ai group chief executive Innes Willox said. “Some are stepping up to meet surges in purchasing from consumers, businesses and the health sector. Others are finding that disrupted supply chains into export markets and from suppliers of inputs are reducing sales and stifling production. Others are seeing sales dry up as their customers reduce orders to reflect their own demand and supply conditions.

“The aggregate impact for the manufacturing sector in March was a slight increase in production, strong growth in sales and employment and a sharp rise in new orders. The situation is changing rapidly and the later responses to the March survey were more likely to be negative than the earliest responses received. With over 920,000 jobs at stake, and much of the sector critical to the supply of food, sanitisation and health needs and the infrastructure and supply chains that support them, every effort should be made to keep manufacturing businesses going for as long as they can operate safely.”

Australian PMI Key findings for March:

  • Five of the seven activity indices in the Australian PMI expanded in March, with sales (up 13.4 points to 56.5), production (up 11.4 points to 51.8), new orders (up 16.2 points to 57.9) and employment all rebounding into expansion due to increased food and other household-related consumable manufactured goods. Finished stocks (up 0.7 points to 49.2) were stable, with declines in food inventories but larger stockpiles elsewhere, while deliveries (up 1.8 points to 48.3) and exports (up 0.1 points to 44.6) contracted due to coronavirus-related freight disruptions.
  • There was a clear divergence between the manufacturing sectors in March, with the food & beverages (unchanged at 59.0 points) and chemicals (up 1.2 points to 50.1) sectors reporting a spike in sales, production and new orders, while the other manufacturing sectors all contracted in difficult trading environments.
  • The input prices index increased by 6.6 points to 64.0 in March, with increased lead times and prices for air freight a concern for both importers and exporters.
  • The selling prices index rose by 4.6 points to a relatively strong expansion at 55.0. With the exception of the metal products sector, selling prices rose across all manufacturing sectors in March and were especially elevated for food & beverage manufacturers as local demand surged.

BSC committed to maintaining customer uptime and keeping supply chain open

In a time of uncertainty, it’s good to have a constant, especially if that constant helps keep Australia’s food and beverage supply chain open. BSC are making sure their clients know  they are open for business in this vital cog of manufacturing and processing.

With food and beverage companies ramping up production, at some stage they will inevitably need their plant and machinery to be maintained. The supply chain is only as good as the products that are being moved, and the amount of products being moved is reliant on plant and machinery being in tip-top shape.

National accounts manager for BSC, Jeff Mrak, knows how important having products available on demand is for food and beverage manufacturers and processors.

“If one of these plants has a bearing, seal, chain, electric motor or gearbox fail, then their production plant will stop,” he said. “We’re lucky because our supply chain is sourced from various high-quality, multinational manufacturers that have the capability to help keep plants open. We are very well hedged against any issues, without supply chains becoming affected significantly.

“We have access to a further supply chain for parts through the Motion Industries business in the US, which is a massive distribution network that we can utilise. They’re open for business because they have the essential services classification.”

Just as important is the availability of staff to support clients and make sure products arrive in good time if urgent maintenance is required.

“We’ve checked with some of our larger national corporate organisations to ensure we’ve got them covered on critical stocks and we’re all good,” said Mrak. “Our supply chain is well spread, and we have multiple products at multiple locations – all our teams are available 24/7.

“As production ramps up, the need for our products will increase. Where food-grade products are required we will supply those products.”

And while the company is assuring its clients and potential clients that they are open for business, it is treating the coronavirus situation with the respect it deserves.

“We have our engineering team available and we can deploy people to a particular site; we’re lucky that our engineering solutions teams are situated in every state to go to a site,” he said. “We are taking into account the protocols of COVID-19 and what is required at each level.”

Mrak’s comments are backed up by CEO Nick Kerwin who said his company has large stock holdings and its supply chain remains under constant review.

“You have my commitment that even in these difficult times, we are an organisation that will always be here to provide reliable, efficient, local and yes-can-do service,” Kerwin said.

As COVID-19 threatens to grind businesses to a halt, BSC remains committed to maintaining customers’ up-time and productivity.

To read more articles about BSC’s resources and activities go to: www.lets-roll.com.au

 

Is that hissing noise the sound of money going up in smoke?

One thing that never fails to amaze Greg Gillespie is the amount of times he walks into a manufacturing or processing plant and hears hissing. It immediately tells him that they are running an air compressor or a bank of air compressors. It also tells him that the company is throwing money down the drain. That hissing sound is either one, or a series of leaks, coming from the compressed air system.

Gillespie, who is the national sales manager for air compressor manufacturer ELGi, said that in some cases companies are literally throwing thousands of dollars down the drain every year. Not only that, but when he hears that tell-tale sign of hissing, he knows that doesn’t include the ones he can’t hear.

“I’ve walked into a lot of different places – and to be fair my ear is tuned for it – and I immediately hear all the air leaks,” he said. “And I’ll say to the person on site, ‘you’ve got a few air leaks’. They generally reply, ‘no we don’t’. They don’t hear them because it is background noise to them.”

What he encourages people to do is stay back for five minutes after the work day when everything is quiet. He’s confident that they will then hear the noise.

“And the thing is, if you can hear an air leak, it’s a large one. There will be quite a few air leaks you’ll never hear without ultrasonic equipment, especially if they are inside a piece of equipment,” he said.

Gillespie said the culprits in these leaks are usually the same range of suspects – hose clamp connections, seals failing, and worn fittings. And he’s not saying that maintenance managers have to fix them all at once. He knows that, especially in the some of the bigger food and beverage manufacturing and process plants, it can be a big job. A maintenance plan is needed and such a plan is not something whereby a leak is fixed once and then forgotten about. It will depend on the size of the factory and plant and how many compressors are working. He acknowledges it would be a big task to do it all in one go, so maintenance managers would set about a plan to go and rectify the leaks starting with the biggest one first. Then they would just do a constant, weekly check. But what is the cost?

“If someone has an air audit done then they start to realise that ‘holy heck, we’re leaking thousands of dollar per annum’,” he said. “The more plant and machinery you have in place, the more the leaks are going to cost your bottom line.

“If you have a small place with a 2.2kW compressor, then that cost isn’t going to be that high. But if it is a larger factory with 100kW of installed compressor power, then it will cost a lot.

“I know of a place that has three 55kW machines. One of those 55kW machines pretty much services air leaks. If they fixed their air leaks they can turn one of their compressors off. Do the maths of 55kW of power running all day. They operate 24/7 – not at full capacity – but they are aware of it. I’m sure if you put all the numbers down in front of the people running the place, suddenly it wouldn’t be too hard to fix.”

Education is also a key ingredient. A lot of places he visits think the air is free. Quite often Gillespie will see people “sweeping” the floor with an air gun. It’s convenient, it’s quick, but it does come at a cost.

“Some think it is quicker doing it that way because it reduces the labour cost involved,” he said. “I routinely see people cleaning down their areas using air. It’s not a safe practice to do it.”

But what causes the leaks in the first place? The leak itself is being caused by faulty equipment, but what caused that equipment to become faulty in the first place? Gillespie believes that not only does the factory need the right air compressor for the right job, but it is also the type of air distribution network that is being used that can be a problem. This includes not only the size of the pipe that is distributing the air, but what it is made out of, too.

“I talk to people about becoming efficient, which starts with the right compressor and the right distribution network,” he said. “That is where things like the pipe size, pipe type (poly, aluminium, copper) and how you articulate it comes into play.”

A good distribution system will be one that will be less likely to leak over time – what sort of pipe and the distance over which it is set up are important considerations to limit pressure losses.

“The type of pipe is important because with some piping temperature changes can cause it to expand and contract, and start to bend and twist, so I much prefer people investing in rigid pipe,” said Gillespie. “Depending on the type of rigid pipe system you go for – if you go for something like a braised copper, or stainless steel or even aluminium/copper pipe with fittings – these are going to be less leaks than some other methods.”

