With partners including global companies and offering a variety of services including product development, ingredient sourcing, process advice and pack design, no challenge is too big for Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. To help a leading baby food manufacturer differentiate itself in a crowded market, the team at Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. embarked on a project to transition to clean steam generation for the packing process. All the while, minimising the risk of contamination to meet strict investor requirements.
The food and beverage industry might be a vibrant and thriving scene, but as one of the fastest moving industries, its highly competitive nature has also added considerable pressure to operating margins across the supply chain.
In response, many organisations focus on identifying areas for improvement in the quality of products and processes.
As one of the UK’s leading packers of food products into resealable pouches, Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. did just that.
In late 2017, Jamie Walker, Manufacturing Manager at Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. was approached by a key customer looking to enhance the quality of their product - baby fruit puree sachet pouches.
Ultimately, they wanted to differentiate themselves from their competitors and win future supermarket contracts.
Jamie’s initial findings unearthed a common misconception around the use of steam in food processing and he discovered that there is far more to understand than simply opting for one type of steam. This started to pose questions around the potential contamination of the pipework running the risk of affecting the consistency of the product.
With this in mind, and with a degree of confusion surrounding which steam type would be best for their process, Natural Fruit and Beverage Co. called upon steam specialists, Spirax Sarco to guide them in the right direction.
Initially, Jamie believed the best solution would be to use a cost-effective filtration process.
However, there is much confusion across the industry surrounding the difference between filtered and clean steam - which is exactly why clear guidance was needed.
Fortunately, in this instance, quality was Natural Fruit & Beverage Co.’s first priority so Jamie was keen for Spirax Sarco to give them the assurance and confidence to eliminate any product inconsistencies.
Until then, the customer had been using CO2 for purging and cleaning excessive residue before capping the product.
It was becoming apparent that while competitor products were improving in quality, CO2 was offering no room for improvement, and was also an expensive resource.
With CO2 restricting progression, an alternative method had to be sourced.
Jamie sought advice from existing suppliers and peers in the industry to see what alternatives were available. After speaking to a number of experts, he decided to follow up on the recommendation to use steam.
The Spirax Sarco experts were invited to present to the management team at Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. Here they explained the various types of steam, the concept of clean steam as an ingredient and how it applies in relation to a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).
The team of specialist engineers explained that despite the food and drinks manufacturer having made use of filtered steam in the production process, consistency in taste, colour and quality of the end product could be achieved by choosing clean steam.
Generating and using clean steam within a process means controlling feedwater quality at the source. Rather than relying on a filtration process to extract particulates, the production of clean steam utilises a secondary steam generator with the ability to control chemical-free feedwater quality.
Based on this explanation, Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. went ahead and introduced an electric compact clean steam generator 50 kW (50 kg/h @ 3 bar) with preheating capability and the ability to control feedwater quality.
Overall Jamie was impressed with the service he received. He commented: “The Spirax Sarco team gave me the confidence and security that they knew the subject well enough to introduce a clean steam generator rather than filtered steam.”
Since installing the new solution, Spirax Sarco has supported the Natural Fruit & Beverage Co. with regular site visits which has helped Jamie in gaining a better understanding of how their steam system is working.
Francisco Pedrosa, Clean Steam Specialist at Spirax Sarco added: “There are many companies across the country that use the same processes as Natural Fruit & Beverage Co., and yet do not realise the full potential of clean steam. Should their story spark an interest with any like-minded manufacturers, we would be more than happy to offer a consultation to advise on where they might be able to improve.”
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