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Fresh solutions: how JBT allies developed an innovative system for Grove Fruit Juice

Australia’s Grove Fruit Juice is one of the country’s leading citrus juice producers and manufacturers, with a range of juices sold in grocery retail outlets and food services businesses nationwide and overseas. But when the company was looking for a new, higher-capacity filling and storage solution it turned to JBT ally TORR Industries for assistance.

Already one of the world’s leading suppliers for squeezing and processing equipment for citrus juice producers, not least in the important Australian market, JBT’s operations are now complemented by TORR and its Australia-based partner Engi-O, who worked together to develop a multi-faceted system to meet Grove’s requirements.

One of the largest Australian family-owned fresh fruit processors in the juice category today, Grove Fruit Juice has been producing fresh juices for over 50 years, and currently squeezes some 833,000 oranges every day, as well as pressing over 160,000 fresh apples and 87,000 fresh pears. 

The solution TORR developed brought together an A5 Aseptic Filler from partner Engi-O, combined with 1,500 liter Goodpack Storage Containers and 1,500 liter Aseptic Hi Barrier liner bags from Entapack, explains TORR’s Chris Rutter.

TORR Engi-o Twin A5 filler Image at Grove Fruit Juice

Gold Standard
The Engi-O double-membrane closed aseptic filling system, which is validated by the FDA, is capable of filling 2-1500 liter containers for shipping and guarantees sterile products like fruit juices are not exposed to the outside atmosphere at any stage. This, says Rutter, means the juice can be stored and transported without refrigeration whilst maintaining its shelf-life and complying with food safety requirements.

“It’s a very simple system and less complicated from a machinery point of view,” he continues. “So while JBT does the processing, we do the aseptic bag filling in the 1500 liter storage containers.”

According to former Entapack general manager Trevor Stevens, the high temperature sterilization process that was put in place as part of the installation – together with the bolt-on Engi-O Aseptic Filler – was critical to the project’s success. “TORR and Engi-O has gotten the Gold Standard of processing and packaging for this application,” says Stevens. “Grove has had exceptional success with the process from what I have been told by them. It really is a great story of cooperation between a number of suppliers and a very thoughtful company management.”

Learn more about TORR Engi-O solutions

HPP toller reaps benefits from JBT iOPS equipment dashboard

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JBT’s innovative Intelligent Operations or iOPS® Platform collects data from across a facility in real-time. Having up-to-the-second data means companies can detect potential issues before they become problems and even improve the overall efficiency of operations. Netherlands-based High-Pressure Processing (HPP) toller Pascal Processing is one such company that has recorded real, definable dividends from the analysis through iOPS. 

Based in the small city of Helmond in the east of the country, Pascal Processing provides HPP services to companies across the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, covering a huge range of products from cold-pressed juices to meat products, guacamole, vegetable spreads, baby food, raw dog food, to smoked fish. 

“We handle everything that can be HPP treated,” explains Pascal site manager, Willem van de Ven (pictured above), who says demand for the company’s HPP services has experienced strong growth as awareness of the technology’s benefits has steadily increased. “We are now seeing a far broader range of products: a few years ago it was cold-pressed juices and meats, but now we are handling all sorts of products.”

Complete overview
A key component in the company’s recent development has been the implementation of an iOPS system – designed in close cooperation with JBT engineers – covering Pascal’s entire facility. Instead of having to rely on workers reporting problems after they had already occurred, the JBT iOPS system focuses on providing customers with tools to detect delays in the process and machinery failures. As van de Ven explains, a virtual dashboard provides an overview of the equipment and individual operator effectiveness, as well as displaying accurate information if and when components begin to fail. 

“The dashboard enables you to have the right information quickly whereas before we had to go back and revise the old data we had on the machine,” he says. “It gives us a good picture of how efficiently we are working with a machine and how efficient individual operators are.

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“We found for example that we were losing time by manually filling machines and by changing that we have been able to save 45 minutes per week between four-five people increasing productivity with almost four hours per week.”

