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The post-pandemic food industry: reasons for optimism

Green plant in light bulb silhouette on soil background

Carlos Fernandez, JBT Executive Vice President and President, Liquid Foods, outlines why he believes that in spite of some significant challenges and undoubted changes to the ways we live and work, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future of the global food industry.

An abridged version of this article was published in Food Logistics Magazine.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact across most industries worldwide, and the food sector has not been immune to its consequences. In particular, for foodservice operators – and the restaurants, cafes and bars they supply – the spread of the Coronavirus has been quite challenging. Despite this – and although it is clear there will be important changes to the ways we live and work – I believe there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of the food industry. While impossible to say that it is 100% recession-proof, it is a critical, essential industry for everyone. But at the same time, the industry will change and evolve.

Carlos Fernandez

Carlos Fernandez

In the short-to-medium term, the pandemic will bring about significant changes to the food processing industry, the supply chain and consumption. On the consumer side, I think the trend towards cooking and eating at home will stay with us for the foreseeable future, along with consumer trends toward healthy food options. Health and nutrition will continue to grow in importance and will influence the decisions consumers make in choosing food and beverage products. On the retail front I also expect to see changes in packaging formats from larger bulk sizes to smaller packs.

“The trend towards cooking at home will continue for the foreseeable future”

Across the food supply chain, we are likely to see significant changes to the IT, sanitation, and automation infrastructures with the goal of creating greater efficiencies and improvements in hygiene and food safety. Uncertainty over short- and long-term sustainability issues is likely to lead to more replacement investment, and we at JBT believe this will take on the form of additional capital spend on new factories. Achieving efficiency is not just a question of generating more savings, it also has to do with finding the right balance of people and skills. If this was difficult before, it will become even more of a challenge as the levels of contagion in many food processing facilities are potentially very high.

And, of course, food safety will be of fundamental importance. There will be an even greater focus on traceability, while cleaning systems and hygiene will be critical. At JBT, we are focusing on all three areas with dedicated laboratories and scientists, as well as continuous testing verified by the FDA.

Tomatoes Cherry on Vine Pulp Tray Photo - Proseal

JBT Proseal offers sustainable packaging options

To reduce the amount of human contact with food products there are going to be a lot more individual packages and a large-scale shift from bulk packaging to grab-and-go. JBT is well positioned to participate in this trend with automated solutions from our Proseal branded tray sealing technology. Proseal is a leader and an innovator in environmentally friendly packaging systems manufacturing in Europe, the US and Australia.

“There will be an even greater focus on traceability. Cleaning systems will be critical.”

Other important trends can be seen when we look at product categories such as shelf-stable foods and orange juice. Both have experienced a widespread revival and I believe this is a trend which is here to stay. Shelf stable foods provide safe, processed products that can be stored at home for extended periods of time, while orange juice is benefiting from increased consumer awareness of its nutritional and health benefits. Orange juice, of course, also contains high levels of vitamin C, and consumers are becoming more aware of the fact that instead of taking a vitamin supplement, they can receive the same benefits through a natural product.

Sustainability
Related to all the above is the topic of sustainability. I believe we are going to see further movement towards improving energy-efficient technologies and decreasing water consumption in food processing, supporting more sustainable packaging alternatives, as well as developing more sustainable detergent and cleaning solutions for end-products and equipment.

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JBT’s PRoSIGHT Augmented Remote Assistance smart glasses

At JBT we find ourselves at the center of this area in terms of equipment, solutions, and systems that support food processors’ ambitious environmental goals. Throughout the pandemic JBT’s product development and production facilities have continued to work continuously, with a particular focus on remote service and local assistance. This has included the launch of solutions such as our PRoSIGHT™ Augmented Remote Assistance platform which makes use of smart glasses and mobile devices to enable expert JBT technicians to inspect machinery and equipment from afar. 

“At JBT, we find ourselves at the centre of sustainable alternatives in terms of solutions that support ambitious environmental goals.”

This is critical during pandemic-driven travel restrictions, but instrumental in driving greater travel-related emission reductions in the future. Remote support and operational efficiency are also the focus of JBT’s own Internet of Things solution, the iOPS® Gateway, and we expect to see a lot more demand for the iOPS solution and in the whole area of improving connectivity with customers moving forward.

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Additionally, plant-based drinks and foods will continue to increase in market share, thanks to their perceived health and sustainability benefits, and JBT participates broadly with customers on meeting this growing consumer demand. There will also be more, smaller processing and packaging facilities focused on maximizing flexibility, lowering throughput and distributing local products within a particular region.