If it is the wrong size pipe it will put unnecessary load on the compressor under pressure, which can induce something called artificial demand. This can be magnified if there are multiple compressors in the system, which can be very costly, he said. Gillespie also pointed out that there are also lots of government grants that can help companies become more energy efficient. They change on a regular basis. At the moment there is grant that finished recently that was available for companies that were replacing existing equipment with more efficient equipment with variable speed drives.

“I helped a customer do that and they got nearly 50 per cent of the price of the compressor rebated,” he said. “There is another grant available at the moment which is up to $5,000 rebate for people to put permanent monitoring equipment in to their plant so they can monitor the efficiencies of their compressed air system. Compressed air systems account for about 30 per cent of all industrial power.”

As part of the government’s push to increase energy savings and reduce emissions, they are encouraging industry to work in a more economical way and an area to do that is air compressors, said Gillespie. A lot of people think these things revolve around lighting and solar power. However, quite often there are grants going around to make more efficient compressed air systems.

For the bigger companies that are setting up a new system or refurbishing an older system, Gillespie said putting some budget aside for a monitoring system is also a good idea.
“I have a company I’m dealing with at the moment and they are going to need about 300kW of power. It’s going to be a couple of hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equipment and I’m putting monitoring equipment in my quote – $6,000 worth. To me, it would be absolutely crazy not to do it. The advantages are a no brainer on a system that size.”

Gillespie also cautions against overthinking too much about what to do. An air audit is a simple thing to do and that will give a clearer indication of what a company’s needs are and how they can be remedied.

“I would try not to oversell it because sometimes you can take somebody down that rabbit hole and they can become overwhelmed because they have been inundated with the information and data,” he said.

“You have to find that balance. There are instances where you might spend $10,000 to modify pipework and save yourself $1,000. There’s no payback.”

There are lots of things going on with flow and thermodynamics, you could easily make someone’s head spin.

“At the end of the day, a well-designed and maintained compressed air system is going to be more efficient. And that will save money every day of operation.”

Report highlights opportunities in food and beverage sector

Despite strong domestic and global economic, political and social headwinds, Australia’s food, beverage and grocery manufacturing sector remains resilient. It is a key national employer, a trade powerhouse and contributes billions to the national economy.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s latest annual industry snapshot, State of the Industry Report 2019, highlights where the strengths of the industry lie, identifying the greatest opportunities for growth, and reinforcing the ongoing challenge of staying competitive in a country with high costs and low margins. Areas of focus include:
• Industry turnover.
• Employment.
• International trade.
• Capital investment.

The report found the sector injected $122.1bn into the economy in 2017-18, with 4.5 per cent real growth largely due to increased exports totalling $34.4bn. Food product manufacturing was the largest sub-sector, with a turnover of $90.1 billion. The major sources of production were meat processing, cheese and other dairy manufacturing, and human pharmaceutical and medicinal products.

Jobs are central to the success of the Australian economy and the food the grocery manufacturing sector is Australia’s largest manufacturing sector, representing 32 per cent of all manufacturing jobs. It is also one of the biggest employers in the country, providing more than 273,300 jobs, of which 39.3 per cent – just over 107,000 – are in regional and rural communities.

Regional and rural communities rely on the sector not just through direct employment, but also because of the multiplier effect it has in boosting and sustaining local economies. This filters right along the supply chain through the sector’s sourcing of not only agricultural inputs but also other goods and services used in food and grocery production.

Similar to employment, the number of businesses in the Australian food and grocery sector increased by 1.4 per cent year-on-year to 15,325, driven largely by the growth of the business count in the grocery sector. New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are the dominant states, together constituting 85.3 per cent of sector turnover and 79.9 per cent of sector employment.

Australian food and grocery exports increased by 7.6 per cent over 2017-18, led by a 45.3 per cent increase in Chinese exports. This comes off the back of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the opportunities it has unlocked. It has also been spurred on by a favourable exchange rate and the great reputation of Australia’s food and grocery products.
Growth in imports was much lower at 3.3 per cent year-on-year, totalling $33.4bn. The USA was the leading exporter to Australia, followed by New Zealand and China.

As the sector’s global footprint continues to expand, with new free trade agreements opening up more export opportunities for Australian food and grocery manufacturing businesses, policy settings must be right for continued growth are crucial. While the AFGC supports the federal government’s commitment to a strong deregulation agenda, there are other opportunities that can be harnessed to ensure the strength of the sector into the future.

For example, trade and investment policies should be reviewed to ensure they are ‘fit for purpose’ in supporting the international competitiveness of Australian food and grocery manufacturers. This would not only will help ensure the expansion of the export market, but also shore up new jobs and investment domestically.

While the sector has a strong presence and remains Australia’s largest manufacturing industry, its recent growth has been subdued. This is the result of domestic challenges, both in terms of input cost pressures and a deflationary retail market, which are putting pressure on profit margins and eroding willingness to invest.

Capital investment was less than $3bn in 2017-18 and although companies have continued to make efficiency improvements to stay competitive this is not sustainable in the long term. There is a need to strengthen the sector through innovation, increased automation and modernisation. And for this to occur companies need the confidence to invest.

Governments and industry can work as partners through identifying key areas for cutting red tape and designing efficient incentives and allowances for targeted investments. In addition, policies addressing cost competitiveness and fair retail trading conditions are essential and will help ensure the sector remains viable, retaining business and jobs into the future.

In its 2020-2021 Pre-Budget Submission, the AFGC has focused on the need for more sector incentivisation for innovation.

Three key areas of opportunity are:
• the introduction of a food, beverage and grocery manufacturing site modernisation program;
• workforce upskilling for small to medium enterprises; and
• support for the sector’s positive contribution to meeting community health, environmental and consumer information demands.

Measures that would help bring these goals to fruition could include mechanisms such as instant write off and grants programs, investment allowances, support funding for education programs and incentivisation grants.

In addition to site modernisation programs, AFGC has proposed the Federal Government implements a grants program to support manufacturers to innovate their packaging to meet packaging recycling targets. Specifically, the program would seek to establish increased collaboration between the food, beverage and grocery, and the recycling and packaging sectors, in order to expedite the delivery of the national packaging and food waste targets.

Government policies to encourage industry investment in the food, beverage and grocery manufacturing industry will help to ensure a return to all Australians with a reliable, safe and affordable food and grocery industry that also provides jobs and stability for local economies, especially in rural and regional Australia.

Given the magnitude, significance and contribution of the industry, it should be a central consideration when shaping economic, industrial and trade policies.

Provisional programme released for AIP Conference

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) released their provisional program today for the biennial 2020 AIP Australasian Packaging Conference which will cover a broad range of topics relating to the theme PACKAGING: FIT FOR THE FUTURE and include 60 speakers from nine countries across two days. The event will be held on the 1 and 2 April at the Crown Promenade in Melbourne.

The packaging industry is facing many challenges at the moment with global plastic pollution and recycling issues and transformational changes to value and supply chain models, resulting in negative government and consumer perceptions. These challenges are requiring packaging companies, manufacturers and retailers to re-think their approaches and undertake strategic changes to address the challenges of meeting global and domestic Sustainable Packaging, 2025 National Packaging Targets, transform supply chains; all the while having clear parameters for driving the 4R’s.

Now more than ever is the time to collaborate, share ideas, success stories, discuss the challenges and journeys the industry is facing openly and what we can do collectively to work towards the same targets.

Keynote speakers will include Pete Ceglinski, CEO & co-founder, Seabin Project, Martin Orzinski, director operations, Coca-Cola Amatil, Siobhan McCrory, executive general manager, marketing and innovation, Pact Group, Jaideep Gokhale, cluster leader for sustainability, TetraPak, Nicole Ohm, senior marketing manager, Brownes Dairy, Jean Baillard, general manager, TerraCycle Australia & New Zealand, Barry Cosier, director, sustainability, Australian Food & Grocery Council and Brooke Donnelly, chief executive officer, APCO and more.

To see the program and to book your place today to secure the early bird rate click here. All of industry is invited to attend.

 

 

Food and bev fit out brought in on time and under budget

Most construction builds have challenges. But when there are a few hardcore caveats attached that will have an impact on getting the job completed on time and within budget, it is important to have people on the ground who are not only experts but can perform under pressure.

