A version of this article was previously published by Dairy Reporter.com
JBT Food & Dairy Systems (JBT F&DS) has maintained a presence in the global dairy sector for over four decades, whether as a standalone business or as part of its former parent company Stork, working as a major supplier of sterilization and filling equipment to the European dairy industry. But following its acquisition by JBT in 2015, the Amsterdam-based company is preparing for a huge expansion in its activities, moving into new markets and integrating its technology into systems across the broader JBT business.
JBT F&DS has multiple product lines from processing – specifically sterilizing and pasteurizing dairy and juice products – to filling and blow molding systems. Products are sterilized using Sterideal®-branded UHT equipment, following which they can be stored in aseptic tanks before going on to aseptic fillers. JBT F&DS’s sterilization options run from 2,000 liters per hour up to 25,000 liters per hour, while tanks go from 10,000 liters up to 50,000 liters.
“It’s all about aseptic,” says Richard Groenendijk, JBT F&DS’s Director of Operations in Amsterdam. “Long-life products must be produced to commercially sterile conditions, so we’re focused on making all-aseptic equipment.”
Dairy – from long-life milk through to puddings, creams and dairy sauces – as well as high-end juices are the principal aims, although Groenendijk says JBT F&DS has also supplied equipment for a range of food products, including sauces containing beans, tomato sauce products and soups, and even nutraceuticals (low acid products with high protein and vitamin content).
Traditionally, JBT F&DS’s client base has been concentrated in Europe and in particular on long-life milk countries in the south, such as Spain, Portugal and Italy, which Groenendijk describes as classic UHT dairy countries – although puddings and other dairy products also have a strong market in Northern Europe.
“The origin of UHT equipment dates back to the 1960s, so we have a large installed base with many of our customers making repeat orders because they know us and the equipment,” he says.
For the last 20-30 years, JBT F&DS has also had a strong presence in Latin America – principally Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, all of which are growth markets for the company. Over the last 10 years, JBT F&DS has also invested in South East Asia and is growing strongly there.
Being part of JBT means the company has the added advantage of now having access to a larger and wider worldwide sales network with more sales people on the ground, which is expected to lead to JBT F&DS having a better spread of products throughout the world.
“We have a very strong Customer Care business in dairy, mainly from UHT equipment – about 30-40% of our turnover is post sales Customer Care – but being integrated into JBT will make us even stronger and give us a greater presence worldwide with far more field service engineers,” says Groenendijk.
JBT F&DS’s integration into JBT will progress further during the course of 2017, with the company’s technology set to be introduced into equipment supplied by A&B Process Systems, the US-based stainless steel process system specialist also acquired by JBT in 2015.
“A&B Process Systems is strong in the mixing and blending of products – their clients, for example, use a milk base to which is added a strawberry or chocolate flavor, then sent to a UHT to be sterilized, so we are working on product integration with A&B,” explains Groenendijk.
The advantage here, he continues, is that JBT will be able to supply a far broader range of solutions, including A&B mixing and blending technology combined with F&DS sterilization and aseptic tank systems.
Another important F&DS product that is being integrated into existing JBT systems is the company’s coupling-free heat exchange technology.
“We make heat exchange technology that has no couplings in it – our competitors have tube-in-tube heat exchanges which typically use a six meter-long tube, a coupling, and then another six meter-long tube,” explains Groenendijk.
Learn more about JBT’s Heat Exchangers for aseptic systems
“This is important because each coupling is an aseptic risk – a coupling can leak and if they leak you can have bacteria entering your product, so having long tubes without couplings is an advantage when it comes to building heat exchangers.”
In conjunction with JBT’s operation in Parma, Italy, the F&DS technology is being integrated into existing JBT systems, meaning that it could soon be in practice in sectors where the former company has not previously had a notable presence, including fruit and juice sterilization.
JBT F&DS’s ambitions for its processing systems business are echoed in its other principal area of business, filling and blow molding, where it is expanding beyond its original focus into new markets under the leadership of Patrick de Groot, Aseptic Systems Product Line Manager.
JBT F&DS (formerly Stork Food & Dairy Systems) has been a major supplier of sterilization and filling equipment to the European dairy industry since the 1960s. In fact, de Groot comments that taking one market as an example, in this case the UK, an estimated 80% of milk bottles in the country are filled using SFDS equipment.
Over the course of the years, with the advent of new technology, JBT F&DS has moved into aseptic technology – the technique whereby liquids are subjected to a high temperature for a few seconds to kill potentially harmful bacteria before cooling and filling into retail packaging – and is now a leading supplier of the systems to dairy companies.
UHT sterilizers and aseptic filling equipment are also used, de Groot explains, to sterilize empty containers – typically bottles – before they are filled and closed.
Through such approaches, he says JBT F&DS is able to supply long life, shelf stable solutions for dairy and juice makers, with the advantage that the products can be subsequently stored almost anywhere for a relatively long period of time.
Safety a priority
De Groot, who has a background in mechanical engineering, originally joined F&DS after writing his graduate thesis on the company, starting in the marketing department before moving into business operations. Since assuming responsibility for JBT F&DS’s sterilization business, de Groot has concentrated on areas where the company’s technology could be applied outside its traditional dairy business.
JBT F&DS is now studying how such technologies can be across sectors in other parts of the world. In the case of the US, he says JBT F&DS is already well established with US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its aseptic filling equipment. “In the US we’re looking for a way to support that process and work with US dairy farmers,” he says.
However, the approach JBT F&DS takes to this and other new markets is likely to be different to the past. Over the course of the past two years, de Groot says JBT F&DS has moved from being an engineering company to a build-to-order specialist, which configures specific machines for specific customers using proven technology.
Ensuring food safety, he says, is also of crucial importance to the company, explaining that JBT F&DS follows rules and regulations that are very much in line with FDA principles. “We are one of the only companies in the world that is able to offer sterility rates that are far beyond those that are typically seen in the industry,” de Groot says.
Change in emphasis
In terms of markets, de Groot says there are virtually no limitations on where JBT F&DS is able to supply, although he says the US, China, Thailand and Indonesia have assumed particular importance over recent years.
Although still important, de Groot says demand in Europe has slowed during the past decade, while JBT F&DS now receives orders from as far afield as Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand. This change in emphasis, he explains, is partly down to JBT F&DS’s effort on long-life dairy and juice products, meaning demand tends to be greater in countries where such products are typically consumed such as Spain and Italy, rather than the likes of the UK where fresh remains dominant.
So what has changed at F&DS since being acquired by JBT Corporation in summer 2015? According to de Groot, being part of JBT is giving F&DS access to an established international sales network. “We are a company based in Amsterdam that was part of the Stork industrial group, and as such it was a challenge to service our customers throughout the world – with JBT, we have access to a larger footprint worldwide with sales and service that is close to our customers,” he explains.
Although it remains strong in the dairy sector, JBT F&DS has moved into the juice market in a major way over the last few years to the extent that 30-40% of the aseptic fillers that it manufactures are now destined for juice processors. JBT’s years of working with the juice sector have served JBT F&DS well, adds de Groot, who explains that its new parent company’s knowledge, expertise and contacts within the industry have been of huge benefit to JBT F&DS.