Consumer and retailer demand for new, ever more convenient – not to mention eye-catching – products is a trend that seems to be constantly evolving, driving growth in new categories and sub-categories. One of the people at JBT who keeps a close eye on this melting pot of innovation is Douglas Woodruff, Director of Research and Development for JBT Liquid Foods, whose job it is not just to respond to new trends in the category, but also to anticipate and prepare for them.
Among the most important of these current trends is the drive for convenience, which is leading to smaller serving sizes and further demand for re-closable packages. “There’s a desire to have unique, “functional” beverages and provide more variety at the convenience and grocery stores, which means we need to adapt equipment for shorter runs or more variation in one run,” says Woodruff.
Another important trend, he continues, is the desire for higher quality foods, leading to the development of safer, better-quality food products than those that were widely-available even just ten years ago.
Based in Lakeland, Florida, Woodruff’s principal focus when it comes to R&D is to stay ahead of evolving market trends with new products and processes, explaining that JBT has made a lot of progress on both fronts in the last 18 months.
The result of several years’ development work, in 2018 JBT is launching high capacity solutions for sterilized food in flexible packaging (pouches) for both aseptic processing and in-container sterilization processes. “In this way we are moving ahead the technology for different types of products in different types of markets,” says Woodruff. “We see the packaging revolution happening in both aseptic and in-container packaging; for that reason we’re making high volume solutions for both of these”.
Woodruff says he is also excited about the introduction of JBT’s new In-Flow Sterideal® Ohmic Systems, which incorporate the Ohmic Heater, Particulate Pump and other technologies into systems that are configured to order for customers who have high quality and thermally sensitive foods with or without particles.
In terms of process, significant work has also been achieved over recent months with the standardization of the New Product Development process across the Liquid Foods spectrum. “Whereas each business unit used to have its own development pipeline and execution process, we now have a common process across the Liquid Foods business units so we have a common way of selecting, executing and commercializing new products,” explains Woodruff.