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UK frozen food equipment manufacturers look to exports for growth opportunities.

UK Frozen Food Equipment Manufacturers Look to Exports for Growth Opportunities

Export-oriented frozen food equipment manufacturers in the UK are keeping busy, while some of those primarily involved in supplying the soft domestic market are going through lean times. That was the consensus QFFI got from members of the machinery sector surveyed in August.

"There has been quite a down-turn in marine freezer demand here and in Europe because of the fishing quota cutback by the EEC," informed Frank Fenner, managing director of APV Baker's Freezer Division in Grimsby. "And the American West Coast and Alaska markets, which were buoyant, have slowed some."

USSR Market Activity

But there is good news to report, too. APV has been engaged in installing several land-based plate freezing systems in the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, the old East bloc in general has been active, and business levels have been solid in the Netherlands and Argentina. The company, which also has manufacturing facilities in Thetford, can boast that some 10,000 units of its make are operating in over 60 countries. With almost 95% of the Grimsby plant's output shipped abroad, APV has received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement.

The Freezer Division provides equipment to meet all types of requirements -- from bulk freezing of fish in the Jackstone models to individual quick freezing of gateaux in Parafreeze air blast units. In addition, it offers magnetronic microwave heating technology for tempering frozen blocks of food.

But the big push now is behind the Traymaster range which features fully automated pressurized contact plate freezing capabilities on land or sea. Nine installations have been made, mechanized to handle anything from fish fillets to surimi.

Any product that needs to be block frozen in large metal trays can be loaded and frozen in the Traymaster, explained Fenner. During the freeze a pre-set hydraulic pressure is applied to produce a flat and dimensionally accurate frozen block, enabling efficient stacking, storage and transport. The equipment can be incorporated into fully automated continuous inline freezing systems, or can be operated as mechanized batch load and unload freezers.

Starfrost's Eastern Star

For Norwich-based Starfrost Systems Ltd., the United Kingdom market is still "very healthy," especially in the baked goods area. That's the way Steve Rowe, technical sales engineer, described conditions. "The majority of our domestic volume represents new business, with an element of replacement work."

Just who is buying the company's line of helix, turbo, contact and VRT freezing systems? Food manufacturers of everything from burgers and fish to desserts and assorted added value products.

"We're selling a freezer every week," stated Rowe. Noting that 60% of its designs get exported, he added: "What was East Germany is now a very active market for us. Since the Berlin Wall came down we have already made four installations with fruit and vegetable processors. And another freezer will shortly be delivered."

Starfrost can thank its Friederich Justus GmbH connection in Hamburg for drumming up sales in the old DDR. The German distributor, which has a shareholding interest in the UK manufacturer, is making daily calls on potential new customers in the east. "We put in an IQF kit to replace an antiquated plate freezer used for peas," said Rowe. "Overnight 40-year-old technology was phased out and replaced with modern, state-of-the-art machinery."

Sales through an Austrian agent have also been made to processors in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. The commercial arrangements to close such deals are interesting. While Starfrost is paid in cash, the middleman is compensated by the buyer in a barter transaction that generally involves strawberries or other fruits that are ultimately sold in Western Europe or elsewhere.

IGF in-line tunnel freezing systems are the big sellers in Eastern Europe thus far. The Turbo Starfrost two-belt setup is geared for large scale production of loose products such as soft fruit, berries, peas, beans and broccoli. An infeed conveyor system transports the raw materials evenly and continuously onto a freezing belt. A crust freezing zone conditions the product by passing it over conveyor tumbles to initiate fluidization and redistribution. Simultaneously, cold air is blown vertically upward through the belt to raw materials.

Greenbank Dries French Fries

In Lancashire, QFFI dropped in on Accrington-based Greenbank Engineering Limited. Hugh Barber, sales manager of the Food Machinery Division, was keen to discuss the merits of the Air, Radio Frequency Assisted (A.R.F.A.) Dryer and Oven System. The equipment is especially suitable for the drying of potato products, cereals and snack foods, and for baking applications such as cookies and crackers.

Barber explained that the A.R.F.A. system combines forced convection and radio frequency which overcomes the limiting factors of heat and mass transfer and eliminates the surface degradation associated with high temperature conventional systems.

