Published: 07.09.2022

Reading time ca. 7 Min.

Food production

Pretty flexible

Modern-day food production is characterized by supreme quality, safety, reliability and customer focus at affordable prices. At the same time, increasingly more specific consumer needs and an increased awareness of food quality call for production processes that can be adapted flexibly and quickly to changing requirements.

Increased awareness of food quality

As many as one in seven German industrial companies are involved in food production. The food industry is Germany’s fourth largest industrial sector in terms of sales. Sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in the supply of premium quality food, as well as in consumers’ consumption awareness. This appreciation of food and its producers increased again considerably during the Corona crisis.

The crisis as an opportunity

“Corona has seriously changed the entire food world,” says Hanni Rützler, one of Europe’s leading food trend researchers. Every year she publishes the “Food Report” in collaboration with the Zukunftsinstitut. The 2021 report is heavily influenced by the pandemic. “This crisis is inevitably the mother of invention and is unleashing new forces that are helping to generate sustainable concepts, which will prove to be effective once the crisis over. It is making us reflect on what we want to change, in order to make our food system more resilient and our culinary culture more sustainable and enjoyable.” According to Hanni Rützler, some trends have gathered considerable speed, while others have slowed down drastically in the last year.

Crises are inevitably the mother of invention and unleash forces that help generate sustainable concepts.
Hanni Rützler, nutritionist and food trend researcher

Diversity is the future of food

She believes that the wide variety of different foods available means that diversity will have a major role to play in the future of global food supply. Currently only 9 percent of plant species account for 66 percent of global crop yields. “This massive reduction down to just a few productive species comes at a high price. It makes us more vulnerable – for example, in terms of soil quality. This is highlighted whenever there is another dry summer or we have to combat pests using chemical agents,” Rützler warns. “To be able to guarantee the global food supply in future, we must focus on crop and livestock diversity. Biodiversity is very patently the future.” Her recommendation: the food production industry should add other strings to its bow. In culinary terms that would make things more exciting anyway.

Domestic agriculture and regional supply of food have become more important to many people. A new sense of appreciation has emerged – both of food and of those that produce it. The new aspiration is that food should not only taste good and be healthy, but should also be produced as sustainably and fairly as possible. As far as animal products are concerned, greater importance is being attached to animal welfare in livestock farming. People are also prepared to pay more for animal welfare, as the Food Report by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) highlights.

Foto: Source: Lebensmittelzeitung (LZ), Copyright: Statista 2020

Source: Lebensmittelzeitung (LZ), Copyright: Statista 2020

This conscious attitude in favor of a healthy diet is also having an impact on food retailers. In a 2020 survey by Lebensmittelzeitung (see adjoining chart), retailers rated regional products as well as certified organic and sugar-free foods as being the most important food trends right now. Unusual product groups like insects and seaweed are indeed also mentioned, but only marginally.

Flexitarians are gaining ground

More and more people are consciously giving up meat. According to a representative survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, nearly half of all respondents have purchased vegetarian or vegan alternatives to animal products at least once or from time to time. 55 percent describe themselves as flexitarians, i.e. meat eaters, who consciously forgo meat from time to time. The majority of them are men.

The reasons for giving up meat are varied:

  • climate protection,
  • animal welfare,
  • appealing taste or
  • curiosity.

In the first quarter of 2020, the quantity of meat substitute products sold increased by a striking 37 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. Compared with meat industry sales, the value of meat substitute product output is still relatively small. But the trend is clear: plant-based burgers et al are landing increasingly more frequently in Germans’ shopping carts.

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Insects as a future source of protein

That is also a good thing, because the world’s population is set to grow to 9.7 billion people by 2050, according to United Nations estimates. To be able to feed them all sustainably, we require an additional 250 million metric tons of protein a year. That is 50 percent more than is currently produced. Therefore, alternative sources of protein, such as legumes or seaweed, are generating major expectations. Insects also represent a promising opportunity to obtain high-grade protein on a sustainable basis. They are easy to breed and can even be fed on organic waste.