Data-based decisions
By having access to accurate production data, van de Ven says Pascal is now able to make more decisions based on facts. “Before when a machine wasn’t working, the operator would come to us and say they had been having problems for a few days,” he recalls. “Sometimes there are problems that aren’t seen by the operators. Before it was done on feeling but now, we make decisions based on data.”

Van de Ven says the fact of having more data on how machines are performing has helped eliminate apparently minor problems, resulting in time and money savings. “Maybe saving 15 seconds per cycle doesn’t sound significant, but between cycles this can add up to almost an hour of time saved per day,” he adds.

Learn more about JBT iOPS and HPP technology

JBT Tech Centers: supporting customers through challenging times

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Like most activities across the food processing industry, the testing of new products and processes has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with previously routine visits by customers to JBT testing centers or JBT visits to customers restricted by the ongoing situation. However, virtual monitoring and remote support are providing JBT customers with innovative solutions that are helping avoid delays to the implementation of new systems.

Like most international companies, JBT has had to find alternatives to travelling to meet customers and this includes JBT’s Tech Centers, among them the JBT Research Technology Center for In-Container Sterilization in Madera, CA, where the emphasis is on continuing to provide thorough support. “Even during these challenging times, we have been open and fully active, and are here to help customers,” says Narsi Ponagandla, JBT’s Madera-based RTC Manager for Liquid Foods. 

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The Madera center, he says, establishes processes for customers by performing tests and supplying the data to customers. It further has the added assurance of having FDA process authority-approved team members on hand to make sure all testing is up-to-date and compliant with current standards.

Decreasing exposure
One such example of support provided to a customer was a canned coffee processor with a steam-water spray pilot retort used for establishing commercially sterile processes. With JBT process engineers unable to travel to the facility to conduct thermal studies and train personnel, the customer opted to ship ingredients to JBT’s Madera Process Technologies Laboratory to carry out thermal studies and design thermal processes without the need to travel.

“The customer chose to do this to decrease exposure of both the JBT process engineer as well as their personnel,” explains Ponagandla. “Heat penetration tests are conducted in the Madera Lab and processes established and sent to the customer. We have batch and continuous retort simulation systems and can run the test depending on what the customer needs.”

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Wide-ranging support
The Madera Process Technologies Laboratory, which is recognized by both the FDA and the USDA, provides a wide range of process authority services including in-container and aseptic processing expertise provided by a team of highly experienced thermal processing experts. The 8,000 ft² pilot plant and laboratory facility specializes in process establishment and consulting for batch or continuous in-container systems as well as aseptic systems, covering areas such as sterilization and thermobacteriology.

Process authority consulting services cover the validation of newly installed sterilization equipment and the re-validation of existing installed equipment, both JBT and non-JBT. The facility also works with customers to develop thermal processes for product-container combinations for every type of packaging from cans and glass to plastic and pouches. 

The Tech Center further provides an Aseptic Processing Course covering continuous flow and filling technologies, as well as a five-day Thermal Processing Academy, which includes one day’s hands-on pilot plant experience and gives an overview of thermal processing from sterilization concepts to process calculation methods.

Learn more about JBT Research & Technology Centers 

Learn more about the JBT Technical School

JBT Avure Q&A: HPP West Coast

In the first of an occasional series of High Pressure Processing (HPP) Expert Q & A Interviews from JBT Avure HPP, Patricia Truter, CEO of Vancouver-based HPP toller HPP West Coast explains how she got started in the HPP industry and went on to found the only such facility on the West Coast of Canada.

Q: How many years have you been working with HPP technology? 

Patricia Truter (PT): My family started an HPP business in South Africa, and I then decided to start a tolling facility on the West Coast of Canada (Canada has only one other tolling facility, and it is on the East Coast). I started to work with a business plan and to look for funding, investors or potential partners about three years ago. I finally got my own JBTAvure machine at the end of March 2019.

Q: Why did HPP West Coast decide to buy a JBT Avure HPP machine?

