Health bar maker enhances food safety and line efficiencies

Monday, 09 May, 2022

Based in Canada, Luxme International has supplied a SANILux Tubular Chain Conveyor with automated clean-in-place technology to nutrition bar manufacturer TruFood, enhancing food safety and increasing line efficiency.

Delivering a convenient mixture of high protein, low sugar and essential nutrients, nutrition bars are experiencing a surge in popularity. The global protein bar market was valued at US$4.66bn in 2019 and is projected to reach more than US$7.03bn by 20271. Sitting within this growth industry is TruFood, which produces millions of nutrition bars each week for its brand partners. Its products are sold in retail outlets throughout Europe, North America and Mexico, as well as through its network of online distributors.

In 2019, increased customer demand prompted the US-based manufacturer to embark on an expansion project to boost its manufacturing capabilities. High on the list for improvement was the company’s ingredient delivery system — a multi-step manual process that required significant time and labour to prepare and transfer fine and coarse ingredient powders and inclusions such as chocolate chunks, soy crisps and cookie pieces to the mixer. It not only required an automated ingredient transfer solution that would increase yield and improve line efficiency, but it also needed to ensure food safety by reducing the risk of allergen cross-contamination between changeovers for different product ranges.

Following discussions with several equipment manufacturers, TruFood decided on the SANILux Tubular Chain Conveyor from Luxme. “As well as efficiently transferring screened and weighed powders and inclusions to the mixer, the ability of the SANILux to reduce the time required for a sanitary changeover and remove all allergens from the conveying system were ultimately behind our decision to partner with Luxme,” said Mike Berko, Project Engineer, TruFood. “Their willingness to work within our constrained space requirements also impressed us.”

Avoiding allergen cross-contamination

As a producer of nutrition bars with a wide range of certifications and claims — including kosher, non-GMO, organic, halal, gluten-free, fair trade and sugar-free — TruFood takes its commitment to avoiding allergen cross-contamination seriously. It’s estimated globally more than 250 million people suffer from a food allergy, with food allergies rising by 50% over the past decade2. “Food safety is a critical responsibility for us as a food manufacturer,” Berko confirmed.

The manufacturer faced a variety of challenges when seeking to upgrade its operation. “We work with mid-sized emerging brands as well as established consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies commercialising new product platforms,” Berko explained. “With this comes additional complexity, requiring sophisticated systems to protect and propel their brands. To better support these partners, we not only required more flexible and consistent operations, but also easier, more efficient changeovers and sanitation protocols. Sanitary design and ease of cleaning are forefront in our minds when evaluating any new solution.”

To meet these requirements, Luxme specified its SANILux Tubular Chain Conveyor technology. An enclosed, self-cleaning system, it is designed to protect ingredients from atmospheric, airborne contaminants and other bacterial elements. The automated CIP technology ensures the conveyor is fully sanitised in just 60 minutes, and is validated with allergen swab testing.

“The SANILux can go from dry to dry, fully allergen sanitised, in just one hour — about 10% of the time it took us previously when the process was manual,” Berko said. “As well as improving food safety, this has translated into an uplift in our production capacity as changeover of the delivery system is achieved in a fraction of the time required on our other production lines, minimising downtime. By removing a manual process, it has also resulted in labour savings.”

The conveyor itself comprises a fixed drive and tension assembly, which automatically tensions the chain continuously during the process and regulates it according to friction, product flow and variation in atmospheric/product temperature.

Capable of 300, 500 or 1100 ft3/h capacities, the system is suited for the automatic conveying of all types of food, at any stage of receiving, processing and packaging.

The system has been running successfully at TruFood’s manufacturing facility since it was installed in May 2020.

In addition to fulfilling the sanitary requirements, it has also delivered improvements such as gentler product handling, reduced ingredient fines, automated and repeatable process and waste minimisation with the sealed conveying solution.

[1] https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/industry-reports/protein-bar-market-100805

[2] https://www.thermofisher.com/diagnostic-education/patient/gb/en/allergy-types/food-allergies.html

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