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Food Processing Equipment Helps Increase Output without Sacrificing
Mexican food processor quadruples output, increases yield by
and slashes energy
costs with specially-modified flame griller.
There is a universal challenge
that faces almost every small to medium-sized food processor throughout the
world. That is: how to grow big and meet the increased demand that success
brings, without sacrificing the original taste and quality that attracted
the demand in the first place. But in the rush to expand, simply ordering a
standard piece of equipment, like a high-speed roasting oven, and expecting
it to duplicate a homemade process of making prepared food is unrealistic.
emerging food processors are becoming market leaders by looking for
equipment manufacturers who are willing to customize high-volume equipment
to meet the exact needs of the process, so that the original quality and
taste can be preserved. In such manner, food processors can feel secure in
the knowledge that existing and new customers will continue to purchase
their product well into the future.
As a bonus, processing
equipment that is customized to meet a food producer’s unique processes can
also improve yield, while also providing energy savings by reducing gas and
electric costs, thus further improving the revenue stream and helping
companies to grow.
equipment ensures success
Most every small to medium-sized food processor dreams of
getting discovered by a buyer from world supermarket leaders like Wal-Mart, Costco, Tesco, Gigante,
Gruppo PAM or Caprabo. However, an invitation to supply product to these
giants requires a huge increase in production volumes. The fear is that the
processor may not be able to maintain the same level of quality if new
high-speed equipment is purchased. Yet keeping existing, low-volume
equipment risks losing the contract with the large stores.
“We have very limited
production at our plant here in Mexico, but our clients were asking for
more and more of our chili pepper products,” says Leonardo Randolph,
production manager for Agroindustria de Aguascalientes S.A. de C.V.
Founded in 2003,
Agroin (www.agroin.com.mx) operates
as a division of La
Huerta, one the largest frozen produce exporters in Mexico and a supplier
of frozen vegetables to Wal-Mart. Agroin processes the frozen poblano chili
pepper line for La Huerta, but its output was
limited by its hand-built griller.
“We grow and harvest
our own peppers, wash them, and then roast them,” explains Randolf.
“Afterwards, we peel off the blackened outer skin and then immediately
freeze and package the product in different presentations. But our old
griller that roasts the peppers was a bottleneck in the whole process. We
had enough demand to more than triple our output, but we realized that we
would need three more of our old roasters to meet the throughput that our
new freezer was capable of handling. We needed to process one metric ton
per hour, but our existing griller could only roast 250 kg. per hour.”
Aside from insufficient capacity, the construction of the old
griller invited inconsistencies in roasting, as the distance between the
gas burners and the product handling equipment could vary, making it
difficult to quickly and thoroughly peel off the unevenly-blackened skin. At
the output end of the griller, some of peppers would fail to be separated
from the springs that carried them, which required a person to pull out the
stuck peppers by hand.
While attending a
trade show in Chicago, Randolph and La Hueta’s Ricardo Arteaga Barba was
introduced to an equipment manufacturer who offered to work on a solution
to their output problem.
pepper-roasting process is unique, we were not sure that any standard
griller could do the job correctly and preserve the special taste of our
product,” recalls Randolf. “But Unitherm agreed to work with us, and they
invited us to their test kitchen in Oklahoma to design a flame griller that
would meet our specific needs.”
Food Systems (Bristow, OK) is recognized
throughout the food processing industry for its unique heat transfer
systems that maximize yields and reduce processing times. The company’s
plant offers a fully equipped test kitchen and a 3-D modeling program so
that every aspect of a new system can be reviewed and, if necessary, modified to ensure it meets the needs of the processor.
“We flew straight from
Chicago to their plant because we wanted to ensure we could get something
that would fit our process exactly,” continues Randolf. “They brought in
the same type of green poblano chili peppers we use, roasted them in their
griller, and made adjustments until they came out the way we wanted. We
tasted them and they were really good. We could see that this was going to
work for us and provide the production volumes we were seeking.”
The flame grill
system like the one selected by the principals at Agroin allows
a wide range of customization with belt widths from 20-60
inches, 8-50 ribbon burners, adjustable bar markers with variable grilling
patterns and belt speeds from 5-180 minutes.
efforts, a final design was selected for a single flame griller that could
meet Agroin’s goal of one metric ton of product per hour. Preservation, if
not improvement, in product quality was achieved by the grilling system’s
ability to roast each pepper on all sides, providing the sought-after
was so efficient, that we only needed one unit to do the job of three or
four of our old griller,” says Randolph. “As such, we expect our energy
consumption, to shrink tremendously. But the best part is that we expect
the quality to improve because with the new equipment we can control the
speed of the griller bed, the amount of burners that can be turned on, and
the quantity of heat going out of the griller.”
An unexpected gain
from this design comes in form of increased yield.
“By weight, the
product shrinks by about 20-25%, and this is normal during the roasting
process,” comments Randolph. “However, the new griller can limit that loss
Customizing the future
With the advent of
equipment manufacturers willing to modify their machines, food processors
wishing to expand their market share can enjoy the best of both worlds:
increased production volumes and the same great taste and quality that made
them a success in the first place.
information contact: Unitherm Food Systems; 502 Industrial Road; Bristow,
OK 74010; (918) 367-0197; fax (918) 367-5440;
firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the web site www.unithermfoodsystems.com