New innovations at IPA reveal current trends

Related tags Supply chain Food Food processing

The IPA food processing exhibition in Paris is now into its second
last day, and the general impression is that the show has been a
success.

With around 800 exhibitors, the diversity of innovations on offer at IPA has been noticeable, but general trends in food production can still be discerned.

"We feel that there are three heavy trends in the scope of our work with the food processing industries; first of all, traceability is continuously developing and extending to a greater number of sectors,"​ said Christine Vignon, communication manager of integrated supply chain solutions provider VIF Vignon, which is exhibiting at IPA 2004.

"But while traceability is omnipresent, it can only be dealt with in conjunction with two other trends; quality and supply chain management."

Traceability within the supply chain is a legal obligation detailed in the regulation CE 178/2000, which will comes into force on 1 January 2005. In order to help food processors find out how they can best meet this obligation, IPA has a designated traceability area that includes a business area reserved for traceability-focused companies.

One product on display is CheckPal from Sydel​, which is designed to ensure automated pallet load inspection by means of parcel bar code reading. It is intended to check the consistency of pallet contents at production cycle end, or to check parcels grouped on pallets during the shipping process.

CheckPal identifies, records and analyses all the parcels placed on a pallet by reading their bar codes. Equipped with a laser scanning bar code reader with a variable reading distance and compatible with the pallet rotating movement, CheckPal can check up to several hundreds of bar codes per pallet side in less than 10 seconds.

Automation in food process control is another key trend. This offers processors increased operational efficiency, labour savings and the avoidance of human error. This of course, links up with the pressing concern of food processors to achieve operational cost savings.

"There is strong demand for process automation, and customers want increasingly flexible and at the same time easy-to-use equipment,"​ said Frederic de Stoutz, managing director of ACTINI. "100 per cent automation is not necessarily required, but machines must be designed to process different products at different rates.

"Automation is becoming increasingly focused and tailored to specific needs, managing only the functions that our customers think fit to automate."

One innovation on display at IPA is Tetra Pak's Tetra Therm Aseptic Sensa, an automatic processing module for fruit juice continuous mixing and pasteurisation, with or without fibre, that allows plants to minimise heat load.

Steam is injected in the concentrate, which immediately reaches the pasteurisation temperature. The fruit juice is then cooled with cold sterile water. This system carries out preparation and mixing operations in a single phase, thus reducing production costs and improving flexibility.

Another strong trend evident at IPA is hygiene, or how the risk of accidents can be controlled and prevented more accurately and how product safety can be ensured. This ties in with the current preoccupation of achieving supply chain transparency and traceability.

"The food processing industries want to obtain reliable and quick results,"​ said Didier Valentin, sales manager of Biomerieux, an exhibitor at IPA 2004 specialising in automated microbiology.

"Quick analyses permit the immediate release of finished products and increased reaction in case of non-conformity. Any analysis costs are therefore offset by a reduction in stocks and increased food safety."

Oxoid​ is currently displaying its new kit for detecting of enterobacter Sakazakii. Enterobacter sakazakii has been identified as an emerging food pathogenic agent, and Oxoid's BAX system is a PCR controller for the detection of food pathogens.

The company claims that the system can handle up to 96 analyses simultaneously. A user-friendly software details the operating steps with simple messages, then displays the results as positive or negative three hours and a half after the beginning of the analysis.

However, technological innovation in the food industry rarely brings about a significant break in food process. This is because the use of innovative processes tends to be tightly controlled, and products are often subject to an authorisation procedure before being placed on the market.

In addition, the R&D budget in the food processing industries remains relatively small - around one per cent of turnover is the norm. Major innovations usually require important investments over several years before yielding industrial developments.

Technological innovations made by food companies therefore consist, in many cases, in continuous improvements in both processes, packaging and services, which is one reason why the synergy between IPA and Emballage, the neighbouring packaging exhibition, works so well.

Ultimately, food processors are constrained by the nature of industry they operate in, but a walk around the IPA shows suggests that most companies are in touch with trends that are driving their industry.

Related topics Processing & Packaging

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