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Grupo Bimbo signs research deal for alternative freeze-dry technology

By Helen Glaberson , 18-Nov-2010

Bread manufacturer, Grupo Bimbo, is the latest food giant to sign a research deal with EnWave to test “certain food products” on its nutraREV vacuum-based food dehydration technology.

However, the terms of the research and development agreement between EnWave and Grupo Bimbo were not disclosed.

“This is potentially a major step forward in EnWave’s strategy for the world-wide introduction of nutraDried food products,” stated EnWave chairman and Co-CEO, Dr Tim Durance.

“We have had a tremendous degree of interest from global food producers in our high-speed, low-cost dehydration technology, and this agreement with Grupo Bimbo represents our first collaboration with a Latin American-based company,” he added.

Technology benefits

EnWave’s nutraREV technology is used for dehydrating food products through its patented vacuum process.

This involves rapid and low-temperature extraction of water from food ingredients which the company claims to be more efficient than the freeze-dried process, cutting production costs by more than three quarters.

We have found nutraREV can deliver cost savings of around 80 per cent compared to traditional freeze drying methods,” Jennifer Thompson, vice president corporate development and investor relations told FoodProductionDaily.com.

Cost-savings come from reductions in energy usage and labour thanks to the faster processing times, Thompson added.

According to EnWave, the nutraREV combines microwave energy transfer with a vacuum pressure control to dehydrate and alter structures in addition to driving chemical reactions.

The company said its technology creates “unique product characteristics” for both food products and medical applications, such as fruit, vegetables, probiotics, enzymes, proteins, food cultures, vaccines and antibodies.

Vacuum microwaving has been available for some time but we have solved the problem of arcing - caused by plasma discharge - which burns the product undergoing dehydration,” said Thompson.

Other advantages of the system are the retention if colour, shape and flavour of foodstuffs as well as, or better than, freeze-dried produce, the company claims.

EnWave also said the dehydration system offers more flexibility on retention of moisture content, which can create extra market opportunities for the food. This means the same fruits can also be processed for different lengths of time to appeal to separate markets, for example berries could be chewy for the snack segment, crunchy for breakfast cereals or powdered for nutraceuticals.

In addition to nutraREV, EnWave has two other technology platforms: powderREV for the dehydration of bulk food cultures, probiotics and fine biochemicals such as enzymes, and bioREV and freezeREV for live or active biomaterial dehydration.

Major research agreements

The deal with Grupo Bimbo follows two other major research and development research and development agreements announced this year between EnWave and other global food companies.

Based on the initial success of the first phase of tests in April 2009 with partner Danisco, a global probiotics supplier for yoghurt, the two companies entered a second phase of testing to evaluate the commercial viability of EnWave’s powderREV dehydration technology on a wider scale.

In March 2010, EnWave announced that the powderREV technology had been successfully used to dry kilogram quantities of probiotic cultures provided by Danisco.

In July this year Nestle also entered into a research and development agreement involving EnWave’s nutraREV food dehydration technology.

Last month, the company opened a larger pilot-scale production and demonstration plant in Delta which is designed for use by current partners to produce test market quantities of food products on the company’s radiant energy vacuum (REV) dehydration technologies.

The company said it will also use the facility to demonstrate its technologies to potential partners, multinational collaborators and investors.

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