PT: I visited seven different tolling facilities in the US (from different suppliers), and based on my family’s feedback and the feedback I received from tollers in the US, JBTAvure was the number one choice.

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Q: What are the advantages of using a toller like HPP West Coast?

PT: The food producers do not have to set up an HPP facility themselves. They can simply send their products to us, we HPP it, and we can store it at our facility until it is ready to be distributed.

Q: What are popular foods and beverages that HPP West Coast HPP’s? 

PT: We do a lot of fresh juices and dips.

Q: What do you, as an HPP toller, think are the top three drivers sparking HPP’s fast growth?

PT: Consumers want a clean label, but they also want quality and a product that will not expire within a few days.

Q: What HPP products do you have in your fridge? 

PT: I HPP all the fresh milk I buy at the grocery store, guacamole, fresh juice.

JBT Avure HPP will be holding a Webinar on Thursday June 25 to discuss HPP and the growing 2020 trend for processing Ready Meals. In addition, Jasmine Sutherland, CEO of Texas Food Solutions, will join us to tell her story about launching her own HPP Ready Meal. Click here to Register for the webinar!

HPP and South Africa: the inside story

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Heinrich Zandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of High Pressure Processing (HPP) South Africa, a company – known as a toller – which makes JBT Avure HPP technology available for small to medium sized food and beverage processors. In an exclusive interview originally published in Avure’s Bon Appetit newsletter, Zandberg explains how he first became involved in HPP and why the technology is rapidly gaining acceptance in South Africa.

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(l-r) HPP South Africa’s Heinrich Zandberg, Willie Brand and Claudio de Freitas

Q: How many years have you been working with HPP technology?

Heinrich Zandberg (HZ): It’s been three years now, but our first installation was in the first quarter of 2017. I went to the University of Pretoria, studying Investment Management for two years, and then my entrepreneurial spirit took hold of me and I stopped. This eventually resulted in me working in the HPP industry in South Africa.

Q: Why did High Pressure Processing South Africa decide to buy a JBT Avure HPP machine?

HZ: In the early days, I did a lot of research on HPP and HPP equipment. It was clear that the JBT Avure HPP equipment had a better reputation and that the vessel itself will last north of 250,000 cycles, whereas the next best option would last only 80,000 cycles. For that reason, as well as the lower running cost of the JBT Avure equipment, it made sense to go with the JBT Avure machines for our business model (Tolling).

Q: In Africa, how long has HPP been a food safety technique?

HZ: HPP has been around in South Africa for about nine years now, but it only recently became popular for food safety because of the Listeria outbreak we had in 2018. Before that, HPP was primarily used on avocado pulp.

Q: Are any other popular foods, unique to Africa, being processed using HPP?

HZ: We have a product called a Vienna sausage that I think is unique to South Africa. It’s mainly made out of pork MDM (mechanically deboned meat), and it is an inexpensive source of protein for a large part of our population.

Q: As an HPP Toller, what are the top three reasons you see sparking HPP’s fast growth?

HZ: In South Africa the top three reasons would be the following:
1. The increasing demand for food safety from retailers and the reduction of salt in products like processed meats and cut meats.
2. Product lines that weren’t previously possible without HPP – for example, cold-pressed juice in retail spaces.
3. The cost of HPP equipment makes it almost unattainable even for big companies in South Africa, so the Tolling model opens a lot of doors for them.

Q: What HPP products do you have in your fridge?

HZ: Vienna sausages (My kids and I like them for hot dogs), cold-pressed juices, avocado pulp and guacamole!

Learn more about JBT Avure and HPP

A slice of success: how JBT FTNON helped Gills Onions boost yield & cut costs

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Minimizing unnecessary labor costs and maximizing yield are two key concerns for any company processing vegetables, fruits and other produce for further consumption, but when it comes to onions one major processor found a workable means of achieving this aim to be strangely lacking. Gills Onions, an Oxnard, California-based company and one of the biggest suppliers of pre-sliced onions to the US foodservice and restaurant sectors, set JBT’s FTNON the task of coming up with a workable solution to these challenges.

