Dates generic

Dates are a commodity widely consumed not just in the Middle East, but worldwide, and have become a key ingredient in many bakery products featured on supermarket shelves. But how best to process a notoriously sticky and delicate product?

JBT Corporation could well have the answer with a complete processing solution that is helping address the needs of fresh packers and ingredients processors alike.

Covering the moment of entry to the processor through to pallet-ready product, JBT’s system for dates processors also has a considerable edge over those offered by competitors due to the post-sales service provided by the company, which works to quickly overcome any problems.

As Aftermarket Parts & Equipment Sales Account Manager, Jeff Cook, explains, JBT constantly checks its machines to make sure they are performing as expected and, if not, makes sure the system is back to its optimum best as soon as possible.

Such a level of post-sales customer care is especially important for a product like dates, which runs through a complex processing cycle before being delivered to market.

“JBT has given me a lot of confidence, knowing that it’s not just my eyes looking at everything”

Jayson Simmons from leading US organic date company Woodspur Farms says JBT’s equipment and post-sales assistance has proven hugely helpful in maintaining a successful business. “If we have an issue or a problem we want resolved, JBT has been extremely helpful at providing engineering and bringing different viewpoints and thoughts to the table – that has given me a lot of confidence, knowing that it’s not just my eyes looking at everything,” he explains.

“One of the things I have appreciated most about JBT is that they have shown a great effort to help us improve our processes. They are not just a sales team or a company that wants to sell products, they actually want to solve a problem, and that I really appreciate.”

JBT dates machinery

How the process works

JBT’s solution for dates processors starts right from the moment the product is introduced to the processing line, says Cook. “Trays of dates which are about 20×20 inches are dumped manually onto a conveyor belt and there’s a little apparatus on top of that belt that knocks the sticky dates out of the trays,” he explains.

“The dates are then taken down several different conveyor belts before going to a pre-grade section where they are checked and pre-graded as required, throwing out those that have defects or are not up to standard.

“Then they go to a JBT food safe brush-bed where they are brushed and cleaned, and – after  sizing and grading – continue down the line to one of our automated weight fillers. Here the dates fall into a box and once the box reaches a specified weight, the filler stops, pushes the box out, and a new one comes in.

“The boxes continue along a carton conveyor, through a metal detector and then on to a tape machine, before finally being manually placed onto pallets.”

Dates candies

Dates as an ingredient

For dates destined to be ground up and used in candy bakes, the process involves a pitter, which removes the pit before the product goes through a tumbler where it can be coated, for example in coconut shavings or nuts.

Cook says JBT is currently developing a complementary solution that will return the excess coating back to the front of the line for further processing or reuse.

Once the dates are finished being coated, they are placed in plastic clamshells, moved down the line on a conveyor, and manually packed into cartons.

Looking further ahead, JBT’s equipment business has been working closely with other JBT business units to broaden its offering for processors. Cook says a system to hydrate and rehydrate the dates is currently being developed.

Dates display

Post-sales focus

JBT currently supplies the system to US dates processors and packers, covering a swath of land from Southern California to Arizona, but Cook says the company is aiming to reach potential clients on a global basis.

The reason for this confidence is the sales and post-sales coverage provided by JBT which sets it apart from its competitors.

“Anyone can make a mousetrap, but are they there to support it later down the road when there are maintenance needs, repairs, things that can go wrong in a processing line? A lot of our competitors may just sell equipment and then walk away. There is no post-sales support, which is something we firmly believe in,” he says.

“JBT’s engineers get involved with the customers’ issues and then come up with a solution for them,” Cook adds.

For more information, please contact Jeff Cook at [email protected]