In summary, though our world has been rocked by the pandemic, people still need to eat! I still feel strongly that the food industry in general, and JBT, are well positioned to withstand the challenges we are faced with and will continue to weather the storm.”

Proseal plays key role in US berry packaging revolution

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JBT’s tray sealing machinery specialist Proseal America was one of the key companies involved in an innovative project in North America to move berry packaging from clamshells to film-sealed thermoforms; a move which forms part of an industry-wide North American berry producer strategy to use 100% recycle-ready packaging by 2025.

Since 2014, Proseal, along with other industry partners, has been assisting Salinas, CA-based Naturipe Farms to replace plastic clamshell packaging with heat-film-sealed thermoforms, in the process reducing per-pack plastic by 33%, reports Plastics Today.

According to the report, Naturipe Farms is now using the heat-seal technology for both fresh and value-added products, including snacking lines Bliss Bentos and Boost Bentos. However, Naturipe Farms’ VP of Marketing, CarrieAnn Arias, told the publication that the biggest benefit was for sustainability, with the change helping the company remove 24 metric tons of plastic from the waste stream in 2019, thanks to its Heat Seal Program.

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Berry packing using a JBT Proseal tray sealer

According to Tony Burgess, Proseal’s Head of Sales & Control Systems, “moving to a top sealed product allows growth into shelf life extension methods with the use of modified atmosphere top seal film, thereby future proofing the change.”

Valuable support
Janis McIntosh, director of marketing innovation and sustainability at Naturipe Farms, said the program was part of an overall strategy by the company and its associated growers to reduce its environmental footprint in all areas of the business particularly in packaging reduction and recyclability.

The project originated through Costco Canada in 2013 who wanted to replicate the success of White Heat Sealing in the UK and the expansion of theroform packaging across Europe, but had to accommodate both larger North American pack sizes and the need to find the right heat sealing equipment supplier.

Strawberries 2 Photo - JBT Proseal

Proseal’s top-sealed packs using modified atmosphere film are already commonplace in the UK

“Without the support from tray-sealing machinery supplier Proseal America, Accolade, MasterPack Spa, Infia, and Penninsula Pack (acquired by Sonoco in 2017), we would never have gotten off the ground in 2014,” said McIntosh. 

“Also, we cannot thank the Costco staff enough for their support and patience through the development. Today there are many more packaging choices for companies wanting to get into heat sealing, better film structures, and improved access to thermoforms are helping move the technology forward. It’s tough being the first to develop a product, but heat seal has been a great direction for us and the industry in terms of sustainability.”

Learn more about Proseal solutions

JBT Proseal: boosting safety and productivity through innovation

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Keeping production and packaging lines moving in these challenging times has become a key consideration for companies across the food processing industry, with worker illnesses and absences placing pressure on supply chains. Add to this the need to minimize downtime and the continuing growth of internet shopping and companies have a lot to think about.

JBT Proseal, which has a strong record in packaging innovation, is rising to meet these challenges with new developments in automation and data analysis, which have been designed to improve both productivity and food safety.

Limiting downtime
Focused on making life easier for processing companies, ProVision is a downtime analyser which gives managers a dashboard providing an overall view of all production lines and pinpoints any problems that might occur. “If you are the CEO of a business and you have 10 production lines and one of those has failed for a day, you will want to know about it,” says Proseal’s Head of Sales & Control Systems, Tony Burgess. “If, in all your 10 production lines, for one minute of every hour the line stops because of a failing piece of equipment, in a month’s time that will could have added up to one day’s lost production.

“ProVision will capture all of these micro instances and build a series of data. It will tell you exactly the downtime and cause of downtime over the last 24 hours. It allows the user to focus attention on the piece of equipment on the production line that is causing the downtime and do something about it, so it has an enormous productivity benefit.”

Dynamic growth
A further area where Proseal sees an opportunity is in the booming online market for food ingredients and ready meals driven by increasing consumer interest in cooking at home. Proseal, Burgess reveals, is supplying eco-friendly Halo tray forming equipment to Dineamic, an Australian company which delivers chef-cooked meals to consumers across the country. “Dineamic produces their own foods, seals them with Halo pack trays made in house with a Proseal tray sealer and then sends them mail-order,” says Burgess. “Similar work is being done in other geographic locations.”

However, such developments are not just taking place in the food industry. Proseal, Burgess adds, is currently working on a project in the Netherlands for online flower orders by designing packaging options suitable for sending flowers by mail-order.

