The major frozen fruit and vegetable processors have invested heavily in R&D and in new cleaning lines as they have increased their focus on taking control of final product quality. This shift has seen significant investments in sophisticated equipment capable of detecting and removing foreign material (FM) along with the ability to detect and reject inferior quality fruit or vegetables.
By Dan Orehov
Moreover, to satisfy rising consumer demand for frozen foods, processors have been increasing their production volumes. To keep up, digital sorters with ultra-high capacities have recently been introduced to the market. In addition to the demand for higher throughput, frozen food processors are facing more stringent requirements for food safety and product quality. Digital sorters must increase foreign material (FM) and defect removal efficiency at the same time they achieve higher capacities.
Processors are under increasing pressure to meet the quality demands of their customers – meaning FM detection and ejection, and the ability to distinguish good product from bad is vital, according to equipment manufacturers contacted for this article. These demands are driven by the fact that supermarkets and manufacturers are continually bringing new products to market that focus on frozen fruit and vegetables as the end consumer product, rather than simply as ingredients in processed product, such as jam.
“What’s more, over the past two to three years, new consumer trends such as fruit and vegetable smoothies and the growth of fruit yoghurts, has seen demand for frozen fruit and vegetable mixes increase rapidly – both through the retail and foodservice channels. In response to that growing demand, customers have created much higher product specifications for processors to ensure they supply product that is 100% free from FM. Premium, high quality frozen fruit and vegetables command higher margins than those destined as basic ingredients, for example fruit creams,” says Stefano Bonacina, Bühler Group Segment Development Manager for Fruit & Vegetables in Europe and CIS.
According to him, the intense focus on premium quality and the removal of FM, gave Bühler the opportunity to rethink their portfolio, to ensure their sorting machines were not only the most efficient, but also the most accurate on the market. The company’s SORETX F portfolio is aimed at frozen fruit and vegetable processors keen to have the highest hygiene level in their lines, which are mainly based in the mature markets such as in Europe and the US. The SORTEX F2, originally launched in 2016, is designed to handle up to 10 tons per hour, while the SORTEX F1, with a slightly smaller footprint and capacity, can process up to five tons per hour. Soon, the company will introduce their highest capacity version – the perfect solution for modern high capacity freezing lines. All sizes boast stainless steel open frames with sloped surfaces, hygienic conduits and food safe grade fixings. Meanwhile, the SORTEX E range is still the best solution for smaller processors at the beginning of the value chain.
You can read the entire article in the May-June print issue of Frozen Food Europe