A fruitful partnership for testing food and beverage tech

HRS Heat Exchangers Pty Ltd

Tuesday, 03 October, 2023

A fruitful partnership for testing food and beverage tech

HRS Heat Exchangers’ R&D partnership showcases the latest thermal food and drink technologies and allows for fruitful customer trials.

For the last 20 years, HRS Heat Exchangers has forged a close working partnership with Spain’s National Technological Centre for the Food and Canning Industry — Centro Tecnológico National de la Conserva y Alimentación (CTNC) — a private, not-for-profit research association that works with a wide range of organisations and companies on private, national and international food and beverage development projects. Now, this alliance has been further cemented with the installation of a new pilot aseptic filling plant from HRS, giving customers and researchers the chance to test the performance of different heat exchanger types when developing new food and drink products, to achieve the best outcome for their project.

Located in the heart of Europe’s fruit growing region, CTNC’s facilities at Molina de Segura are just 10 minutes away from HRS Heat Exchangers’ Spanish office and manufacturing facilities in Murcia. It provides the ideal conditions for HRS and its clients to benefit from the CTNC testing and technology services, which includes laboratories covering microbiology, instrumentation, packaging, physical and chemical quality control, food safety, and water and environment testing.

Established in 1962 as part of the University of Murcia, the CTNC now has its own facilities and operates as an independent public utility. Its particular focus on food, environment and the circular economy fits perfectly with the areas in which HRS works.

A variety of HRS equipment, including corrugated tube and scraped surface heat exchangers, and an HRS Asepticblock treatment and packing system, is in use within the CTNC technological area, for researchers and HRS customers alike to use.

In practice, this means that clients can access the facilities at the CTNC to test how their products will perform with different heat exchangers (as well as microwave heating), so that they and HRS engineering staff can choose the best heat exchanger option for their requirements.

Presentación García Gomez, Head of the Technological Area at the CTNC, explained: “This region of Spain is home to a high volume of fruit producers, as well as primary and secondary processors, so there is significant demand from companies wanting to trial new products or processes on the new aseptic pilot plant from HRS. There is no other pilot plant like this in Spain, and we currently have around 15 companies on the waiting list, looking to either develop new food and drink products or move from conventional heat treatment to aseptic packing.”

The rise of aseptic packaging

Traditionally, hot filling of food and drink products sterilises the container as the product (which is still hot from cooking or sterilising) is filled. However, the temperatures required often have unwanted effects on the quality of the product, and the heat imposes restrictions on the type of container which can be used: for example, hot filling of lightweight plastic drinks bottles can lead to distortion of the plastic.

Because of this, cold aseptic filling has become a common technique with drinks manufacturers for products including UHT milk, fruit juices, and sports and energy drinks. Its flexibility means that it is suitable for a wide range of products from fresh fruit dices and purees to marinades and dairy products.

The trial Asepticblock used at the CTNC is based on the standard HRS Asepticblock Series.

The HRS Asepticblock pilot plant installed at the CTNC is a special trial version of the standard HRS Asepticblock Series of skid-mounted, self-contained pasteuriser/steriliser systems with integrated aseptic filler. The unit at the CTNC features a balance tank and a deaerator (to prevent oxidisation), and a product pump. The product goes through a pre-heating stage, followed by a choice of heat treatments (heating or cooling) which are chosen via a control panel. The available options include heat exchangers (corrugated tubular, MI multitube and DTA double tube along with the HRS R Series scraped surface) and a microwave heating unit. Because of the benefits of HRS clients being able to use the technology, HRS Heat Exchangers supplied the unit at cost to the CTNC.

“Our customers can use the pilot plant when developing new projects, for proof of concept. They can then determine which type of heat exchanger works best for which product,” explained Paco Hernandez, Food Business Director for HRS Heat Exchangers. “As the CTNC is a research centre, there is also the potential to handle new and upcoming products, placing us at the forefront of new trends in the food processing sectors. In addition, the CTNC demonstrates our technologies and the efficiency of our equipment, increasing awareness of our brand and potentially introducing us to new markets and clients.”

Partnering with the CTNC also gives HRS access to a variety of different types of products and materials that they might not otherwise have access to. This enables them to test their heat exchangers and systems with a wider range of materials, each with different textures, viscosities and thermal properties. It also means that HRS can analyse new materials from customers and clients that they may not have worked with before (such as sludges generated by environmental applications), helping to further their capabilities.

Presentación García Gomez added, “At the CTNC, we are at the forefront of food technology, witnessing the latest trends such as improvements in sustainability and moves to digitalisation. We have received European funding for research into sustainable food production, including better use of raw materials, energy and water, and making better use of waste and by-products. We are also at the vanguard of the move towards more plant-based products and new sources of protein to avoid the use of animal products. Fermented beverages, such as kombucha, are another trend we are seeing, and these are also aseptically processed.”

Image credit: iStock.com/Nuttawan Jayawan

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