Learn more about Proseal solutions

JBT to feature in free Juice & Sustainability webinar

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Leer este artículo en español

JBT is set to participate in free, Spanish-language webinar on Juice Production & Sustainability to be held on September 15 at 10:30 AM CET, with the focus on how to achieve greater sustainability in citrus juice processing, including reducing the consumption of water and energy. 

As part of the webinar, ‘Sustainability: A commitment from the Juice Industry’, JBT’s EMENA Sales Manager for Citrus and Juice Processing Technologies, Francisco Purroy, and Technology Assistance Manager, José Lorente, will be delivering a presentation on JBT’s role in improving sustainability in citrus juice production.

Organized by Spanish juice producers’ association Azozumos, the one-day event aims to develop and promote sustainability within the juice sector as part of an overall strategy to improve social, economic and environmental practices within the industry. Such strategies include potentially-lucrative options for monetizing rather than throwing away post-production residues, including the recovery of valuable essential oils.

“This virtual meeting presents us with an opportunity to continue building together and contributing to sustainability through our joint commitment and the promotion of different actions, many of which are already in motion and have become success stories,” says Purroy.

Click here to register for the free webinar

JBT participará en Seminario Online: Sostenibilidad en el sector del zumo

Zumos Palma 2

Read this article in English

JBT será entre los ponentes en un Seminario Online en español enfocado en técnicas y estrategias para mejorar la sostenibilidad en el sector de zumo, que tendrá lugar a través de Go to Meeting el martes 15 de septiembre a las 10.30 horas CET. 

Como parte del seminario, ‘Sostenibilidad: Un compromiso del sector del zumo’, Francisco Purroy, el responsable de ventas y cuentas (Europa, el Medio Oriente y el Norte de Africa) para cítricos y tecnologías para procesado de zumos de JBT, y José Lorente, el encargado de asistencia en tecnologías de JBT, presentarán una charla sobre el papel de JBT en la mejora de la sostenibilidad en la producción de zumos.

Orange juice generic

Organizado por la asociación española de productores de cítricos, Asozumos, el evento tiene el objetivo de desarrollar y promover la sostenibilidad adentro del sector de zumos como parte de una estrategia para mejorar sus prácticas sociales, económicas y ambientales.

Dichas estrategias incluyen opciones atractivas para monetizar en lugar de desechar los residuos post producción, como la recuperación de aceites esenciales, d-limoneno, pulpas, azúcares, y fibras de alto valor. 

“Este encuentro virtual supone una oportunidad para seguir construyendo juntos y continuar la contribución del sector, a través de la puesta en común y promoción de distintas acciones que ya se llevan a cabo y que se han convertido en casos de éxito,” concluyó Purroy.

Pincha aquí para registrar para el semanario

JBT to host free Prepared Food webinars

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JBT will be hosting free webinars on September 7, 14 and 21 – in English, Spanish and Polish – focusing on JBT’s innovative solutions for secondary processing of prepared foods, including effective systems from pre-mixing ingredients, preparing recipes, sterilization and pasteurization, to filling and post filling treatments.

Prepared Foods is a big field of discussion, but the webinars will focus on Liquid Prepared Foods such as Sauces and Soups with or without particles. From chunky fruit and vegetable pieces to thick vegetable soups, viscous products – especially those containing large particles – are not always simple to handle, but JBT provides solutions that can process viscous products (of over 600 cP) and large particles measuring more than 9mm. 

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Customized solutions
“JBT can provide a solution for medium to high volume preparations and soups that are either high in viscosity or have large particles that are sensitive to damage,” says JBT’s Miguel Sánchez, who explains that after meeting with the customer to better understand their needs and requirements, JBT presents a customized solution using a combination of JBT machines.

The objective of the webinars, Sánchez continues, is to give customers an awareness of the technology and an understanding of how JBT can provide a source of knowhow across a range of different product areas. “We are the perfect partner for improving quality using the brands we have,” he adds. “We also support customers through R&D and via our tech centers, which is quite unique.”

The JBT Prepared Foods webinars will be held on September 7, 14 and 21. To register free-of-charge for the English, Spanish or Polish sessions, simply click on the link below:

07 September 10 am CET in Spanish: https://bit.ly/32JWyjx 

14 September 10 am CET in English: https://bit.ly/2YNzCig 

21 September 10 am CET in Polish: https://bit.ly/2Ey0Mml 

SeamTec seamers strengthen JBT’s leading role in infant formula industry

JBT has announced the shipment of seven more SeamTec high-speed closers for powder to serve the Global Infant Formula Powder industry, further strengthening JBT’s leadership position in the infant formula key growth areas of Europe and Asia Pacific.