Food and beverage construction specialist Total Construction found this to be the case when it tendered and won a contract to complete a considerable alteration at an infant milk powder processing plant.

Total Construction’s national manager for food and beverage, Tony Tate, knew it would be a hard job, but one that the company and its staff would be up for. It would also prove that the commercial building specialist had what it took to turn a job around quickly and to the client’s specifications.

Tate and his team knew from the outset that if the job wasn’t finished on time, it would cost not only the client, but Total Construction, a lot of money. This was due to the penalty clauses in the contract. The main issue of concern was that the plant might become contaminated during the build, which means it would not meet Australian standards when it came to producing foodstuffs. This entailed a whole raft of restrictions to be put in place that meant Total Construction had to carefully plan and execute the build so as not to be liable for any overruns or contamination of the factory.

How does a company meet strict criteria, all the while completing a job to its own high standards?

Experience and planning were the two main components, according to Tate. They also had to persuade the milk powder manufacturer that Total’s methods of tackling the job were the best way forward.

“The plant had a shutdown period of only one month. For them to shut down for a month, meant they were losing a lot of revenue. It was a big deal for them,” said Tate. “The key driver for us was the plan of action. We had to incorporate building work, which can get messy, in a pharmaceutical area, which has to be spotless. The last thing that we want is any dust or contamination in a milk powder plant.”

There were five work zones at any one time with each of those work zones going from low to high care. Workers could walk around the low-care part of the facility – the warehouse – which was where the milk powder was already in sealed packaging, so there was little chance of contamination. It was the high-care areas where caution needed to be taken.

“Every day we were to make sure all the foreign matter – cable clips, cable ties, any debris that was left on the floor – was cleaned away thoroughly,” said Tate. “We had to captive vacuum every day and had to wear captive footwear. Even the builders had to change from safety boots to captive safety boots.”

When it came to making sure the project was going to come in on time some lateral thinking was required. Tate’s initial scope said the job would take 42 days. Even the independent design consultant could only see the job being completed within 46 days. The client initially thought that throwing more bodies into the project would help bring the alteration in on time. But as the Total Construction team pointed out, there were restrictions on space. Tate and his team came up with a solution that would make the job a little more costly, but not as costly to the client if they took an extra two weeks to complete.

“We started working with the design consultant and said we could expedite the process by putting two shifts on,” said Tate. “That is when we really started working with the client. You want to make sure you can take the client on the journey and build confidence with them. As you build confidence, you know what you are doing and you are then helping the client. So, we got the two shifts going as well as working Saturdays and Sundays.”

And while it was a precise process, there were a few issues that did arise along the way. At one stage, they managed to be three days ahead of schedule but the client delayed sign off on the HVAC installation, which put them back to the original schedules timeline. When the sign off was sorted out, there was an issue with the digger that was going to be used to dig out the new floor. It wasn’t cleared as a hygienic piece of equipment. It wasn’t until the Total team pointed out that the soil they would be removing would not be hygienic that it was decided that the digger – under amended conditions – could be used.

Another lesson learned was that even working under stringent conditions, the unexpected can occur. It pays to think laterally, and help the client out the best you can, said Tate.
“After we started, the client realised that once we finished up, they would only have five days to train on the new plant,” said Tate. “The staff not only had to be trained in the new equipment, but they had to validate the new equipment, too. They realised that the time they had allocated themselves to do this was not long enough. They then had to clean the facility and make it suitable to occupy.”

The client asked Total if they could use certain areas of the facility to do the training, but the penalty clauses in the contract made Total reluctant to do so. Total was within their rights to refuse but knew that it could cost the milk processing plant literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“So, we came up with a sequence on how to do the job and accommodate them,” said Tate. “First, we did the epoxy floors in the different areas on different dates. Once we completed certain areas, the hygiene teams went in and cleaned them up so they could be utilised. They then taped off the finished areas and they could go from there.”

And when it came to commitment, nobody was more invested in the project than site manager Craig Harkins.

“Craig lived and breathed it from six in the morning until eight at night,” said Tate. “There were times when we had to make sure that he was given time off because he was getting fatigued. When you’re struggling with fatigue, you get injuries and there are mistakes.”

It was a closely monitored build. The site manager knew at each stage exactly where the build was up to. If they weren’t up to where they should have been, all parties agreed on an action plan for the following day so they could catch up. They also had daily tool box talks to discuss contaminants and hygiene.

And the client’s reaction to the final product?

“If you look at the hygiene standards of the build, you could eat your dinner off the floor – it is that clean,” said Tate. “I think that because we have been retained for Stage 2 of the project means they were happy. It was a hard job, but we learned a lot from it. More importantly, we came in on time and on budget in what was a challenging build, so it was good news all around.

Apple flour making inroads into commercial baking applications

Forbidden Foods Group was launched in 2010 by Jarrod Milani and Marcus Brown who both share a passion to provide some of the best health foods across Australia and internationally. Forbidden Foods flagship product of Black Rice was released to the retail and foodservice market nationally and internationally.

Since launching, Forbidden Foods have expanded into supplying a range of speciality rice flours to food manufacturers. Its bespoke rice flour range has been used in baked goods, soups, baby foods, snacking and plant-based foods. Having success with their rice flours, Forbidden Foods explored the potential of releasing a range of Australian-made, new and exotic flours that are not offered in the global market.

In 2019, Sensory Mill was created under Forbidden Foods Group, to provide ingredients for the food enthusiast. Sensory Mill offers a range of alternative products for use in manufacturing including powders, grains and blends and its newest release of an exotic flour range.

The flour range accentuates the core belief of Sensory Mill, which is to strive towards improved sustainability and traceability of products, while providing enriching ingredients.
The company’s newest standout product – which was released in January 2020 – is its apple flour, which is available in the retail and foodservice market.

To promote the idea of Farm-to-Plate, Sensory Mill has collaborated with Bellevue Orchard and Australian Dehydrated Food (ADF) to promote and introduce Australia’s first apple flour to the market.

Bellevue Orchard is a third-generation, family-run apple orchard located in Victoria, Australia and have been producing apple juice since 1998.

The orchard is owned by two brothers, Robert and Joe Russo, who continue to work there, however now run by Joe’s daughter Bernadette and Robert’s son Nick.

ADF is an Australian company that specialises in advanced and rapid dehydration technology to produce the dried foods sourced from Australia.

ADF’s Chris Mamas worked alongside Forbidden Foods and Bellevue to meet outlined requirements and specifications.

“Our aim is to work with natural, unadulterated raw material inputs, resulting in the most aromatic, tasty and nutrient-rich powdered foods on the market, which I believe we have achieved with the apple flour,” he said.

Forbidden Foods, Bellevue Orchard and ADF all have a strong ethos against food wastage, which was the basis upon their collaboration for Forbidden Foods to release, market and promote the apple flour to the retail and foodservice market. Nick Russo indicated that food wastage avoidance has always been a priority of theirs.

“Our goal has always been to make use of every part of the apple. Working with Forbidden Foods and ADF is the final piece of making this a reality with Bellevue being a zero-waste facility,” he said.

“We hope to divert over 800,000kg of wastage per year, into a premium product for market,” said Russo.

Bellevue worked alongside Forbidden Foods and ADF, to initiate production of apple fibre from the pomace in a patented process.

Bellevue realised the apple pomace wastage remaining after the juicing process was becoming costly to re-distribute to farmers for feed, or to move to landfill.

Moving the apple pomace was starting to take a strain on the local environment surrounding the orchard, with potential of having widespread effects.

After 18 months of trials, technology was developed for efficient dehydration of apple fibre to produce a food ingredient for human consumption.

The wasted apple pomace from juicing was drained and ground into a thin layer to be dried out and dehydrated. Once the pomace was efficiently dried, it enters the multi-step milling process that produced a fine flour ready for packaging and manufacturing.

Incorporating apple flour into products on an industrial scale can reap many nutritional benefits to the population.

