"What we've done is to use industrial designers to producer the most up-to-date cryogenic freezing tunnel," he told FoodProductionDaily.com. "We've taken the normal model and updated it completely."
According to Norvill, the new system, which is targeted at the value-added frozen foods market, features a number of useful innovations. It can handle remote data collection, offers manufacturers complete traceability and comes complete with remote service support via the Internet. Norvill claims there are not many products on the market place that can offer this.
"Another issue we addressed is hygiene," he said. "The freezing tunnel has been designed so that it can be cleaned quickly and efficiently. No surfaces are hidden so that water cannot collect, and we made sure that the whole tunnel can be completely opened up so that every nook and cranny can be cleaned."
Indeed, the design of the tunnel, which will be launched at IFFA 2004 (hall 9.0, stand D75), is something that Norvill is particularly proud of. Linde was conscious that it wanted to specifically use engineers used to the requirements of the food industry.
"Most freezing tunnels look like they have been designed by gas company engineers," he said. "But what we've come up with looks totally different - all controls and valves are hidden, covers are arranged at an angle and the whole thing is easy to clean - it is totally different to what else is on the market."
Norvill also believes that cryogenic freezing gives food manufacturers better results than mechanical freezing. It is quicker, and therefore there is less cell breakdown in food. And with expansion in the ready meals market unlikely to suddenly stop, the need for freezing and chilling technology in food production looks set to continue.
As a result, the industrial gas business is confident of further growth in the food sector, with new opportunities being identified.
"The transportation of food revolves around gas," said Hans-Dieter Ziegler, food marketing manager for industrial gases group Messer. "Since the introduction of HACCP regulations, many products have to be chilled down during transportation, and this involves the use of gases and equipment. Temperature is now a big issue within the food industry."
Chilling ambient food could be the next gap in the market. Ambient food is shelf-stable produce that usually does not require refrigeration or chilling. Europe, of course, has some of the most stringent food regulations in the world, and some believe the down-chilling of some ambient food during transport is an inevitability.