Plant-based foods and beverages is a market that is developing across international borders. Driven by both dietary and environmental impact concerns, increasing numbers of consumers are switching from animal-derived products to plant-based alternatives, and it is here JBT is able to offer solutions that deliver clear benefits in terms of both production and quality.

One segment that has seen real growth over recent years is in alternatives to cow’s milk, with products such as almond, soya, oat and coconut milk all finding increasing favor with consumers. For many of these customers, JBT’s Sterideal UHT solution has proven effective, thanks to an innovative coil design which produces far less precipitation (fouling) – and therefore better performance with longer production runs, preserving the protein content in the process – than many traditional systems.

JBT’s innovative Sterideal UHT coil system produces far less precipitation than traditional alternatives

Clear benefits

“Plant-based foods and beverages is a market that is becoming very important for JBT,” says JBT’s Global Product Line Director for Aseptic Systems, Juan Martinez. “Some of our customers who have entered into the world of plant-based foods have become important players.” As an illustration of how important the market now is, sales in the US grew by 27% in 2020 compared with a year before, taking retail sales to US$7 billion (Good Food Institute, 2020).

Martinez says JBT customers who have entered the industry have seen a clear difference using JBT solutions compared with rival systems, especially for UHT processing of milk alternatives, such as soya, almond or oat milk. “Customers have recorded an advantage using JBT Sterideal UHT systems because these products are low-acid and have to be processed almost like cow’s milk,” Martinez explains. “They offer a certain competitive advantage in terms of the quality and processing time.”

One of the key benefits of plant-based milk alternatives, he continues, is that they are low sugar and high protein, but this protein content normally suffers from precipitation when heated. “A key advantage offered by the Sterideal UHT system is that because of the coil design, it records far lower precipitation (fouling), so delivers improvements in terms production and quality, that translates into better TCO,” Martinez says.

Delivering production and quality improvements: JBT’s Sterideal UHT solution

Significant trends

In Martinez’s opinion, there are two clear reasons behind the rise of the plant-based food and beverage industry. Firstly, he says there is a trend towards reducing the consumption of animal-based products for health reasons, with many consumers viewing vegetable protein as being better for a healthy diet than animal protein. The second reason derives from sustainability, with studies having found switching to plant-based milk alternatives can reduce individual impacts on the environment.

Given these significant trends, JBT is able to offer a complete plant-based food and beverage solution for processors, starting from initial preparation and mixing through to thermal treatment and aseptic filling. “We can assist during the entirety of the critical production process,” Martinez continues, adding that the Sterideal can both be used effectively for both conventional cow’s milk and plant-based alternatives. 

“For complex products – and out of all of them the most complicated to produce is oat milk – JBT has a clear advantage,” Martinez adds. “We take the product from the start of processing through to the UHT stage, stabilizing the protein in the process.”

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