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Economic downturn impacts equipment sector as some buyers in Britain postpone orders.

Economic Downturn Impacts Equipment Sector As Some Buyers in Britain Postpone Orders

With a characteristic stiff upper lip, those involved in the frozen food equipment market in Britain are facing the recession head-on. Some are beating the doldrums by coming up with creative marketing strategies. Others are rationalizing expenses, as capacities have fallen victim to projects placed on hold. Most agree that pent-up demand will translate to orders once the economy turns around.

Recession notwithstanding, one company that is moving full stern ahead is Alfa-Laval Convenience Food Ltd. It was formed out of the merger of Koppens Machinefabriek of Holland and Kramer + Grebe of Germany. Quick Frozen Foods International was on hand for the official opening of the concern's new food processing demonstration center and test kitchen in Newport Pagnell this summer.

"We're offering a one-stop shopping opportunity for food manufacturers. They can come here and put an entire kit together," explained Bernard Skam, managing director. "Customers are looking for more flexibility in equipment, so that's what we're providing."

Under one roof is housed the latest technology from Koppens, Kramer + Grebe and Tiromat. Units of the 1.8 [pounds] billion Alfa-Laval group, they specialize in: state-of-the-art forming, enrobing, cooking, and frying machines; thermoform filling, sealing and vacuum packaging equipment; meat cutters, mincers and tenderizing equipment.

"This makes us the only supplier in the UK that can assemble a complete package for food preparation, cooking and processing, freezing and packaging," advised Skam. "For a company forming or cooking meat we can now supply equipment upstream of the hopper for cutting and mincing, or downstream for packaging."

The managing director is very optimistic about the future. "Considering the unfair hits the food sector has taken over the past few years - safety scares, recession, war and political instability - it has done very well. I believe the industry is now poised to put all the negatives behind and move ahead."

Centrally situated, Alfa-Laval Convenience Food is within four hours' driving time of any point in England. Thirteen vehicles have been ordered for the service department's fleet. "We're here to stay," said Skam.

APV Baker Limited

Another organization that has forged ahead is APV Baker Limited. In 1990 its Thetford-based Freezer Division sold more spirals than during any previous year. And the upbeat trend was continuing with even more sales on the books through August 1991 than were obtained the year before.

One reason for such success during times of domestic cutbacks is export prowess. Shipments have been made to the EEC, USA, India, South America, Africa and the Far East.

Admittedly, certain parts of the business have been adversely affected by fish quotas, but APV has looked at new opportunities and applications beyond its traditional markets.

"Areas of growth have been within the bakery sector for such products as morning goods, pizzas, etc.," explained Alan Perryment, sales director. "A spiral prover and freezer for bakery products has been installed and commissioned. Also introduced has been a configuration spiral freezer resulting in a smaller factory footprint, while still using horizontal air flow to give better freezing performance and less potential weight loss."

The Traymaster, a mechanized horizontal plate freezer, has been installed and is running in production along with new developments in manual plate freezers.

Other examples of projects carried out by the Freezer Division are as diverse as a tuna processing installation using steam cooking in Madagascar and vacuum thawing plants in Hong Kong.

Baked Products Division

QFFI traveled to Peterborough to call on APV's Baked Products Division, which contributes some 30 million [pounds] a year to the Group's 1 billion [pounds] turnover. The morale there is very high, judging by the mood of Stephen Cook, marketing development manager.

He advised that the boom in pizza consumption (estimated to have doubled from 1987-89 in the UK alone) has stimulated business. Putting together automated, high-volume turnkey pizza plants has kept APV busy for the past four years. Other growth areas include building cream-filled cake systems and hamburger bun lines.

APV, which has an office in Moscow, has won a fair share of contracts in the USSR. Among them are a frozen donut factory project and the installation of 16 cereal lines, the latter a 75 million [pounds] job.

While APV does not yet own a unit specializing in donut technology, it works with companies such as Rheon on the forming side. But the process engineering outfit needs no assistance when it comes to baking and freezing. Indeed, APV has built bakeries in almost every country of the world.

