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Dutch, Belgian food equipment suppliers adapt technologies to fit evolving needs.

The prowess of the Benelux food industry is underpinned by its competitive, state-of-the-art equipment manufacturing base. In the Netherlands, for example, 77% of processing systems on line at factories are supplied by domestic firms. An even greater 94% of packaging needs are sourced locally.

But the true value of the region's equipment design genius is measured by its success in exporting. And, like the producers of value added food products, the whole world is fertile sales territory for innovative Dutch and Belgian machinery vendors. Quick Frozen Foods International magazine toured the headquarters and shop floors of a representative cross section of leading equipment makers, systems specialists and turnkey project contractors during the autumn. A report of new developments and trends follows.

Elbicon: Visionary Sorting

Aarschot, Belgium, is the home of Elbicon n.v., whose high-tech range of optical food scanning and sorting machines includes such futuristic-oriented models as the infrared reflecting Mat 2000, the laser-equipped Elbiscan 5000, Novascan 4000 and Twinscan CCD camera-based units, and the Hawk-eye 400 X-ray imaging system.

The Mat 2000 excells in sorting green beans on a production line by means of bouncing modulated and polarized infra-red light on products to distinguish between vegetative and non-vegetative structures. Its sophisticated electronics are able to discriminate between the reflection of beans and those of unwanted bodies such as rodents, frogs, grasshoppers, stones or earth clumps. When on contaminant has been detected, a signal is sent to close an ejector flap and divert the undesired matter to a recycling conveyor for manual inspection.

Modular construction makes it possible to adjust capacity from four to 20 tons per hour. More than 200 units have been sold globally. Recently, the Mat 2100 series has been introduced to sort green ears of corn.

The Elbiscan 5000 combines different types of concentrated laser beams capable of discerning minute color gradations and structural characteristics of objects. Automatic, continuous in-line detection is accomplished by utilizing a high speed rotating polygon mirror. Light beams scan the matched background of product at a rate of 1,000 times per second in search of reflective deviations. A rapid response processor determines the location of any unwanted item and a corresponding ejector is automatically activated to remove the matter with 99% reliability.

Deadly green nightshade can be spotted among green peas and isolated for elimination with a blast of compressed air, as can white stones from white beans, or black stones from black currants. The equipment is also designed to automatically identify and eject foreign bodies and defective products from streams of frozen, wet or dry peas, raisins, carrots, french fries, coffee, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc.

"Our laser equipment is made for the year 2000," said Leo Billion, the visionary electronics engineer who started the company in 1972. "And our knowhow has advanced to the point where, by the time a new microchip is available, we have a newly designed camera ready to test it."

With the keenly competitive climate among manufacturers of food sorting equipment these days, Elbicon's engineering staff (25 persons out of 80 at headquarters) is hard at work trying to further improve the qualitative edge. "Research and development is constant, as is the fact that all decision-making in our equipment is done in the hardware, not the software," said Billion.

Elbicon's president told Quick Frozen Foods International that he would not be surprised if his company's long-term future lies increasingly in non-food applications. Pointing to an as yet fledgling medical division, he noted: "The focus will be on staying within our technology, but not necessarily within our present industry. Already we have succeeded in developing a brain signal amplifying system that could become standard equipment in the offices of ears, nose and throat doctors, eye specialists and neurologists a few years hence."

In the meantime, Elbicon has set its sights on marketing to the growing food businesses of Australasia by opening a Pacific Rim office in Brisbane, Australia. Headed by Jan Verboomen, it is appointed with demonstration machinery especially suited to sort vegetables, potatoes, macadamia nuts, currants and sultanas.

Elsewhere, the company has subsidiary offices in Poland, Great Britain and the USA, as well as representatives in place from as far afield as Argentina and New Zealand.

Grasso

Based in 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, Grasso Products BV and Grenco BV are now part of the German multinational group GEA AG. The parent, a diversified food processing and energy systems conglomerate, was expected to do the equivalent of $1.31 billion in turn-over during 1992. Grasso, which posted a $3.2 million loss in 1991, should benefit from greater access to markets provided by its well-connected owner.