KERBSE Project: peas instead of pecorino

There are more and more alternatives to cheese as well. To date they have been soya-based and contain additives intended to come as close as possible to replicating the flavor and texture of real cheese. In contrast, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV’s "KERBSE" project is focusing on the native pea and traditional methods of cheesemaking. The protein in this legume is suitable for producing cheese-like structures. It is easily soluble and has emulsifying properties. A pea drink is fermented and then matured. These processes make additives unnecessary and reduce the beany flavor of the pea. To enable this cheese substitute to reach supermarket shelves quickly, the Institute is partnering with small dairies and makers of vegan products.

Is our food safe?

Scandals involving meat in the recent past have once again demonstrated how important the issue of food safety is. Perhaps that is why meat substitute products like vegetarian spreads, soya patties or tofu are what consumers are eating more and more of. We rightly expect the products offered to be safe and harmless to health. That is because safety is a fundamental prerequisite in food production. Manufacturers and retailers bear responsibility for this issue and are strictly policed by official food inspectors. Yet the food industry needs to enhance its products and processes in increasingly shorter cycles and at the same time reduce costs, especially in the globalized world we live in.

The Fraunhofer IVV's KERBSE research project is developing dairy-free cheese alternatives made from pea protein.

Feeding food ingredients

Feeding the raw materials used in food production is a particularly delicate task, as these materials are frequently prone to breakage. Processing foods requires

  • permanent quality control,
  • hygienic conditions,
  • extremely accurate feeding and
  • strict adherence to recipes and formulations.

Kubota Brabender Technologie’s special Hygienic Design feeders aid the safe production of dry, moist and liquid foods of any consistency.

What matters is production flexibility

Nowadays we take it for granted that we always have a wide choice of different foods. But increasing product diversity is also associated with shorter and shorter product lifecycles and reduced production quantities. Modern production lines must enable simple product, quantity and format changeovers. Modular design enables production lines to be matched quickly to new requirements and efficiently sustain flexible production. But batches sizes are also getting smaller and smaller. Therefore, it is important that components that come into contact with food products are quick and easy to clean. That is because every minute of plant downtime costs money. That is why the top priority is to reduce plant downtimes to a minimum.

Hygienic Design = feeders are easy and quick to clean

The particularly strict hygiene standards that apply in the food industry must be complied with and documented with absolute reliability. When using Kubota Brabender Technologie’s feeding technology, users can always rely on that fact. Feeders for the food industry are manufactured to Hygienic Design standards. Klaus Plien, Head of Export Sales, explains what that means. “The feeders used in the food industry must be capable of being cleaned very thoroughly. That is why we focus on Hygienic Design when developing our feeders. All components are easily accessible – for example screws and screw tubes feature quick-release closures. Furthermore, there are no exposed threads in places where there is product contact. Surface design includes smooth stainless-steel surfaces that prevent particle deposits. Fanless smooth motors ensure that there is no unnecessary air swirling. As no cooling fins are required, there are no surfaces on which dust can be deposited.”

We focus strictly on Hygienic Design when developing our feeders for the food industry.
Klaus Plien, Head of Export Sales at Kubota Brabender Technologie
Foto: Optimal accessibility of all components for easy cleaning.

Optimal accessibility of all components for easy cleaning.

Hygienic Design minimizes downtimes

Thanks to the excellent cleaning properties of Kubota Brabender Technologie’s feeders, the downtimes involved in formulation or product changeovers can be kept to a minimum. Only FDA- and 1935/2004-compliant materials are used to make Hygienic Design feeders. Polyurethane components are also food-grade and feature a blue finish for better identification. Kubota Brabender Technologie is a member of the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG). The company therefore regularly receives valuable information about current changes and guidelines, enabling it to adapt Hygienic Design specifications to its product innovations.

From trend to technology

Klaus Plien emphasizes: “Whatever influences the food we eat in the future, we are always listening to our customers and are ready to harness our expertise to develop pioneering solutions together with them. We are thus able to embrace new food trends and associated requirements at an early stage, and incorporate ideas into mature-process applications.”

Optimize your production processes!

Our expert for food feeding technology Klaus Plien will be happy to advise you.

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