The Bakery Division's headquarters will soon relocate about three miles from present premises. An investment of over 35 million [pounds] has been made to build the new facility, which will feature a food processing demonstration center where clients may develop products.


While business in the UK is slower than had been hoped for, Starfrost has stayed busy by filling export orders. The Norwich-headquartered supplier of in-line freezer systems has targeted Iberia as a particularly fertile market. Helix spirals were recently shipped to Spain and Portugal, respectively, for use in producing fancy ice cream gateaux and fish fillets.

In July a pre-packaged, ready-to-plug-in spiral was delivered to a vegetable schnitzel packer in Israel. This fall a large turbo freezer, with capacity of 15,000 kilos of french fries per hour, will be installed in the factory of a major frozen potato specialist in Holland.

Starfrost is well positioned to capitalize on the continuing shift toward market economies in Russia and Eastern Europe. With 36 installations of spiral freezers for the vegetable and fruit processing industry, plus another 13 in-line IQF tunnel freezer jobs completed, the company claims 65% of what used to be called the East Bloc market. Indeed, it has opened an office in Poland to look after business in that region.

Meanwhile, the UK has not been entirely quiet. Jus-Rol is purchasing a system for freezing roast potatoes that will be up and running by December. And Helix units have gone to two clients in Humberside. Another four or five projects are in the works, awaiting final budget approval.

On the new product front, Starfrost will introduce a compact version of its Turbo system at the ANUGA show in Cologne. "With the trend of many food companies wanting to commit as little space as possible, this will be a real space saver," said Michele Goodyear, sales and marketing administrator.

AEW Engineering

Also based in Norwich is AEW Engineering Co. Ltd., which moved into new quarters in March. A long-time supplier of band saws to the food processing industry, in recent years the company has become very active in developing high technology portion control and forming equipment for the fish and poultry sectors.

"We have not been unduely affected by the recession thanks, in part, to our wide product mix," reported Chris Mason, who heads up sales operations.

Getting a lot of attention from frozen food manufacturers are AEW's high pressure forming machines, which are designed to produce three-dimensional shapes from pre-sawn portions of fish or meat. Available in three models with individual capacities of 20, 90 and 150 portions per minute, the equipment can be fed with either blocks, other whole-muscle, course ground or chunked raw materials.

No tempering is necessary as forming takes place while the product is hard-frozen. In the basic machine, blanks are loaded into a magazine which automatically forwards them into form-dies and then ejects the formed portions onto outfeed conveyors.

The company is also marketing the PG-50 trapezoid guillotine unit which turns out trapezoid triangle or parallelogram shapes. Operating at 40 cycles per minute, it accomplishes variations in portion size with interchangable blade sets.

Also available from AEW is a new dedicated portion saw for cube and dice production. Thawing and re-freezing of meat or fish is not necessary in dicing operations as the cube saw is designed to cut frozen materials. Running at 30 cycles per minute, cube output ranges between 500 and 1,000 kilograms an hour.

Sortex Sorts it Out

In London QFFI visited the factory of Sortex Limited to get a look at its new 600 series color sorter. Designed to scan up to eight tons of frozen pea throughout per hour using high resolution cameras, the machine identifies foreign material or defective product to remove via a band of 64 air ejectors. A variety of commodities (lingonberries, blueberries, boriotti beans, carrots, potatoes, peaches, etc.) can be fed through the optical viewing area on a 915mm-wide conveyor belt running at a typical speed of two meters per second.

The equipment is capable of sorting all types of frozen, wet or dry products - be they whole, cubed, stripped or sliced. The 6000 incorporates a user-friendly, menu-driven touch screen for easy operator monitoring and control. In addition, its computer memory can store the sorting parameters of up to 20 different products and change from one to another in rapid succession.

Raj Patel reported that the unit has been selling well in both Europe and the United States. Among the buyers are Christian Salvesen of Scotland, Columbia Foods in the USA, and Olle Svensson of Sweden.