Finished products with apple flour acting as a core ingredient will provide a nutritionally rounded profile.

Due to the high dietary fibre content of the flour, it has a wide range of antioxidants that are believed to assist in the reduction of cholesterol. The soluble and insoluble fibre within the flour will regulate the digestive system while promoting bowel health and growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Milled apple flour is extremely fine, allowing it to be versatile in manufacturing and production.

It has many applications ranging from acting as a thickening agent in sauces and mixes, to being incorporated into bakery and snacking products.

The by-product flour is a great absorber of liquid causing this product to be an efficient binder in recipes, particularly in raw snack products that undergo minimal heat exposure.
Having a low sugar content accompanying the high soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, this flour can help control blood sugar levels.

Having low-fat content, it is a suitable ingredient when manufacturing low fat products for consumption.

The properties of the flour allow it to act as a replacer while extending shelf life for long-lasting and shelf-stable products when stored in ambient temperatures.

Apple flour is said to have a naturally sweet flavour that is not overpowering to the palate. The inclusion of the apple flour in baking may avoid the need for additional sweeteners.

Being gluten free, apple flour can be blended with all-purpose gluten-free flour to become a baking staple for the gluten intolerant community. This product can be blended with an array of flours for usage in baking to create high fibre goods.

Global dairy commodity update first quarter 2020

The fundamentals underpinning the global market outlook remain positive but may weaken with improving expansion in milk supply and a slowing in trade in milk powders. However, the outlook for commodity product values is mixed as butterfat values have stabilised, while increased cheese capacity in Europe will keep supplies abundant and may cap values.

Skim milk powder
SMP fundamentals recently improved with lower EU and US output and sustained export demand. Going forward, this is new territory with SMP fundamentals no longer driven mostly by the EU stock turn. Prices should remain relatively firm, despite improving fresh product availability from Europe and the US. SMP demand in Asian markets has slowed but is likely to revert to trend.

Whole milk powder
China and Hong Kong helped the overall numbers look better and added the most trade in the month – up 69.4 per cent YOY or 14,000t. YOY shipments to this key market have now increased in 11 of the last 12 months for which data is available. Demand for milk powders remained resilient with the changes in China’s internal milk use.

Cheese
The disparity in cheese prices should correct. EU commodity cheese values may be influenced by SMP/butter stream returns, but more milk will be diverted to increased plant capacity, which will keep a lid on values. EU exports again rose more than 8,000t YOY in September – the growth in the latest month was driven by stronger shipments to the US and South Korea.

Butter
Butterfat prices have remained steady with improved domestic EU seasonal demand. The EU balance sheet should improve but demand and supply growth will be closely aligned. Overall demand in developing markets remains price sensitive and may continue to pressure NZ prices. NZ exports of fats continued to shrink, but at a much slower rate – both AMF and butter were down YOY in September, 2 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, the EU expanded butter exports in September by 74 per cent, despite shipping butter at prices still higher than NZ.

Whey
US exports continued to shrink, down 13 per cent in September, while the EU grew shipments by 3.2 per cent. Meanwhile, NZ trade rose 14 per cent YOY in September – this followed consecutive monthly falls and was driven by stronger sales into the North American market. US product remains competitive as prices have weakened since September while EU and Oceania prices remained steady.

Dustin Boughton, procurement, Maxum Foods

ELGi determined to make impact on the industrial compressor market

Being a lesser known brand in a competitive industry can be an issue. But if there is a sure way to prove to an industry that you are serious about being a point of difference, while also trying to build your brand, then winning a prestigious award is a good start.

That is what happened to ELGi, the Indian-based manufacturer of high-quality industrial air compressors. When the biggest competitor is German engineering in the form of Kaeser, it can be a hard row to hoe when trying to convince potential clients about the comparitive benefits of your gear. However, winning the coveted Deming Prize for Total Quality Management – the first industrial compressor manufacturer outside of Japan to win the award – goes a long way to show how committed ELGi is to making a dent in the market, including in food and beverage manufacturing plants in Australia.

Having bought Pulford Air & Gas and its subsidiary Advanced Air Compressors in 2018, the company has an ambition to become the second biggest compressor company in Australia.

It concedes that number one, Atlas Copco, is almost unreachable, but the company is keen to get higher on the ladder. ELGi national sales manager, Greg Gillespie, and business development manager, Brian Vegh, both know that they have a hard job ahead of them going from sixth in the pecking order up to number two. However, they also have a belief and confidence that the product not only has the ability and technology to do the job, but the manufacturing process is second to none.

“Atlas Copco is the Empire State Building on the graph you see on a piece of paper,” said Vegh. “We are number six at the moment, but there is not much difference between number six and number three.”

And in order to get up the pecking order, ELGi’s strategy is to espouse the benefits of its products such as the standards they are manufactured to, and the importance of the total quality management measures it has in place when it manufactures the compressors.

“ELGi compressors meet every international standard that any other company meets,” said Gillespie. “They control 100 per cent of the manufacturing process, from the sand they collect for the castings right through to the final product.”

Both Gillespie and Vegh know that there is a perception that compressors not manufactured in the US and Europe are somehow not up to scratch. This is why the company introduced Total Quality Management processes, which culminated in winning the Deming Prize in 2019. Not only that, the company has so much faith in its compressors it offers a 10-year warranty, something most of its opposition don’t do. There is also the perception that their compressors are made to Indian standards, which can sometimes be at odds with Australian regulations.

“A domestic product in India will have a metal starting box on it, which is acceptable over there, but you can’t have a metal starter box here in Australia,” he said. “The ones that arrive on these shores are all up to Australian standards already.”

Two of the key attributes of the compressors are the aforementioned 10 year warranty and their operational efficiency. Gillespie said the efficiency is about 10 per cent better than most similar products that are on the market. There is a reason for this.

“ELGi manufactures all the main components themselves. They mainly use Siemens motors and contactors,” said Gillespie. “We manufacture our own air end, which is the most expensive part of the machine – from the sand to the finished product. The design work they put into the air end to make it more efficient is top notch.

“Then there is the efficiency. Over a five year period, the cost of compressed air is 85 per cent of the cost of electricity/power. If you get a machine you start talking about 200kW of installed compressed air, and they run 24/5 days a week or 24/7 – which is anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 hours a year. We can supply customers with a machine that is going to be anywhere between 3 and 8 per cent more efficient than some other machines out there. That is a lot of money over five years.”

The most expensive part of compressor is the air-end, which is important when it comes to the 10-year warranty. This is the actual screw where the air gets compressed, and in the case of ELGi, it is one the company has designed itself. It is for this reason they are happy to offer such a long warranty period for their compressors.

“We have heard of situations where only a 12-month warranty on air-ends was offered,” said Gillespie. “The warranty ended on midnight of that day. If it failed the next day, you have got nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

And how suitable is the company’s range for the food and beverage industry? When you’re talking its oil-free range, they are perfect, said Gillespie.

“When it comes to working in food and beverage, our compressors are Class 0,” he said. “With the quality system we use, everything is 100 per cent trackable and traceable. If you open up a machine you will see every screw, nut and bolt hallmarked in yellow.”

“That means every part has been checked. Every single one,” said Vegh. “If you have been in the factory, everyone who works at the foundry is on a production line. They go through a comprehensive checklist when the machines are being manufactured.”

The company is also aware of the impact its manufacturing will have on the environment and have measures in place to make the least amount of impact as possible.

“The sand they use to do their casting will only come from a reputable source and they recycle over 90 per cent of it because of the environmental issues,” said Gillespie. “It is also cost-effective. They’ve built the plant around that supply so they only have to use the minimal amount of sand they need.”

Finally, there is the back-up service that is available. Both Gillespie and Vegh point out that while the product is very good, if there are not people on the ground to help customers, then that can cause a whole range of problems.

“One of the hardest issues with industrial compressors in Australia is retaining and getting good service personal,” said Gillespie. “Most of them started out as fitter and turners. That is what I started out as and there are not of lot of us that stay on the tools their whole career.”

He believes one of the reasons it is hard to employ service technicians are the specifications of the job.