Requested by three new customers, the SeamTec seamers, which feature line speeds ranging from 150 to 550 cans per minute (cpm), have been developed and manufactured at JBT’s Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, site.

Since its introduction some 10 years ago, JBT’s SeamTec for Powder Seamer has led the market for medium-to-high speed clinchers and closers for the infant formula powder industry. SeamTec seamers set new standards in terms of hygienic design, can and cover format change-over, reliability and cleanability.

JBT’s SeamTec for Powder Seamer is a leading system for the infant powder industry

“Recently three new customers confirmed their confidence in JBT and the JBT SeamTec seamer technology by placing orders for a total of seven new machines with JBT Sint-Niklaas, Belgium,” says JBT’s Produce Line Director for Filling & Closing, Bart Mertens. “All three customers are currently using non-JBT clinching and closing technology.”

Three of the machines are being supplied to a leading player in the infant formula can making industry, while two more are being shipped to a global market leader in the infant formula filling industry. During August 2020, a further two SeamTec seamers successfully passed the Factory Acceptance Test and have been made ready for shipment to Asia.

“These new machine shipments to Europe and Asia-Pacific further strengthen JBT’s leadership position in these key growth regions for the infant formula industry,” adds Mertens.

Learn more about the JBT SeamTec Seamer for Powder

JBT Proseal: meeting the quality petfood challenge

JBT Proseal Tray Sealing Solutions Pet Food AP60 Machine_small

JBT’s Proseal tray sealing technology is enabling pet food manufacturers meet growing demand for high quality products and packaging, as well as providing mass customization solutions that can help businesses diversify and introduce online ordering for home delivery services.

A recent report from Transparency Market Research has predicted a CAGR of 6% in the global pet food market over the next decade, reaching an expected value of US$168.3 billion by 2029. Increasing consumer demand for premium quality products has led manufacturers to use high quality materials and ingredients while streamlining  production techniques and processes, with the corresponding need for appropriate quality packaging to reflect this premium image.

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The comprehensive Proseal tray sealer range has the flexibility to perform in a wide range of disciplines, including Gas Flush Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), Vacuum MAP with lid control and Skin Packaging. In particular, the company’s advanced sealing systems ensure absolute control and integrity of the seal between the lid and the tray, a vital requirement for applications that incorporate a substantial controlled-retortion-process or other High Pressure sterilization processes after sealing. 

The tray sealers also include several Proseal-developed features that help to maximize performance, reliability and efficiency, such as the company’s pioneering Eseal® energy saving technology, ifilm™ intelligent film monitoring, and ProTect™ RFID access login system that provides full audit trail visibility and layered security.

In addition, Proseal’s AP60 linear conveyor tray sealing system is able to provide bespoke automated solutions for high speed applications and demanding production conditions, based around individual customer production processes and requirements.

JBT Proseal Tray Sealing Solutions Pet Food AP60 Machine 2_small

Among the system’s many features, the length and width of the indexing conveyor can be customized to accommodate de-nesting and filling requirements. Full or partial vacuum systems can be incorporated to enable post seal processes such as retort or High Pressure Processing (HPP), and X-ray inspection systems and checkweighers can be included after sealing for enhanced quality control. The AP60 also offers seamless integration with third party process equipment including depositors, multihead weighing applications and CIP systems with sealing speeds of up to 240 packs per minute.

Furthermore, Proseal’s AP60 benefits from shared technology across the Proseal machinery range. Options can be specified and retro-engineered, allowing a more flexible approach to each distinct application. All Proseal machines offer a user-friendly interface and easy to maintain design, with a rugged and hygienic food industry approved construction geared to full washdown protection.

“As the pet food market continues to expand, we are keen to provide solutions for companies requiring a significant upscale in their production of core products in new packaging formats, which can be met on one machinery platform,” says Tony Burgess, Head of Sales and Control Systems, Proseal. “The flexibility of our technology and the wide variety of machines available, including fully integrated conveyor systems, mean we can offer a full turnkey production line solution which is key for this particular market. We are delighted that our expertise can help companies to achieve a point of differentiation in the competitive pet food sector.”

Learn more about Proseal’s packaging solutions

JBT AGVs: the automated solution to labor problems

JBT AGV

Among the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps one most keenly felt by the global food industry has been pressure on traditional labor sources. Worker absences due to illness or localized outbreaks can play havoc with the supply chain, increasing pressure on processors. One growing area offering a practical, cost-effective solution is JBT’s innovative AGV (Automatic Guided Vehicle) range; a solution that is enabling companies to save labor for higher value tasks and increase social distancing.