The result of several years’ hard work between Gills Onions and FTNON was the Magnetic Onion Peeler, a solution that has enabled the California business to both maximize yield and solve the difficulty of having an easy-to-clean, hygienic onion peeling system. The story behind the successful end result is a testament to how effective close collaboration between a customer and a manufacturer can be. 

Cross-country coverage
Gills Onions’ beginnings can be traced back to 1976 when Steve and David Gill, brothers with a family background in agriculture, purchased 200 acres for onion and vegetable production in Monterey County. Three years later in 1979, a further 200 acres were added and in 1983, the Gill Brothers opened a sustainable onion processing plant, establishing Gills Onions in the process. 

Today, the company farms more than 20,000 acres of diversified vegetable farming, producing two crops a year on a site where the company’s first beginning were established.

“Anybody that peels onions in the world knows us and knows what we do,” says Steve Gill. “At Gills, we produce onions for all the foodservice channels and broadline distributors in the US and Canada, including many of the main restaurant chains.

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Gills Onions’ co-founder Steve Gill

The company grows more than 2,000 acres of onions in California that provides a year-round supply of fresh onions to their Oxnard fresh-cut processing facility. They supply to foodservice, industrial and retail customers throughout the US and Canada. 

Gills’ onion products notably also have an 18-day shelf life; an achievement which significantly sets the company apart from the competition. “The growing process, and how process the onions, results in an additional 10-12 days of shelf-life on average,” adds Gill.

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Mutual understanding
According to co-founder Steve Gill, Gills Onions relationship with JBT can be traced back some 35 years, during which time a mutual understanding of trust and reliability has developed between the two companies. “I’ve been dealing with a single engineer from JBT called Pedro Salcedo for 35 years now,” he explains. “The relationship has been one that’s personal and technology-wise they have always adapted to our needs.”

This relationship of trust formed the basis for Gills Onions setting JBT and its specialist fresh vegetable processing subsidiary FTNON a challenge: to develop an onion peeling solution that could overcome the hygiene and cleaning challenges associated with processing onions. 

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“Nobody likes to peel onions, so as a result onion operations don’t get the attention to shelf life and quality that they need,” explains Gill. 

“When we were looking for an onion peeler, we couldn’t find anything out there that we were able to clean, so that’s what took so long,” he continues. “There’s a lot of peelers in the world, but none of them could meet our expectations. Many of these machines couldn’t be cleaned properly and we found the manufacturers reluctant to work on a more hygienic design. This is part of the reason why the relationship we have with the JBT-FTNON team is so valuable – they wanted to work closely with us to develop the design we needed.”

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Yield increase
However, the unveiling of the onion peeling solution was not immediate. In fact, it took six years’ hard work for the FTNON team to achieve the hygiene, easy-to-clean design that Gills was seeking; work which Steve Gill says has more than paid off.

The result is the FTNON Magnetic Onion Peeler 200, a solution whose design, components and materials have been specially developed to ensure it delivers high marks when it comes to yield, hygiene and convenience. To do this, FTNON employs a technology that uses permanent super magnetism, which eliminates the need for wires, tubes, belts and springs, and results in a machine with frictionless components, tremendously reducing the costs of maintenance.

The JBT FTNON Magnetic Onion Peeler

The JBT FTNON Magnetic Onion Peeler

“FTNON has done a great job – it’s a hygienic, easy-to-clean machine which has a food-safe onion peeler,” says Gill. “The magnetic part really simplifies it and makes it easier to clean.”

Crucially, Gill says the MOP 200 also helps achieve a 10-15% increase in yield, which he attributes to the ability of the equipment to deliver extremely precise levels of peeling.

“There’s going to be less labor and a higher yield: our two big costs and that’s going to add a lot to the bottom line,” Gill concludes.