“Being a service technician means you are on the road a lot,” said Gillespie. “You have to like that. Some guys get sick of the travelling and driving. You have to be very autonomous.
“You do routine maintenance of products but then you have to walk into a business where everybody is looking at you. There’s 30 people standing out on the street like there is a fire drill waiting for you to fix it for them. When that machine is down, the down time is so costly to a company they want it fixed now. And some tradies are just not interested.”
Vegh reiterates that you can’t underestimate the back-up service.

“Some of the bigger air compressor manufacturers, for want of a better description, are just selling boxes. That is all they do,” he said. “Once that is done, they are onto the next customer and that’s it. One of our biggest selling points is our after sales service. We have the Advanced Air and ELGi distribution network. We have 52 service technicians nationally, as well as New Zealand.

“If you need help at 11.59pm just before the whole country is waiting for the fireworks to go off on New Year’s Eve or 9.32am on Christmas Day, we will be there to help you. It’s the 24/7, 365 days a year help and support that we pride ourselves on. Selling a compressor is not the hard thing, it’s what you do for the customer in three years’ time that makes a difference.

“Each person who works in the plant prides themselves on the quality of the product.
“We have a rigorous checking process here in Australia when it comes to the ELGi gear we bring into the country. If it is not up to scratch we send it back.”

iBase’s IB995-based PICMG 1.3 full-size CPU card

iBase’s IB995-based PICMG 1.3 full-size CPU card is a slot-card server designed for the 8th Gen and 9th Gen (codenamed “Coffee Lake Refresh”) of Intel’s Core Processors with support for up to 8 cores and CNVi architecture for wireless connectivity devices. The new CPU card delivers cutting-edge performance with intelligent security and hardware monitoring features for real-time applications in process control, surveillance or Imaging in the field of automation, transportation, medical technology and digital surveillance markets.

This full-size CPU card is currently available in three models, integrated with different chipsets: C246 (IB995AF-C246), Q370 (IB995AF) and H310 (IB995EF) – all of which feature an M.2 storage interface with NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) that enables rapid storage with write speeds of up to 3500MB/s (7 times over SATA SSDs), and up to 32 GB of DDR4-2166/2400 memory.

Additionally, the board offers advanced TPM 2.0 to provide a high level of hardware-based security that carries out cryptographic operations for access control and authentication and prevent phishing attacks. With Intel AMT 11.6, remote maintenance of operating systems and Hardware enables IT managers to protect networked computers to improve service quality and reduce service operation costs.

The IB995 provides a wide range of interface and expansion flexibility. These include DVI-D, DVI-I and 24-bit dual channel video outputs, and three USB 2.0, five USB 3.0, five SATA III with RAID, four serial ports and two M.2 sockets (M/E key). It also comes with two Gigabit Ethernet, a PCIe x16 (from backplane), and four PCIe x1 expansion slots (configurable as one PCIe x4). The number of USB 3.0 and SATA varies, depending on the IB995 series.

Key features include:

  • 9th/8th Gen Intel Xeon E / Core i7/i5/i3 Pentium QC/DC processor, up to 4.7GHz
  • 2x DDR4 DIMM, max. 32GB
  • 2x PCI-E Gigabit LAN
  • Intel processor integrated graphics, supports DVI-I / DVI-D / LVDS
  • 3x USB 2.0, 5x USB 3.0, 5x SATA III, 4x COM
  • 2x M.2 socket (M/E key)

 

 

Nestlé announces collaboration with Burcon and Merit for plant-based ingredients

Néstle has announced a collaboration with Burcon and Merit, two key players in the development and production of high-quality plant proteins. This partnership will enable Nestlé to further accelerate the development of nutritious and great-tasting, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives with a favorable environmental footprint.

The partnership combines Nestlé’s expertise in the development, production and commercialization of plant-based foods and beverages with Burcon’s proprietary plant protein extraction and purification technology, while leveraging Merit’s state-of-the-art plant protein production capabilities.

“Developing nutritious and great-tasting plant-based meat and dairy alternatives requires access to tasty, nutritious and sustainable raw materials as well as proprietary manufacturing technology,” says Stefan Palzer, Nestlé Chief Technology Officer. “The partnership with Burcon and Merit will give us access to unique expertise and a new range of high-quality ingredients for plant-based food and beverages.”

Globally, Nestlé has around 300 R&D scientists, engineers and product developers located in 8 R&D centers that are dedicated to the research and development of plant-based products. To complement its internal capabilities, the company also strategically collaborates with researchers, suppliers, start-ups and various other innovation partners.

Nestlé’s plant-based product range includes pea, soy- and wheat-based burger patties, sausages, mince meat, chicken filets and various prepared dishes. The company also developed pea and oat-based dairy alternatives, almond-, coconut- and oat-based creamers, plant-based coffee mixes as well as a range of non-dairy ice creams. It also recently announced its plans to launch vegan alternatives to cheese and bacon, designed to complement its existing plant-based burger patties.

Burcon Nutrascience is a global technology company with a portfolio of patents related to composition, application, and manufacturing of novel plant-based proteins derived from pea, canola, soy, hemp, sunflower seed and various other crops.

Wholefoods online store packages its commitment to environment

An Australian online wholefood store is upping the ante on reducing its carbon footprint by moving to compostable packaging made from 100 per cent vegetable material.

Lismore-based Affordable Wholefoods sells quality bulk organic, non-organic and gluten free wholefoods in resealable, reusable packaging but wanted to offer a more environmentally friendly option.

Mark Evans, owner of Affordable Wholefoods, said customers are happy with the current option, “But we wanted to give them a choice. More people are looking for ways to reduce waste. That is why we are seeing people move towards reusable and compostable packaging,” he said.

“Since we opened in 2008, we have been searching for a more eco-friendly packaging option. But nothing we tested made the grade. Our packaging needs keep the products fresh from the time of packaging to delivery. With many of our customers in rural and remote areas, that’s important.”

Evans and his team’s search lead them NatureFlex; based on cellulose, which is one of the most naturally abundant organic materials derived from renewable resources such as wood pulp from managed plantations.

“We heard great things about its ability to keep items fresh, which was exactly what we were looking for. Being 100 per cent home compostable, now that was speaking our language,” Mark said.

Affordable Wholefoods did not rush the packaging to market. “We tested it over and over, sending parcels to ourselves and back again to see how well the food travelled,” Evans said. “The results were spectacular. Every single time, the wholefoods arrived fresh.

“This is another way we commit to sustainability. Whether our customers use our soft zip lock bags that can be reused repeatedly for food storage or the new NatureFlex bags, which can be disposed of in worm farms, green recycling bins or home composting systems, it’s another step towards reducing plastic, which is important for the environment.”

 

 

Unifying control systems in the food and beverage industry

Many food and beverage plants have incrementally upgraded their systems over the years, with them now being a complex network of distributed control systems (DCSs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Connecting a mix of DCS and SCADA systems into one master system can have multiple benefits. Here, Darcy Simonis, Industry Network Leader for ABB, explores how a single integrated system architecture can benefit plant operators and managers alike.

The first SCADA systems were independent, with no connectivity to other systems and were traditionally used for operating and monitoring production in a plant. The evolution of SCADA capabilities means that the new generation are now more advanced.  Modern systems can remotely monitor and control operations with coded signals over communication channels and log data for auditing purposes

The importance of collecting, storing and analyzing data is crucial, but this increase in data raises new questions of cybersecurity. If systems are not maintained and software becomes outdated, SCADA-based systems can be left open to vulnerabilities. For this reason, operators should regularly review their systems to protect them against cyber-attacks.

With an increasing amount of data, a DCS system can process a large amount of current information, however the failure of one controller affects more than one loop and requires a skilled operator to minimize downtime. In the food industry, any period of downtime can have catastrophic effects and can result in lost production. With new challenges faced by SCADA and DCS systems, unifying all operations into one master system is key to improve efficiency.