A stubborn global recession, however, may be temporarily delaying a comeback. "While we're gaining in market share, we have lost volume during the current economic downturn. But we intend to put it behind us as soon as possible and resume growth," advised Grasso's Martijn Verster.

The 130-year-old company manufactures an extensive range of some 50 different compressors, in addition to valves and components used by the international food processing industry. Products run the gamut from reciprocating piston-driven single and energy efficient two-stage compressors, to screw valve packages and self-limiting automatic purgers of non-condensable gases.

With mounting worldwide environmental concern over the impact of CFCs and other synthetic gases on the atmosphere's ozone layer, there has been renewed interest in Grasso's line of ammonia compressors. While the RC6 model features fast speed and high efficiency with the use of NH3 refrigerant, series RC9 and RC11 compressors operate with ammonia in either single or two-stage applications. Such eliminates the need for cylinder head or oil cooling.

"This makes these compressors an extra attractive investment because of low operating costs associated with the absence of water cooling requirements," explained Verster. "Furthermore, head and oil coolers, or vulnerable refrigerant injection systems, are not necessary."

In the new products arena, the marketing manager unveiled the Monitron CR, an electronic monitoring and control device for reciprocating compressors. The unit, which is designed to replace conventional pressure gauge and safety switch panels, offers a number of features including an easy-to-read 80 character display.

"We are very involved in developing electronics around the mechanical equipment that will enable factory workers and supervisors in remote locations to monitor what is going on," said Verster.

Grenco

Meanwhile, at the nearby offices of sister company Grenco, Ing D. Jongejans was pleased to tell QFFI: "Business is busy at the moment, especially in the Dutch market. Sales are better than had been forecast."

The marketing manager explained that his division specializes in wedding refrigeration technologies in global projects ranging from building small ice-making plants, to installing freezing tunnels in complex, turnkey factories and coldstores, to equipping deep-sea trawlers with fish cooling and freezing lines.

"Providing custom-tailored solutions to design problems is what we are all about," added Jongejans. He noted that outside of the Benelux countries efforts are being concentrated in the Middle East and Poland. Russian prospects were described as "quite difficult at the moment for obvious reasons."

As for joint ventures, the marketing manager said that Grenco will soon be announcing the introduction of a new fluidized bed freezer developed with a still unnamed partner. It is capable of processing delicate products such as strawberries or wild brambles without spotting them. Other applications include the freezing of small shrimps and sprats.

C. Rijkaart

A.H. Harbers, sales director for Machinefabriek C. Rijkaart BV, is a straight talker. "I've been in this business for 20 years, and this is not the best of times," he told QFFI. "While it's true that sales in the Benelux and southern Europe are good, demand from most other countries is slow for now."

With some 95% of the Asperen, Holland-based baked goods equipment maker's earnings generated from exports, it is working all the harder to write orders. While interest from Scandinavia and Russia has lessened, and a weak dollar makes business in the USA difficult to land, there are a number of bright spots on the screen.

"Italy is still a strong market for us, regardless of the difficulties its national economy is going through. Greece is coming along nicely, as industrial concerns modernize to comply with EEC standards. And France is so active that we've opened a sales office there to look after customers," said Harbers.

He is bullish on the frozen food industry, from which Rijkaart derives over 40% of its business. The company provides a complete range of bread, pastry, and pita and pizza base manufacturing equipment, such as: automated dough laminating and sheeting systems; spot depositors for all types of cake mixes and batters; universal filling, folding and forming lines; pie and tart lines; croissant curling and bending machines; and multi-deck, pan-free proofing systems.

The sales director was especially keen on the relatively new economy line package designed to help medium size bakeries diversify their range of yeast dough, Danish and puff pastry products. The standard setup features gauging rollers, a spot depositor, air-operated folding arms, a pneumatic guillotine, adjustable conveyor belt, and a set of baking tray supports. In addition, the line can be supplemented as needed with circular cutters, as well as cutting and docking rollers.

