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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