Coupled with technological advancements, rapidly changing consumer demands in the food and beverage industry have forced manufacturers to adapt quickly to retain a competitive edge. Consumers expect traceability throughout the entire supply chain, meaning the need for real-time continuous data is essential. Digital transformation in the food industry continues to be driven by these two key trends. So, what do these shifts mean and how can a move towards an integrated digital operating environment benefit food manufacturers?

Control system modernisation
Unifying control systems into one fully integrated system provides the synchronization of all applications and devices involved in the manufacturing process. This allows for the successful merging of information flow from DCS and SCADA systems, so that it is available in one interface in real-time. And one of the best means of unifying these communications is by using a single industrial software system.

ABB’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is an award-winning solution that allows users to optimize plant manufacturing and maintenance as well as a host of other benefits. These include powerful data analysis, improved quality, targeting areas for efficiency improvement and business-wide visibility. ABB’s system allows users to visualize pending tasks, work instructions, materials, equipment and quality test specifications, all of which are particularly important in the food and beverage sector.

Environmental factors such as trade instability, tightening industry standards and changing consumer preferences mean that manufacturers must ensure their MES is effective and secure to allow swift adaptation to new challenges.

Improved performance
The full integration of systems allows actionable information to be available in real-time to operators, often across multiple plants. Greater control and visibility of data improves security and allows for targeted improvements to processes. It also makes digital twinning feasible, where plant managers simulate plant operations virtually to achieve full plant visualization, support proactive maintenance and aid the decision-making process, not only from an operational but also from a cost-cutting perspective.

Secure reliable processing and an increase in manufacturing flexibility can boost efficiency and productivity, letting users optimize plant manufacturing and maintenance to the maximum.

Meeting industry standards
The food industry has been hit with numerous safety scandals, resulting in former UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove announcing a new law that will require manufacturers to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged foods from 2021.

 

Working to rigorous industry standards, key regulations and new manufacturing practices is vital. Plant managers in the food and beverage sector can improve the safety and quality of their operations, reduce unplanned downtime and mitigate food emergencies by viewing all data points in one place. Faster reactions to any manufacturing process anomalies can improve quality standards which also cuts down on wasted ingredients.

An integrated master system also allows for a shorter time to market for new products due to less delay. If less stock is held up at different stages of the process, this can reduce inventory levels and help raise quality standards.

The future of the digital factory
The successful integration of all systems in the manufacturing process means that plant operators can leverage the diverse capabilities of each system to improve productivity, cost-effectiveness, meet price competition, launch innovative products, and enter new markets. The consideration of multiple data sets with interconnected factors allows for businesses-wide improvement, which is essential in the current climate.

With many food and beverage companies now embracing an integrated control system, the future of manufacturing is digital.

AIP offers the Fundamentals of Packaging Technology Residential Program

In today’s challenging packaging environment, you can’t afford to make mistakes or overlook the critical details that cost precious time and money. You need the knowledge—from materials properties and selection to transport packaging issues—that can help you make better decisions regarding your company’s packaging dollars—now.

The Fundamentals of Packaging Technology course content is developed in consultation with packaging subject matter experts at leading global consumer packaged goods companies who face packaging challenges just like yours. Undertake the complete course and learn about all the major segments of packaging—and beyond.

The Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP), in partnership with the IoPP, are bringing the Fundamentals of Packaging Technology course to Australasia as a residential course for the first time in 2020. The residential course is divided into semesters to provide maximum flexibility around your work schedule. This course is also the basis for the examination side of the Certified Packaging Professional Designation; bringing you one step closer to becoming an internationally recognised CPP.

Take the entire course
Participate in the full Fundamentals of Packaging Technology residential course which will be broken up into 8x classroom days

as 4x semesters over 12 months.

OR

Attend Semesters relating to your subject-interests or knowledge gaps
Content is divided into 4x Two-Day Semesters with each semester focussed on specific areas of packaging. You have the choice

to enrol in one semester, or as many as you wish based on your professional development needs & knowledge gaps.

The Fundamentals of Packaging Technology Residential course will be broken up into 4x Two-Day Semesters over a 12 month period. An extensive array of packaging topics will be covered including graphic design, market research, printing, lithography, gravure, labelling, barcoding, paperboard, folding cartons, corrugate fibreboard, box compression, supply chain and logistics, polymers, extrusion moulding, flexible packaging, thermoforming, blow moulding, injection moulding, closures, bottle design, metal cans, adhesives, containers, glass packaging, packaging machinery, filling machinery, production line equipment and more.

Fundamentals of Packaging Technology Residential Course
Semester One
Day One – 29 April
Day Two 30 April
Viewpoint, St Kilda, Melbourne

Fundamentals of Packaging Technology Residential Course
Semester Two
Day One – 22 July
Day Two – 23 July

Fundamentals of Packaging Technology Residential Course
Semester Three
Day One –16 September
Day Two – 17 September

Fundamentals of Packaging Technology Residential Course
Semester Four
Day One – 18 November
Day Two – 19 November

Banana plants an a-peeling alternative for packaging

Biodegradable ‘plastic’ bags made out of banana plants sounds a bit…bananas, but a couple of UNSW researchers have found a way to do it, and it could solve two industrial waste problems in one.

Two researchers at UNSW Sydney have discovered a novel way to turn banana plantation waste into packaging material that is not only biodegradable, but also recyclable.

Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot and Professor Martina Stenzel were looking for ways to convert agricultural waste into something that could value add to the industry it came from while potentially solving problems for another.

A good contender was the banana growing industry which, according to A/Prof Arcot, produces large amounts of organic waste, with only 12% of the plant being used (the fruit) while the rest is discarded after harvest.

READ MORE: Packaging initiatives designed to reduce waste

“What makes the banana growing business particularly wasteful compared to other fruit crops is the fact that the plant dies after each harvest,” said A/Prof Arcot, UNSW School of Chemical Engineering.

“We were particularly interested in the pseudostems – basically the layered, fleshy trunk of the plant which is cut down after each harvest and mostly discarded on the field. Some of it is used for textiles, some as compost, but other than that, it’s a huge waste.”

A/Prof Arcot and Prof Stenzel (UNSW School of Chemistry) wondered whether the pseudostems would be valuable sources of cellulose – an important structural component of plant cell walls – that could be used in packaging, paper products, textiles and even medical applications such as wound healing and drug delivery.

Using a reliable supply of pseudostem material from banana plants grown at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the duo set to work in extracting cellulose to test its suitability as a packaging alternative.

“The pseudostem is 90 per cent water, so the solid material ends up reducing down to about 10%,” A/Prof Arcot said. “We bring the pseudostem into the lab and chop it into pieces, dry it at very low temperatures in a drying oven, and then mill it into a very fine powder.”

Prof Stenzel continued:

“We then take this powder and wash it with a very soft chemical treatment. This isolates what we call nano-cellulose which is a material of high value with a whole range of applications. One of those applications that interested us greatly was packaging, particularly single-use food packaging where so much ends up in landfill.”

When processed, the material has a consistency similar to baking paper.

A/Prof Arcot said depending on the intended thickness, the material could be used in a number of different formats in food packaging.“There are some options at this point, we could make a shopping bag, for example,” she said.

“Or depending on how we pour the material and how thick we make it, we could make the trays that you see for meat and fruit. Except of course, instead of being foam, it is a material that is completely non-toxic, biodegradable and recyclable.”

A/Prof Arcot said she and Prof Stenzel have confirmed in tests that the material breaks down organically after putting ‘films’ of the cellulose material in soil for six months. The results showed that the sheets of cellulose were well on the way to disintegrating in the soil samples.

“The material is also recyclable. One of our PhD students proved that we can recycle this for three times without any change in properties,” Professor Arcot said.

Tests with food have proved that it poses no contamination risks.

“We tested the material with food samples to see whether there was any leaching into the cells,” Professor Stenzel said. “We didn’t see any of that. I also tested it on mammalian cells, cancer cells, T-cells and it’s all non-toxic to them. So if the T-cells are happy – because they’re usually sensitive to anything that’s toxic – then it’s very benign.”

Other uses of agricultural waste that the duo have looked at are in the cotton industry and rice growing industry – they have extracted cellulose from both waste cotton gathered from cotton gins and rice paddy husks.