Koppens

Not feeling any ill effects from the recession is Bakel, Holland-headquartered Koppens Machine-fabriek BV. "We are still expanding in a market that shows no signs of slowing down. The convenience food sector continues to advance around the world," said Paul Lygum, managing director of the Alfa-Laval unit.

The company, doing business since 1961, specializes in manufacturing stainless steel machines and integrated further processing lines for producing value added meat, fish, chicken, potato, vegetable and vegetarian items. Its factory customizes everything from forming, portioning, battering and breading machines to continuous cooking/frying systems, cooling and freezing equipment, plus a range of transport conveyors.

Serving customers in more than 50 countries, the managing director told Quick Frozen Foods International that exports represent 95% of turnover. While Europe accounts for almost half of total volume, solid sales performances are realized in the USA, South America and Asia. Meanwhile, efforts have been increased to further penetrate the growing market in China for convenience food systems.

Among Koppens' latest introductions are the model VM400 HSE forming and portioning machine, the BG type Teflon belt-heated grill, the SVR series horizontal airflow spiral freezer, and a continuous micro filter. The latter, which was unveiled during October's GiaMatic Show in Paris, removes unwanted particles as tiny as 0.01mm from frying oil. Features include a self-cleaning pre-filter and fine filter station. Capacity can be designed according to production requirements of the customer.

Stork Titan

Another Dutch company adept at designing and marketing food processing machines, as well as packaging systems, is Stork Titan BV of Boxmeer. Part of the Stork Group Systems for Meat and Poultry Processing, which generates over three billion guilders in annual revenues, it is active in supplying formers for the production of all kinds of convenience meat, fish and vegetable products. Also offered are predusting, battering and breading lines, hot air and steam cooking systems, and cooling equipment.

Hein Kamp, export manager, is especially enthusiastic these days about the new tray sealing capability developed by its Tourpac arm. The TS 708 Triple Sealer can close as many as three pre-formed trays of ready meals or other products simultaneously with film or cardboard lids.

Called "Top Skin Seal," the vacuum-sealing system works by tightly applying see-through film around food and extending it onto the tray's edge. "Thus oxidation, drip and bacteriological contamination is prevented," explained Kamp. "Not only is shelf life extended, but visual presentation is enhanced in the process. And film costs are only about half those associated with the flex-tray-flex method."

The export manager was also keen on Stork Titan's top molding machines which are capable of handling a number of differently sized products within accuracy of a single gram. Designed to allow installation above a transport system carrying molded products for ready meal or other applications, they are supplied for lines with a width of 400 or 630mm.

Commenting on today's general business environment, Kamp said that there is no denying that the market has cooled off relative to several years ago - especially in the poultry sector. "We have to work harder to keep our share, and that is exactly what we are doing."

Looking to build upon traditional customer bases, Stork hopes to boost delivery of less sophisticated lines costing under 100,000 guilders in Russia and other former states of the now defunct USSR. It has 30 staffers and representatives working in that promising market, where the company has been selling for the past decade. Concentration is strongest in Moscow, Kiev, Vilnius and several other key cities. China is also getting more attention from the Group as a potential market.

Meyn

Quick Frozen Foods International caught up with the ever-expanding Meyn Group at the VIV-Europe trade fair in Utrecht, Holland. The Oostzaan-headquartered company is involved in designing and engineering numerous processing line applications for the poultry, red meat, fish and vegetable industries. It specializes in manufacturing and installing complete systems and turnkey factories.

While having evolved into a multi-faceted concern over the years, the company is still very much a family operation headed up by Joop and Gerta Meyn. Also on the impressive 1,400-square-meter stand at Utrecht was son Robert Meyn, who demonstrated the new Maestro eviscerator. The state-of-the-art system was housed behind locked doors to prevent competitors from sneaking peeks.

