OAL cryogenic cooling project to revolutionize ready meal industry

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

OAL cryogenic cooling project to revolutionize ready meal industry

Related tags Food Shelf life

Olympus Automation Ltd (OAL) has kicked off the first of its kind Advanced Cooking and Cooling Technology project (ACCT) to revolutionize the ready meal industry.

In partnership with BOC part of Linde Group, The University of Lincoln (National Centre for Food Manufacturing) and Iceland Manufacturing it has started a two-year collaborative research project to understand the effects of rapid cooling, using liquid nitrogen on sauces and soups and the vegetables, fruits and meats they contain to maximise nutritional values.

A step change in product quality

The £969k programme is part funded by Innovate UK and will lead to the development of an innovative cooking and cryogenic cooling system for ready meals providing a step change in product quality and healthiness.

Harry Norman, managing director, OAL, told BakeryandSnacks, thanks to the study, product shelf life could be increased and waste minimised as the team looks to develop a flexible process to reduce production, cleaning and changeover times.

The project seeks to help tackle the current levels of food waste and increase the speed of production​,” he said.

The collaborative project is the first of its kind in the food industry​.

Cryogenics enables smaller batches and as such is more flexible to meet changing demand​. 

Traditional cooling e.g. scrape surface generate considerable waste due to cleaning and throughput requirements. Cryogenics simplifies this minimising cleaning and volumes required​.”

The team will combine OAL’s rapid cooking Steam Infusion Vaction technology with a rapid cryogenic cooler from BOC to enable just-in-time production enhancing the manufacture of ready meals such as beef Bolognese and ethnic curry's, soups and other sauce-based food products.

Chilled and frozen food-to-go sector

It specifically targets the chilled and frozen food-to-go manufacturing sectors, soups, sauces and ready meals.

The project will draw to a close at the end of September 2017 and the outcome will be to create a nutritional and operational advantage through the process and integrate this into existing systems.

In a statement by Innovate UK, it said: “By combining two processes an innovative system will disrupt traditional process practices leading to a step change in supply chain efficiency within the fast growing markets for ready meals, soups and other sauce based food products​.

Through rapid cooking (steam infusion) and rapid cooling (liquid nitrogen) major issues effecting food quality, nutritional values, productivity and waste are dramatically reduced​.

Olympus Automation Ltd., with its leading partners, University of Lincoln, BOC Ltd and Iceland Manufacturing Ltd., plan to realise the following objectives through this project:

i) To gain a full scientific understanding of the effects of rapid cooling using liquid nitrogen on sauces and soups, and the vegetable, fruit and meat particulates they contain;

ii) Integrate rapid cooking and cooling technologies to create a high rate, flexible and efficient sauce production system;

iii) Use the knowledge from scientific research into ingredient behaviour to maximise nutritional and health values and product shelf life;

iv) Minimise waste by developing a fully flexible process that reduces production, cleaning and changeover times to meet retailers’ increasingly variable supply requirements​.” 

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