“In theory you can get nano-cellulose from every plant, it’s just that some plants are better than others in that they have higher cellulose content,” Prof Stenzel said.

“What makes bananas so attractive in addition to the quality of the cellulose content is the fact that they are an annual plant,” A/Prof Arcot added.

The researchers say that for the banana pseudostem to be a realistic alternative to plastic bags and food packaging, it would make sense for the banana industry to start the processing of the pseudostems into powder which they could then sell to packaging suppliers.

“If the banana industry can come on board, and they say to their farmers or growers that there’s a lot of value in using those pseudostems to make into a powder which you could then sell, that’s a much better option for them as well as for us,” Prof Arcot said.

And at the other end of the supply chain, if packaging manufacturers updated their machines to be able to fabricate the nano-cellulose film into bags and other food packaging materials, then banana pseudostems stand a real chance of making food packaging much more sustainable.

“What we’re really wanting at this stage is an industry partner who can look into how this could be upscaled and how cheap we can make it,” Prof Stenzel said.

A/Prof Arcot agreed. “I think the packaging companies would be more willing to have a go at this material, if they knew the material was available readily.”

Mass flow meters for industrial processes and plant air/gas measurement applications

With the addition of the Modbus communication protocol to its new ST80 series, recently enhanced ST51A/ST75A series, and ST100 series and multipoint MT100 series, Fluid Components International (FCI) now provides the industry’s broadest selection of Modbus compatible thermal mass air/gas meters.

For Modbus-based measurement and control systems, with air or gas flow rate components, FCI can now provide an optimal, highest value flow meter solution matched to the application. FCI thermal mass flow meters with Modbus I/O are available for line sizes from 6 mm to the largest of stacks and ducts, and every size in-between.  They are designed to measure the flow of air and more than 200 different gases, including inert and hydrocarbon-based, in both pure and mixed compositions.

Thermal mass air/gas flow meters are direct mass flow measuring, have no moving parts to foul or clog, and require no routine maintenance that achieve lowest installed cost and superior service life.

READ MORE: FCI T80/ST80L mass flow meters

FCI’s family of Modbus compatible thermal flow meters range from small, compact models to high feature, high performance, high accuracy models. Models are available that carry global agency approvals for Ex installations, both Div.1/Zone1 and Div.2/Zone 2 types.  Four of the series’ carry independently evaluated SIL compliance (IEC 61508) ratings for use in safety instrumented system applications.

All FCI thermal flow meters are available in a vast choice of process connections to ensure compatibility with virtually any piping and installation criteria. The instruments are inherently dual function and can provide flow and temperature measurement, as well as totalized flow, outputs over the Modbus connection.

The Modbus option for all five FCI model series flow meters meets the EIA/TIA-485 standard. Transmission is via RTU or ASCII with standard MS (16 bit), standard LS (16 bit) or Daniel extensions (32 bit).  They’re ideal for use with PLCs, large SCADA systems or DCS systems.

In addition to Modbus, FCI’s thermal air/gas flow meters also provide 4-20 mA, analogue outputs, pulse outputs, and/or other digital bus communications of HART, Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus-PA and Profibus-DP.

Sustainable packaging extends the pomegranate season

Consumers can enjoy pomegranates for an extended season due to StePac., which has been pioneering advances in pomegranate packaging since 2003. The company introduces its latest range of sustainable packaging solutions for preserving the freshness and extending the shelf life of pomegranates and their extracted arils.

StePac has expanded its range to include new recyclable solutions, as well as packaging formats tailored to automation of both bulk and retail packing.

In spite of their tough exterior, whole fresh pomegranates host a range of challenges that arise with prolonged storage. In the absence of proper protection, the fruit can suffer significant dehydration and weight loss, causing it to shrivel. This may be accompanied by the development of skin blemishes and crown decay that eventually leaches into the fruit and impairs the quality and taste of the arils.

From orchard to table
StePac’s pomegranate packaging portfolio incorporates long storage packaging formats to meet the requirements of growers seeking glut management solutions for post-harvest bulk storage.

Pomegranate growers and packers are now able to load fresh-picked pomegranates directly at the orchard and store up to 400kg of the fruit in each specialized StePac Xtend® bin liner for periods of three months or longer, with no negative effect on the fruit. This is in addition to storage liners for weight of 10-80kg that are already widely used in many countries.

The Xtend line also includes unique carton liners that offer the ideal solution for maintaining fruit quality during the lengthy shipments to distant locations.

Leaner flowpack packaging for whole fruits
StePac developed film structures containing a unique sealing layer that facilitates leaner packaging and induces savings of up to 40 per cent in material use as well as reduced labor costs, by enabling pomegranates to be flow-packed in both bulk and retail formats.

100 percent recyclable retail packaging for arils
The company recently finalized development of fully recyclable Xgo lidding films and standing pouches to add to this category of retail-packaging products. These solutions are designed to inhibit postharvest microbial decay and extend the shelf life of extracted pomegranate arils for up to 17 days, preserving the fruit’s organoleptic properties. The lidding films are available in lean easy peel and resealable formats.

The company’s comprehensive range of lean and sustainable packaging solutions is designed to maintain pomegranate freshness throughout all stages of the supply chain. The technology is based on a unique modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) system that reduces respiration rates and ethylene production for a combined effect of slowing down ageing and ripening. It also inhibits the proliferation of pathogens.

Water vapour transmission technology enhances performance
StePac has developed a comprehensive repertoire of films with built-in abilities to regulate water-vapor transmission rates as well as provide optimal modified atmosphere conditions. The films incorporate distinct properties to cater to a range of pomegranate packaging applications.

“During prolonged storage of this fruit, it is paramount to strike the perfect balance between eliminating excess free moisture to mitigate the risk of microbial decay and to concurrently avoid excessive product dehydration,” said Gary Ward, business development manager for StePac. “Such balance depends on multiple synergistic factors, including surface area to volume ratio, produce weight, supply chain length, and shipping and storage conditions.”

“Pomegranates are in demand in every continent.” Ward enthuses. “The global reach of our technology is instrumental in addressing the challenges facing the pomegranate industry and for ensuring that both the whole fruit and the extracted arils reach the consumers— wherever they might be — in prime condition, while keeping waste to a minimum. Our holistic vision and pragmatic approach are embedded in a range of complex structures and packaging formats that deliver the extended shelf life and sustainability principles our customers seek. This approach evolved from our deep-rooted understanding and 25-year history of researching fresh produce pathology and physiology and its interaction with packaging design.”

Meatballs in Napoli sauce – authentic protein cuisine

Country Cooked Meats specialises in a range of products including sous-vide fully cooked added value proteins. One such solution is its Italian-style meatballs in Napoli sauce, which was a finalist in the Meat, Poultry and Smallgoods category at the 2019 Food & Beverage Industry Awards.

National sales and marketing manager, Nat Perri, said that the company deliberately targeted this particular meal format because it saw a gap in the market for an Italian dish that uses Australian products and is ready to be used by simply heating.

“As part of our prepared meal format, we look at opportunities that we can develop proteins, or a restaurant meal, that people can eat at home,” he said. “The Italian meatballs was a more obvious one. Most similar products in the marketplace are a raw product that you have to finish off. This is a 100 per cent beef product. If you were doing a traditional meatball, you’d probably use pork in the product, too. However, because we wanted it to be sold across the whole spectrum of consumers, we stuck to beef. The sauce is also made in Australia by a local manufacturer.”

When it was originally developed, it was sold into Costco in 1kg packs. Currently, it is being sold at IGAs and Foodworks supermarkets in 400g version. How did the company ensure its authenticness and taste?

The company develops a lot of its products with help from chefs, according to Perri, especially when it comes to ethnic-based products. They try and get the flavour profile as close to being as authentic as they can. It helps that a lot of in-house staff at Country Cooked Meats are from an ethnic background, said Perri.