With a pronounced international presence, the Group's global sales success has earned it the Dutch Economic Information Service's Export Award. Mrs. Meyn reported that labor-saving, automated poultry processing equipment continues to be in demand in Europe. "And we're still doing a lot of business in Russia, even though money is tight there," she added. "We expect big growth in East Asia, spurred by population increases and rising living standards. We've sold a couple of complete plants in China recently which were financed by the World Bank. And an office has been opened in Indonesia to promote Group services."

Meyn has also been active on the seafood front, with its AFAK Holland BV fish processing equipment division outfitting land-based factories as well as deep sea trawlers. The Russian vessel Dauriya, for example, was completely upgraded to process as much as 800 tons of fish per day

Meanwhile, in the poultry sector Meyn Weighing Systems BV installed a number of tailor-made lines for packaging frozen chicken portions in consumer bags weighing between one and ten kilograms. Here's how they work:

Portions exit a spiral freezer at a rate of some 15,000 per hour and are divided into two lines. The weighing machine sizes up each individual piece and a Mark 2000 industrial computer controls the sorting and batching processes.

Next, the computer registers the container in which a batch is placed. A vertical form-fill-sealing machine cuts the bags from a roll of plastic film. After filling one bag, the next load is automatically signaled for. The packages are then monitored for correct weight. Bags which do not measure up are removed from the transport belt. Those that pass muster are packed into boxes or crates for short-term storage before being shipped to end users.

H&H

The Giessen, Netherlands-headquartered H&H Group is involved in equipment development, engineering and installation for food industry applications of many kinds. Technical expertise runs deep: from setting up pre-processing systems for potatoes, vegetables and fruit, to building complete lines for frozen food factories. A number of the group's 18 member companies manufacture and market such equipment as steam peelers, deskinners, sorters, blancher/coolers and freezers. Frying and cooking technology is also offered.

"H&H has been able to accumulate a large quantity of general and specialized know-how and supply it on a worldwide basis," said P.L.A. Hamm, director. "We consider the EEC and EFTA as our home market, and have developed it intensively through branches, associated companies and representatives."

Hak & Partners BV has been created for clients outside Western Europe. Based in Almkerk and headed by J. Hak, its offices are scattered from Prague, St. Petersburg and Moscow to Cairo, Tehran, Sharjah, Nairobi and beyond.

"We anticipate great growth opportunities in turnkey project contracting outside of the Western Hemisphere," said Hak. "The economically-evolving Pacific Rim area from Vietnam to northeast China is most promising. China's impressive annual growth rate, which has averaged almost 10% for the last decade, should continue at that pace for a number of years."

In Africa, Hak & Partners is nearing completion of a factory at Lake Victoria built to process 10 to 12 tons of Nile perch fillets daily Financed by the Asian Development Bank, it is expected to become operational this January,

In India, the company assisted Temptation Foods of Bombay in constructing a plant for frozen mango chunks and other fruits used as ingredients by yogurt makers. Similar designs are on the drawing board for fruit and vegetable concerns in Turkey.

Elsewhere, negotiations have been conducted in Brazil to build potato processing facilities. And there is reason to believe that increased food sector spending in Colombia, Venezuela and Chile could benefit the Group.

Quick Frozen Foods International magazine inquired about prospects for automating outmoded factories in countries of the old East bloc. "Things are rather chaotic there now, but the future is good," replied Jappe Alberts. "The Russians must modernize their equipment in order to assure some reliable level of quality control."

Yes, but how will the desperately needed machinery be paid for?, QFFI asked. "While the monetary system in the former USSR is a shambles, there is money available for capital improvements. But you must know how and where to find it," explained Alberts. "Those who trade in oil and furs, for example, are holders of considerable amounts of hard currency that has been set aside for investment."

Isocab

Although resigned that business has been quieter than during the ebullent years of the late-80s, Isocab sales manager P Benoit reported that the CFC-free polyurethane panel manufacturer has been especially busy serving clients in the fish and vegetable processing industries. Among its recent projects was the installation of insulated roof and wall panels at the newly renovated fish auction house in Oostende. At the moment, the Bavikhove, Belgium-headquartered company has five other jobs going with seafood processors in the country.