More than simple robotic systems, JBT AGVs feature an advanced navigation system which creates a virtual map of the surroundings in which it operates, allowing it to safety move around the working area. Further, JBT AGVs now come with 2D and 3D cameras for safe positioning and vertical stacking of pallets above the level of the AGV. 

Different applications
According to Mark Longacre, Application Engineering Manager for JBT’s AGV division, such innovations are helping spark an expansion in the use of AGVs from manufacturing areas – where the vehicles would be used to move raw materials or finished goods – to warehousing and distribution. “In the past, AGVs were more of a horizontal transport solution and now they are getting much more vertical where we are storing in warehouses, in some cases quite high,” he says. “It’s not to say that those manufacturing applications have gone away. They really haven’t, but now we are also seeing this growth in the warehousing side.”

As demand for different applications has grown, so has the advancement on what Longacre describes as natural environment navigation, where the AGVs create a baseline map by sensing the features and contours of the surrounding environment. “As the AGVs operate, they compare what they see with their sensors to that baseline map, and accurately navigate in that environment,” explains Longacre. “By recognizing the natural environment and not adding special navigation aids or markers , it makes installation quicker and less costly.”

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Strong ROI
Longacre believes much of the recent increase in interest in JBT AGVs can be put down to pressure on the labor market as well as greater awareness of the strong ROI offered by the solution. “Companies in the past were looking at it purely as a financial equation where they looked at how many forklift operators they had and how much labor they were going to save, but now I think they are starting to understand some of the risks associated with the labor force,” he says. 

“I don’t think they are going to abandon the financial models, but I think they are going to weigh things a little differently. You want to save labor for the highest value added task and driving forklifts is not something where you have to use labor.”

Learn more about JBT AGVs

JBT’s solutions for a post-pandemic future promise fruitful results

Zumos Palma 2

For the global juice industry as it operates amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of ensuring stringent food safety – combined with sustainability – has surely never been more important. But given the economic challenges many companies face, the ability to become more efficient during processing and keep waste to a minimum is arguably just as crucial.

JBT’s approach to both food safety and sustainability is encapsulated in six key Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles for juice processors: aiming for food security and nutrition; ensuring economic viability; encouraging good governance; being environmentally responsible; creating acceptable working conditions; and promoting the transfer of knowledge.

“One of the six principles of sustainability is food safety: that foods are not just sustainable, but that they have to be safer,” explains JBT’s Technology Assistance Manager for Liquid Foods, José Lorente. “If you don’t clean properly, you can’t be sure of eliminating micro-organisms, and if the sterilization process is not adequate, this can result in serious problems.”

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Improved profitability
While food safety is undoubtedly important, another significant element of achieving sustainability is maximizing yield. Getting more out of the same volume of fruit – including valuable by-products or ingredients – means far less wastage and potential contamination, and improved profitability at the end of the process; a massively important consideration given the current economic pressures driven by the global pandemic.

“Recovering by-products, such as citrus essential oils, generated during citrus juice processing, enables companies not only to be more environmentally friendly, but also more profitable by being more efficient during the extraction process using the same raw materials,” explains Lorente.

“Over recent years, we at JBT have been working on maximizing and optimizing yield by developing solutions that help customers obtain more juice and by-products. Being efficient is part of sustainability. The more efficient a company, the more sustainable it becomes and the more profitable.”

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Significant benefits
A clear example of how JBT solutions can help juice customers maximize yield is when it comes to essential oils, which can be recovered during the extraction process. These include valuable d-Limonene, a natural organic solvent used as an ingredient across a wide variety of applications, from cleaning products to the aroma industry. However, what makes JBT solutions different from standard extractors is their ability to recover significantly more essential oil.

“With a standard extractor, you can recover around 55% of the essential oil present in the fruit, but thanks to the efficiency of JBT’s ORES (Oil Recovery Extraction System), customers can recover up to 65%,” says Lorente. “You have to bear in mind that otherwise this 10%, which is a contaminant, would be thrown away. By recovering that extra 10%, customers not only earn more money, they also help protect the environment.”

To achieve even better results, JBT has developed the MORE (Modular Oil Recovery Extractor) system, which recovers essential oil before it reaches the extractor. By softly scraping the peel, without damaging the integrity of the fruit, more than 90% of the essential oil available can be recovered.

Learn more about JBT and sustainability

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