He elaborated: "The R.F. takes care of the volumetric heating of a product quickly and evenly, and promotes migration of moisture to the surface. In drying, low temperature convection is applied only to evaporate the surface moistures, or in baking applications to texture and color the surface, which never becomes overdry or overheated."

The bottom line is that a better French fry is produced exhibiting improved texture, color and eye appeal, which should translate to better buy appeal.

Greenbank, which is engaged in turnkey French fry factory projects in conjunction with P.M.S. in Europe, has found the Dutch potato industry to be particularly receptive to its Radio Frequency Dryer, particularly those companies with a strong quality commitment. Installations have been made at the premises of Meijer Frozen Foods and Gerant B.V., both of which supply multiple fast food customers.

The engineering outfit is eyeing the large North American potato, cereal, snack and cookie/cracker markets as well as those in Australia and New Zealand. But Europe remains the center of activity of the moment.

"We have realistic prospects in America," said Barber. "Everybody is keenly interested, but people do not replace plant until they need to. When the time comes and new factories are on the drawing board, we will make sure that we get a hearing."

BOC = LN Technology

In Modern QFFI met with technical specialists of BOC Limited, the industrial gas supplier that has introduced a fair amount of cryogenic freezing technology to the food processing industry. Following 15% annual growth rates during the mid-1980s, the company believes that markets will continue expanding during the '90s due in part to greater temperature control requirements brought on by new safety concerns and EEC regulations.

Today some 50% of prepared chicken products are frozen using liquid nitrogen, pointed out Wendy Peters. "As the convenience foods market has trebled in the last five years, sales of liquid nitrogen to the food industry have risen at a similar rate."

Noting that capital costs are less for cryogenic systems than for mechanical freezers, she reported that BOC recently installed a third 70 foot liquid nitrogen tunnel at Bernard Matthews' Great Witchingham factory. Said to be the largest of its kind in the UK, the four foot wide stainless steel unit is being used to support the well known poultry processor's entry into the fish business

Freezing is carried out by means of injecting LN into the tunnel through spray nozzels. Upon contact with food, the gas vaporizes, causing rapid freezing. The evaporation produces a cold, dense vapor which travels towards the input end of the tunnel, producing a counter-current heat exchange with incoming food. The pre-cooling increases efficiency, as does the patented turbulence fan system.

BOC worked jointly with APV Baker Limited to develop its Cryomaster tunnel. Built to facilitate easy cleaning and improved efficiency while saving floor space, a unique feature of the design insures that any sprayed liquid nitrogen not making contact with food passes through the belt to cool the underside of the product. Hydraulically operated, the tunnel is available in a range of standard sizes from 6 to 12 meters long, and with a belt width of 0.6 to 1.2 meters.

Air Products

Air Products' food technology group is another outfit engaged in improving and developing new applications for the food freezing industry. Based at Walton-on-Thames, its liquid nitrogen systems offer efficiency and cleanliness while ensuring a high quality end product with desired taste, color and texture appeal.

Among the company's new developments are the Cryo-Rotary (for IQF meat, diced vegetables, etc.) and Cryo-Stream (for liquids and slurries). Both technologies ensure the rapid IQF processing of difficult to freeze products at high through-puts, and require a minimum of floor space.

Cryo-Dip provides a process where product is immersed in liquid nitrogen to maintain quality during the freezing of delicate foods such as shellfish or soft fruits.

Air Products PLC is part of an international group, Air Products and Chemicals Inc., a leader in cryogenic and gas separation technology.

PHOTO : Starfrost's helix freezing system provides guided flow air circulation which insures that food surfaces are evenly covered for optimum freezing efficiency. This particular unit has a user-friendly electronic control panel with a visual display feature.

PHOTO : The big push now is behind the Traymaster range automated pressurized contact plate freezer, advises Frank Fenner of APV Baker.

PHOTO : Two sections of Greenbank's Radio Frequency Dryer being inspected before leaving the fabricating plant.

PHOTO : A Cryomaster liquid nitrogen food freezing tunnel before dispatch to a customer's premises.
COPYRIGHT 1990 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Great Britain
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:With heightened taste for foreign flavors, ingredients makers spice up offerings.
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