Learn more about the JBT FTNON Magnetic Onion Peeler

JBT y LARCE: una historia de éxito en Costa Rica

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Read this article in English

Costa Rica es el mayor productor a nivel mundial de piñas MD2 destinadas a la exportación, y es el responsable de aproximadamente 75% del mercado. Aunque no es un fruto nativo del país centroamericano, Costa Rica se ha construido una magnífica reputación como productor y exportador de piña desde la década de 1970, un éxito que ha sido capaz de replicar en una amplia gama de sectores, tanto de productos frescos como procesados. Pero lo que quizás muy pocas personas conocen es el papel que desempeñó JBT en la historia de la piña costarricense y el fuerte lazo que la une al país y que sigue vigente hasta el día de hoy.

Distribuidora LARCE, empresa importadora, distribuidora y proveedora de sistemas y equipos especializados para una amplia gama de sectores, asentada en Costa Rica, ha sido pieza fundamental en la historia que tiene JBT con esa nación prácticamente desde el inicio, al contribuir y apoyar en el desarrollo de la marca JBT en industrias tan diversas como frutos frescos, lácteos y salsas de tomate.

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Las primeras piñas
LARCE es un negocio familiar de tres generaciones, fundado en 1949 por Alberto L Arce. Su hijo, Roberto L Arce Sr., estuvo al mando de la empresa hasta 2017, cuando Roberto Arce Jr. asumió el puesto de director general. La relación con JBT – entonces denominada FMC – comenzó unos años después cuando JBT prestó ayuda a LARCE en el combate contra la plaga de mosca de la fruta del Mediterráneo. Esta relación pasó a primer plano cuando, en 1965, la erupción del volcán Irazú cubrió de cenizas buena parte de la ciudad de San José. JBT proporcionó equipo que se utilizó en la limpieza de las calles y aeropuertos de la capital costarricense.

Para la década de 1970, la rápida industrialización dio pie a que LARCE y JBT se abrieran puertas a oportunidades de negocio con una diversidad de empresas dedicadas al procesamiento de jugo y salsas de tomate, productos lácteos, y paletas heladas a base de agua.

No obstante, se puede afirmar que el parteaguas fue la introduccción de la gama de recubrimientos de JBT distribuidos a través de LARCE, acontecimiento que coincidió con la entrada de Del Monte a Costa Rica y la llegada de piñas al país para su cultivo. «FMC ayudó a Del Monte a traer las primeras plantas de piña a Costa Rica y también le abasteció ceras naturales, las cuales seguimos proveyendo a los productores hasta el día de hoy», afirma Roberto Arce Sr.

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(i-d) Roberto Arce Jr; Laura Arce; Roberto Arce Sr

Éxito continuo
Actualmente bajo el mando de los hermanos Roberto Arce Jr. y Laura Arce, LARCE distribuye las soluciones de JBT a clientes como TicoFrut –procesadora de piña y naranja ubicada en la región de Alajuela, al norte de la capital– y Del Oro– especialista en jugos y concentrados ubicado en la provincia noroccidental de Gunacaste. 

TicoFruit abrió la primera planta industrial de extracción de jugo en Costa Rica; LARCE contribuyó a esta fábrica con los primeros extractores de jugo de la empresa y, más adelante, con una llenadora ASEPTIC. «Surgió la necesidad de tener una llenadora ASEPTIC en la planta de TicoFruit, y ha sido un rotundo éxito», detalló Arce. «Los costos de operación son mucho menores que los de cualquier otra máquina de nuestros competidores».

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De acuerdo con Arce, la gama de extractores Fresh’n Squeeze® de JBT, encabezada por la versión recién lanzada del exitoso Multi Fruit Juicer, también se ha visto favorecida en el país, tanto entre los grandes supermercados como con los pequeños productores de jugo.

Por tratarse de una empresa que vende, renta y da servicio al equipo y maquinaria, a Arce no le cabe duda de que LARCE seguirá beneficiándose de su vínculo tan cercano con JBT, relación que, él afirma, ha permitido a LARCE agregar valor a los productos que ofrece.

