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Every which way - but firmly.

Every Which Way - But Firmly

(Random Thoughts of a Cutting Machinery Salesman)

The general public purchasing prepared foods in the UK, probably does not realise they have a larger selection of ready meals, specialised meat products and specialised items, than anywhere in the world.

This situation is also developing quite rapidly in the EEC countries and, although this does suggest opportunities for UK companies, before long considerable challenges will originate from these areas.

Some of the traditional markets are fairly static but the rapid expansion of ethnic foods and similar items in the prepared foods areas is producing many challenges.

Companies employing product development managers, many with excellent experience, produce interesting and attractive products on a regular basis. It is a great pity that probably only 6 - 10 per cent of their efforts are eventually taken up by major food groups. The biggest problem is very often where hand manufactured (hand cut) materials are used, for often it is impossible to replicate these by machine. Where equipment manufacturers offer a free evaluation service for size reduction of product, the wise company makes full use of this service. Products accepted with hand cut items, will very often stay in that manufacturing situation for ever, for either it is impossible to design a suitable cutting machine, or the relative cost of manufacture for possible sales is exorbitant.

One of the big growth areas is still salad products and when you realise this embraces vegetables, fruits, cheese, cooked meats and other items, several cutting machines may be required. Vegetable packs with salad dips are now extremely popular, the crudites from carrot, along with strips of celery and peppers go well into this mix. Some of these can be cut very effectively by machine but the remainder require considerable hand work.

Of course the current "in" product is the baton carrot and very few restaurant main meals are served without this vegetable. This vastly expanded market has taken this out of the hand cut situation into a semiautomated operation. Using two linked machines a few operators can produce around 3000 lb of quality batons an hour, replacing many operators, whilst producing the minimum of fines. The baton swede of course offers an even better result, both for machine capacity and yield.

Production of other speciality items, such as chateau potato, pomme parisienne and pomme noisette, are usually expensive to manufacture, either by hand or machine and produce considerable volumes of scrap. Food marketing specialists will always be seeking variations in cut product with the prospect of producing varying dimensions in dice and size of slice, coupled with several surface finishes.

While the opportunity is there to produce regular cubes, lozenge shapes, strips, julienne and in a number of cases, with crinkle faces of different form, or a mix with adjacent faces flat. These can be produced at high capacity or in small batches, where the ability to alter cutting assembly size is a prime consideration. There are still many processors who will use a high production machine for only one or two hours a day, the high quality of cut produced along with the ease and low cost of maintenance, can quickly justify the initial investment.

No doubt the greatest phenomenom in recent years has been the vast expansion of sandwiches, possibly taking the title of the oldest convenience food. Nearly every large supermarket group and store has a chill cabinet offering a wide range of sandwiches and fillings with several bread choices. Requirements to slice firm tomatoes without juice release, thinly slice cucumbers without bruising and shredded lettuce without damage, all come within the high speed size reduction range.

Consideration must always be given to residues. Waste trim in good condition can very often be reduced as a basis for either a cooked or fresh sauce. Colours or flavours from well handled, but low value, material, not only enhance greatly the value, but avoid costly disposal. Cabbage cores, providing they are not fibrous at the end of the season, can be finely strip cut, shredded or flaked for salad items. Many people go to a great deal of trouble to remove skin and cores from both fresh and canned tomatoes, where the requirement is for a sauce base or to be able to pass it through a small depositor nozzle. Comminuting the whole fruit to give better yield and no waste to dispose of, is a very much better solution. Also where fibrous foods are being processed a viscosity increase is possible, permitting additional processing water to be added.

A further interesting new market is the sale of fresh herbs cut to size. Although dried herbs will be present in everyone's kitchen, they will never have the same efficacy and freshness. Several fresh herb growers are producing fine cut herbs, which in some cases are supplied as a frozen pack but more recently a chill fresh pack is being favoured. With all theirother advantages, the very much enhanced colour of fresh herbs is very obvious in both finished products and sauces.

If you wish to slice, dice (or even com-minute), there is a worldwide company which can offer such a wide range of versatile machines, built to exacting standards and designed for continuous performance and extended life - Urschel International of 6 Groby Trading Estate, Groby, Leicestershire, tel:0533 976251.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Food Trade Press Ltd.
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:random thoughts of cutting machinery salesman
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:May 1, 1991
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