“Especially when it came to the meatballs,” he said. “There is a number of Italians in the company – including myself and the director who owns the business. The good thing with our New Product Development (NPD) team is that we have a mixture of people and personalities so when we come out with a product, we do separate assessments internally.

“When it came to the first test, we found that we were as authentic as we could get. Then we took the product to retailers and chefs – and they did their own sensory tasting of the product. The only feedback they gave us was that if we were making a traditional Napoli sauce you might get away with a few more herbs like basil or similar if you were an Italian.’

However, the general response was that while those of Italian background might love the original take on the recipe, it was suggested via feedback that the ingredients be slightly tweaked in order to appeal to the masses.

“We had the same issue with our Japanese-style teriyaki chicken,” said Perri. “We made a traditional version of the chicken. We worked with a Japanese company and made two versions of the teriyaki and took it to them. They gave us the thumbs up on the traditional one, but they felt that the Japanese restaurants they deal with tend to make their own and each have a different spin on the dish. They suggested that we replace the soy sauce from a bitter Japanese style to a sweet version. That way it would appeal to the mass audience, which we did.”

The main idea behind the range is to have a fully-cooked protein ready to eat after being heated, while the rest of the meal is prepared by the consumer. The manufacturing process is quite ornate because the company considers it a premium eating experience.

The meatballs are manufactured on site using a nozzle filler that shoots out little balls. The staff gently roll the meatballs with palm of their hand to get make sure they are round.
They are then layer stacked and placed in a freezer to keep them firm and ready for next stage. The meatballs, along with the Napoli sauce, are placed in a tumbler and both are tumbled for a period of time to ensure the flavour of the sauce covers the meatballs.

The combined mixture is packaged in vacuum bags, which are then placed in ovens and cooked sous-vide style for a slow cook of up to three hours. As well as tenderising the meat, this method of cooking ensures the flavour of the Napoli sauce infuses with the protein.

Then there is the packaging, which Perri said has not only been designed to make the finished product the highlight, but also to make sure the consumer could clearly see what they are buying.

“The heating instructions are simple and basic so as to give the consumer confidence that they can prepare the product ready to be served,” said Perri. “The packaging is of a steady E-flute format so as to allow those that stock the product the ability to multi stack in a dairy case cabinet.”

REA
Perri also wants to make it clear that it is a ready to eat type meal and it is not the complete package, but itis the hero.

“We call our products Centre of Plate,” he said. “The customer heats it up and makes their own meal around it, whether that be a salad, vegetables or whatever they want to create, they become the chef.”

READ MORE: Nominations open for 2020 Food & Beverage Industry Awards

The final aspects that Perri said makes this product a stand out are its longevity on the shelf and that the meatballs – or any of the company’s other products for that matter – have no antibiotics or preservatives.

“When chilled, the shelf life of the product is about eight weeks,” he said. “The reason it retains its shelf life and tenderness is because it is slow and low cooked for a long time – it is cooked in the bag so it keeps its tenderness. It is pasteurised. When you try the product the taste profile is very tender because it retains all its juices. It’s not processed; it’s not pumped with anything – if we say it’s meatball it’s meatballs, if it’s chicken, its chicken.”

Based on the successful roll out of the meatballs product and its other proteins, Country Cooked Meats plans on creating many more dishes that will fall into the same category using a range of different proteins for that restaurant at home experience.

How to grow overseas market share

Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Fiji, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam – if there is one thing Trisco knows about, it’s exporting.

The Queensland-based company is a fifth-generation company that has been producing food and beverage products for more than 140 years and is always looking for new markets in which to expand.

CEO Mike Tristram has a plethora of dealing with the red tape and bureaucracies when sending products overseas. The first thing he points out is that no two countries are the same – whether they be first or third world. With some countries, getting approval is easy, another might be require more time, while yet others may rely on another country’s approval system.

READ MORE: Anthony Pratt: Value added food will pave way for Australian exports

“For example, the US,” said Tristram. “Officials in another country might say ‘well, if you’re approved by the FDA in the US, there’s no problems here’. Every country has its own little idiosyncrasies. In Pakistan, you need to have specific approval by some office that has to have a physical stamp. Trying to get that physical stamp instead of a photocopy and approval is very difficult. Dealing with those sorts of idiosyncrasies from country to country, can be interesting.”

One of Tristram’s favourite quotes is from LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman, who described start-ups as like jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down.

“Exporting is a little similar but not quite as dramatic,” he said. “It is one of those things you have to figure out on your own depending on your market and depending on where you are going and what you have to sell. It is how unique or not unique it might be and where your strategic advantage is.

“You need the boldness to be able to go into the adventure and find your own pathway within that and be prepared to solve those problems as and when you see them. Even with speed bumps along the way, you need to keep going and learn from them and not give up.”

He believes resilience is the biggest thing that gets a company through the export journey. Also, it is important to get someone on the ground. It is not something that can be discovered, nurtured and expanded upon while sitting in an office in Australia.

“That is the hardest thing – staying on the path and keep slogging,” he said. “You can’t follow a market you don’t understand so you have to go there. And if you are not prepared to go there on a regular basis, then don’t attempt that journey. If you are not prepared to leave the country – at least initially and put a good bedrock down – you will not be successful.”

However, once the connections have been made, it is possible to tone down the travel schedule as long as there is someone on the ground that can be trusted. These are usually locals who know how local regulators and the laws surrounding imports work.
“Some of those places you can handle through agents once you have forged a relationship,” said Tristram. “As long as you have a trusting relationship with the local agent you can pull back a little on those sorts of visits.”

What does help is Australia’s reputation not only as a quality food producer, but as being upfront and honest.

“Australian products are recognised throughout the world as high quality,” he said. “And being relatively clean and green, we’re recognised as being reasonably easy to deal with and we are straightforward. There are a lot of advantages to being Australian.”

The main reason companies try and get into exporting is to grow their company financially. Australia has a finite number of markets within the continent, so expansion is the only way to grow. And while Trisco is happy to manufacture in Australia, the company is going one step further to magnify its footprint in the US – building a plant over there.

“One of the disadvantages is we are still one of the highest costs of manufacturing in the world,” said Tristram. “Until we solve some of these issues, such as energy and utility costs, we are going to continue to struggle. And until we are competitive with the rest of the world on red tape and tax and that sort of thing, there’s not a huge incentive to come to Australia and manufacture. We need to change that.”

One of the products that the company produces is Thick-N Instant, which is under the company’s Precise brand. It has been on the market for three years and doing well. It is designed for those who have dysphagia, which is a condition whereby people have difficulty swallowing. There are many different types of dysphagia, but it usually impacts on those who are aged over 65. It also has a high correlation with people who have Parkinson’s Disease, motor neuron issues or are a victim of a stroke.

“The market that manages the condition, thickens products to four distinct levels that are internationally recognised as part of the diet,” said Tristram. “We take those products up to those viscosities depending on what the problem is. Then they can swallow safely, which means the food goes into their digestive tract and not into their lungs, or into other areas that can cause fluid on the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.”

It is this demand for the product stateside that lead the company to build a plant over there. Thick-N Instant is protected by intellectual property including patents, some of which are still pending.

“We need to build a plant a little closer to one of our largest customers in the US,” said Tristram.

“And we’ve done that for a couple of reasons. First, Thick-N Instant is a product that is unique and is for a vulnerable population and there is nothing like it in the world that we compete against. Nobody makes anything like it.

“The other issue for us is that you have to have some redundancy, so if something catastrophic happened to the plant we would be in trouble. You have to have that redundancy. Plus of course, seven to nine weeks on the water to another country is a long time for something that only has a shelf life of 12 months.”

Does Tristram feel the company has reached the apex of its export potential? No, but there are other issues he can see on the horizon

“The food industry is contracting a little bit,” he said. “What we are seeing now is ingredient suppliers not being as flexible as they used to be. The variety of the products on offer are there. They’re bringing them in from all over the world – Europe, Asia, US – everywhere.

“But getting consistent supply and variety that we can use to draw off the same sort of spec is becoming more difficult. For example, if you have 40 tonnes of strawberries and you need another 20 tonnes, trying to find it locally is going to be difficult.”