«Nuestro objetivo es brindar valor añadido y profesionalismo, desde el momento en que el equipo o la máquina está en desarrollo, hasta el servicio y la atención continuas durante la posventa», añadió Arce. «Esta estrategia nos ha permitido ganarnos la confianza de nuestra clientela».

Leer más información sobre LARCE

JBT and LARCE: an ongoing success story in Costa Rica

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Leer este artículo en español

Costa Rica is the leading producer of MD2 pineapples for export worldwide, accounting for an estimated 75% of the market. Although not a native fruit to the Central American country, Costa Rica has built up a formidable reputation as a pineapple producer and exporter since the 1970s; a success that has since been repeated in a variety of other sectors, both fresh and processed. But perhaps what fewer people are aware of is JBT’s role in the Costa Rican pineapple story and the strong connection with the country that endures to this day.

LARCE Distribution, a Costa Rica-based importer, distributor and servicer of specialist systems and equipment across a range of sectors, has been part of the JBT story in Costa Rica almost since the beginning, aiding and assisting the development of the JBT brand in industries as diverse as fresh fruits, dairy and tomato sauces.

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(l-r) Roberto Arce Jr; Laura Arce; Roberto Arce Sr

First pineapples
LARCE is a third generation family business founded by Alberto L Arce in 1949. His son, Roberto L Arce senior, managed the company until 2017 when Roberto Arce Jr took the position of managing director. The relationship with JBT – then known as FMC – started a few short years later when JBT assisted LARCE in the fight against the invasive Mediterranean fruit fly. The relationship also came to the fore in 1965 when the eruption of the Irazú volcano covered much of Costa Rica’s capital, San José, in ash. JBT-supplied equipment helped clean the streets and airports.

By the 1970s, fast growing industrialisation created opportunities for LARCE and JBT with a variety of companies processing dairy, tomato for juice and sauces, and water-based ice pops.

However, arguably the most significant development was the range of coatings supplied by JBT through LARCE, which coincided with the entry of Del Monte in Costa Rica and the arrival of the first pineapples for production in the country. “FMC helped Del Monte bring the first pineapple plants to Costa Rica, and also supplied them with natural waxes, which we are still supplying to producers to present day,” says Roberto Arce Sr.

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Ongoing success
Today managed by siblings Roberto Arce Jr and Laura Arce, LARCE supplies JBT solutions to customers including TicoFrut, an orange and pineapple processor based in Alajuela region north of the capital, and Del Oro, a juice and concentrate specialist located in north-western Guanacaste province. 

TicoFrut was responsible for the first industrial juicing plant in Costa Rica; a facility LARCE contributed to with the company’s first juice extractors, and later an ASEPTIC filler. “There arose a need for an ASEPTIC filler at the TicoFrut plant and it has been a real success,” explains Arce. “The operating costs are far lower than any other piece of machinery from our competitors.”

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JBT’s Fresh’n Squeeze® range of juicers – spearheaded by the recently-launched version of the successful Multi-Fruit Juicer – has also found favor in the country with large grocery retailers and small juice producers alike, according to Arce.

As a company that sells, rents and services equipment and machinery, Arce is in no doubt that LARCE will continue to benefit from its close relationship with JBT; a relationship which he says has enabled LARCE to add value to the products it supplies.

“Our purpose is added value and professionalism, from the moment the equipment or machinery is developed through to ongoing post-sales support and servicing,” adds Arce. “This approach has helped us gain the trust of our customers.”

Learn more about LARCE

Natural XTD: the Avure HPP Toller rated “world’s best”

JBT Avure Marketing Director Lisa Wessels tells the story of how Quebec-based Natural HPP – Canada’s first Avure HPP Toller – came to be rated “the world’s best HPP plant” by Subway auditors.

Natural HPP, in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, near Montreal, started operations in June 2011 and remains the first and only HPP toller in Canada with federal approvals for proteins, seafood, and produce. Tollers are contract processors who HPP treat products for a range of customers.