BCH Cooks and Cools

Phil Humphries of BCH Equipment Ltd. in Rochdale is not a man who minces words. "Business is bloody awful at the moment," he told QFFI.

Many contracts in the UK have been frozen pending review at the end of the year as recession-struck companies are carefully watching their expenditures, explained the sales director.

Fortunately, BCH has been shipping orders to overseas clients. A major cooking and cooling system, for example, was recently delivered to a frozen food processor in Australia. Other export markets served include the EEC, USA, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and China.

Some 60% of the process engineering company's equipment goes to the food industry, with the rest bought by clients in the confectionery and pharmaceutical sectors. The product line includes such heavy-duty items as steam-jacketed mixing vessels, horizontal steam retorts, and pressure/atmospheric cooking and vacuum cooling systems.

Regarding the latter, a new model specifically designed for use in the preparation of pie fillings and like foodstuffs was recently introduced. Here's how it works:

Up to 1,000 kilos of product is drawn from the cooker under minimum vacuum and gently discharged into a cooling vessel. There it is chilled from 100 [degrees] C to 10 [degrees] C or below in less than 90 minutes. The possibility of contamination is eliminated since the filling takes place in a sealed, controlled environment.

The separate vessel system allows for a significant increase in productivity as cooking and cooling can take place simultaneously. An in-built CIP system enables rinsing between batches and cleans the system after production.

Clark Opens Doors

Based in Carlisle, Clark Door Limited is a manufacturer of specialist doors for the cold storage and food processing industries. New to its catalog is the Clark Digital Controller (CDC) for power-operated sliding doors. The unit has a microprocessor-based digital logic feature and adjustable speed control. An opening speed of 1.5 m/sec. is achieved.

The company recently installed two large (4.5m x 2.5m) biparting doors at a client's store. A fast action on this size from a conventional door system would have been extremely difficult due to the height to width ratio of the panels. The CDC's programmable acceleration and deceleration ensure that these very busy doors are able to operate smoothly, safely and reliably.

George Barker

Government regulations, while often a drag on commerce, can sometimes add up to business opportunities. Such is the case with the recent EEC Directive regarding quick frozen food product temperature standards.

Retailers and manufacturers have until January 1997 to comply fully with the regulations which came into force this year. Brussels has stipulated that foodstuffs rather than case temperatures must be maintained at - 18 [degrees] C, which means existing plant rooms may have to be re-engineered and horsepower boosted.

George Barker and Company of Leeds is looking forward to increased work generated from this Directive, as supermarket operators act to update their food cases. The outfit feels that its recent experience in adapting equipment to comply with British chilled food regulations should give it a leg up on the competition.

Meanwhile, in the last few months Barker has created five new models for a major high street retailer. The customized range features a hot pizza case and a chilled produce compartment for displaying fruit, vegetables and wet salads.

Active throughout Great Britain, the Channel Islands and Ireland, Barker hopes to take on projects abroad. It has looked at the German market very carefully, but has yet to get beyond the paperwork stage. Who knows, perhaps the difficulties of exporting cabinets to the Continent will be streamlined in post-1992 Europe.

PHOTO : This APV spiral freezer installation features a user-friendly control panel.

PHOTO : These AEW form-dies produce 60 gram fillets of different shapes from identical blank charges. The net result is that the final product has a more natural appearance.

PHOTO : The Sortex 6000 color sorter is designed to rapidly remove blemished product or foreign material from a variety of fruits and vegetables ranging from blueberries to peas.

PHOTO : BCH's cook and vacuum cooling vessel system is built to process a wide variety of products ranging from liquids to semi-solids. It can be designed to handle from 100 to 2,000 kilo batches.

PHOTO : Clark Door Limited has introduced microprocessor-controlled biparting freezer doors to the frozen food industry.
COPYRIGHT 1991 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; frozen food equipment
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:We must weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.
Next Article:Business quieter than one would like on the UK frozen food packaging front.

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