"A lot of food factories are upgrading to meet EEC standards in preparation for increased commerce in single-market Europe," Benoit told QFFI. "And to meet strict hygiene requirements, our food-safe product line is increasingly being specified."

Some 60% of Isocab's turnover is realized through exports. France, Germany and the UK are prime markets, while a good deal of business is also transacted further afield. Twenty-five containers of panels were shipped to Cameroon last August. A lot of work has been done with ice cream makers in Turkey and with meat packers in the Philippines.

Isocab also produces a range of commercial walk-in coolers (the ISO 14 model can maintain temperatures of - 35 [degrees] C) as well as accessories for the erection of panels (flashing and sanitary profiles, hanging systems and isothermic doors). And in a move toward diversification, new factory has come on stream to manufacture single-skin steel cladding products for the building industry.

FAM

While business in the Benelux is brisk for FAM NV, the recession has slowed things down in Germany and France. All the more reason then for a company that exports 95% of its high-precision food cutting and volumetric top and bottom filling machines to come out with a new product to stimulate customer demand.

Enter the model TS-1D Transeverse Slicer, which is designed to handle elongated vegetables measuring up to 90mm in diameter. A full 1.5 meters longer than similar equipment on the market, it can cut up to three tons of carrots per hour. Other products that can be efficiently sliced down to sizes ranging from 0.8mm to 33.9mm are: asparagus, beans, okra, beets, brocolli, celery, cucumbers, leeks, peppers, rhubarb, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, salad, spinach, salsify and even baquette-style bread.

Guy Baeten, sales manager of the Antwerpen, Belgium-headquartered size reduction equipment specialist, pointed out that the TS-1D's reinforced knives enhance processing stability. The machine has three motors, two of which run v-belts while the other turns the slicing wheel.

A unit of J. DeVree & Co., FAM's cubical approach to food cutting is manifest in a range of products. The large capacity SUD-3D Super Dicer is used for frozen and firm texture items as well as light fibrous and softer products up to 225mm. The STD-3D Standard Dicer is ideal for lightly frozen food not exceeding 135mm in diameter. The MC-3D Multi Cutter is suitable for hard or soft products up to 225mm, and the UD-3D Universal Dicer is built for softer items with diameters not exceeding 135mm.

Superior

Superior BV of Beusichem, Holland, is targeting the seafood industry with two of its new products: a shrimp grader for use with either peeled or unpeeled species, and a separator that removes mussel meat from shells.

Some 85% of the company's business comes from selling vibratory equipment for sorting, with the remainder derived from case packing systems. "We've grown along with the Benelux frozen food industry, which for the past 15 years has been centered around potatoes and vegetables," said Wim de Hann, vice president.

Concentrating on supplying what was described as "single item orders," turnover was reported as up by almost 15% through August compared to the same period the previous year. "Superior has the knack of designing the right application for the right machine," said de Hann.

Looking ahead, he expressed concern over how the strength of the Dutch guilder (which is tied to the Germnan D-mark) will affect sales. "We have a lot of competition in the United Kingdom, Denmark and the USA. Now our prices are 13% higher in Britain because of sterling's devaluation. Through no fault of our own, we've become relatively expensive in that market overnight."

Kiremko

Kiremko BV has taken the wraps off a new, 5.5 million guilder computer-controlled factory in Montfoort, the Netherlands. Some 2,600 square meters of space is available for designing and building potato and vegetable processing equipment, with another 900 square meters aside for office accommodations.

The plant was officially dedicated during a grand opening ceremony held in conjunction with Kiremko's 25th anniversary on Nov 6. The company, which began as manufacturer of standard pre-frying lines for the french fry industry, now sells a wide variety of machinery to customers around the world. Turnover in 1992 was expected to hit NLG 27 million, compared to NLG 17.5 million the year before.
COPYRIGHT 1993 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Title Annotation:News from Europe
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jan 1, 1993
Words:3776
Previous Article:Good-bye 1992! European fish sellers hope for improved market this year.
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