Essentially “writing the book” on high pressure processing in Canada, Natural HPP was instrumental in the deregulation of HPP in Canada, helping remove it from the “Novel Food” regulation category for most applications effective April 1, 2016. Working closely with Health Canada food specialists over a four-year period, Natural HPP helped moved HPP into the mainstream, which means major savings at every level from the food producer using HPP to the consumer enjoying HPP-treated products.

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World leading
With so much experience, it’s no wonder that Natural HPP has become the epitome of efficiency as an HPP toller.

“We’ve developed an extensive predictive maintenance program over the years,” said Stephane Carrier, Natural HPP’s President and CEO. “This allows us to minimize unplanned downtime for Natural HPP’s customers, saving them time and money.”

Among Natural HPP’s equipment is a JBT/Avure AV-10, which serves as a testament to their rigorous maintenance program as well as the sturdiness of JBT/Avure equipment. Their AV-10 has seen more than 215,000 cycles, more than almost any other AV-10 in operation, and it’s still going strong.

Natural HPP has an extensive HACCP program under Canadian Federal regulation and boasts an SQF-II score of 96%. Auditors from the Subway sandwich chain have dubbed Natural HPP “ the best HPP plant around the world.”

For more information about Natural HPP, check out their website.

This article was originally published in the JBT Avure newsletter Avure HPP Bon Appétit.

Synutra France: how JBT PLF helped make ambitious project a reality

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Construction of Chinese infant formula supplier Synutra’s first operation in France was not only a big step forward for the company, but also for JBT PLF which played a key role in the project from initiation through to completion, as PLF’s Ian Hillaby recalls.

Ian Hillaby has been travelling back and forth between the UK and China for more than 25 years, making contact with key players in China’s powdered infant formula industry. It was on one of these trips, around 10 years ago, that Hillaby initially made contact with Synutra, a Chinese infant formula manufacturer in the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao, which at the time had little in the way of any presence outside the country. 

However, it was not until some five years later that the initial meeting would come to fruition. Remembering their meeting Synutra contacted PLF and Hillaby for advice on an ambitious new project: design and construction of a can making and filling line for their new €230 million manufacturing site in Brittany, France, the company’s first venture outside Chinese borders.

Above: a tour of the Synutra France facility (in French)

Turnkey solution
Brittany was chosen for entirely practical reasons. As a center for milk production in France, the region could provide a steady, reliable source of fresh milk for processing purposes.

PLF was involved at the greenfield site from the very start, advising on the installation of high-speed turnkey canning lines (at that time, almost all Chinese companies used low-speed lines) as part of what would eventually become one of the fastest infant formula lines in the world.

“PLF became involved as Synutra was looking for the ability to manufacture and fill cans, and we were able to offer a complete turnkey solution,” explains Hillaby. 

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Aided by PLF’s already strong reputation for project delivery in the infant powder industry, PLF and Synutra got round a table, as Hillaby recalls, and started looking at what the company was trying to achieve and specific non-conventional options, such as pre-gassing technology. A pioneer in this area, PLF offers a pre-gassing system before the powder reaches the filling line, which maintains a sealed, modified atmosphere from the start to the finished product. As a result, the powder is never exposed to the outside atmosphere before sealing is completed, adding an extra layer of security in the process.

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China expansion
“We took probably 6-8 months from that initial meeting to completing the project design, then another 12-15 months to build and install,” says Hillaby. “There was quite an intense element of guiding, so not only the customer learnt a lot during the process, but there was also a learning curve for PLF as well. But at the end of the day, we got the job done and it’s a fantastic reference for the industry.”

Of course there were challenges along the way, one of the biggest being dealing with Chinese legislation, but Hillaby says Synutra was very happy with the final results; results which have led to a greater involvement for PLF in China. “We’ve just shipped our first line to a local Chinese infant formula manufacturer and we are hopeful that by the end of this year we can confirm further lines for another of China’s major infant formula producers,” Hillaby adds. 

Click for more information about Synutra

Click for details of PLF’s full range of solutions