By Carlos Fernandez, JBT Sustainability Advisor

This article was originally published in the August 2023 edition of International Food Marketing & Technology.

How can food processors achieve more sustainable processing in this era of tightening costs?

For many companies, there is an acute need to maximize the efficiency of existing equipment while increasing productivity. At the same time, there is growing pressure from consumers and retailers for greater sustainability in the food industry. Food processors across a range of industries and categories – from dairy drinks and juices to canned soups and sauces to fish, poultry, and meat – share common challenges, such as a growing need to maximize efficiency and meet ever louder sustainability demands. 

It is perhaps unsurprising that many are looking to extend the working life of existing equipment. However, companies are equally aware that equipment must be kept up-to-date and in optimum conditions to achieve this aim. It is against this backdrop that I believe there is a need for what I call process knowledge and application knowledge. 

The case for Process Knowledge

Process knowledge is vital because it helps ensure products reach consumers in optimum conditions. By avoiding pitfalls such as overheating during sterilization, companies not only save energy but also prevent damage to their products. Consulting a technician with in-depth process knowledge will help your facility to meet food safety requirements and increase product shelf-life. As a result, less products going to waste, and your business will become more sustainable.

Another foundation of sustainability – and one that many of my customers have mentioned – lies in the reliability and performance of the equipment. Key to both these factors is being able to draw on a high standard of technology, maintenance and – most importantly– knowledge of how to best operate the equipment. A lack of this knowledge can result in wasted of human resources, equipment, and operational costs.

How Application Knowledge Can Help

Application knowledge focuses on more practical aspects. As an example, at JBT we provide application knowledge support to customers to assess the functioning of equipment in their own facilities to make sure they don’t have a food safety problem or are unnecessarily wasting high quantities of energy or water. 

Application knowledge can also be seen in the fresh side of our business. For citrus processing, our technicians will recommend specific settings for citrus extraction equipment dependent on the season and variety. This allows customers to extract the maximum level of juice, pulp, and residues from their citrus volumes.

Applied Sustainability

Let me provide a few specific examples of process and application knowledge in action. 

Through our worldwide Food Technology Centers (FTCs) and Green Retrofits, JBT is already helping customers to achieve improved productivity and efficiencies while becoming more sustainable. In the process, we help customers to become more profitable, less wasteful, and more economically viable in the long term, ensuring a future for everyone involved.

JBT FTCs offer a Research & Development resource for customers that focuses on maximizing the effectiveness and productivity of new or existing equipment and extending its working life. FTCs contain – often full size – replicas of JBT equipment capable of reproducing the exact same processes that food processors use when filling, canning, or mixing. 

Customers can draw on JBT experts’ substantial food safety, food science, and application knowledge to get the best results from their equipment and the desired end results for their products. Many companies know how to weld steel or bend metal, and JBT is no exception. However, we also understand the products and the processes, ensuring that customers can confidently deliver products with the best-possible shelf-life and food safety, all while aiming for optimum end results.

By replicating the performance of an industrial-level processing facility, we can assess the optimum conditions necessary for achieving sought-after results with food products. JBT further utilizes the expertise of its technicians to provide customer training, maximize the handling of existing products and processes and covering the testing of new equipment. We carry out live demonstrations for customers, so they can view in-person the workings of processes they might have previously only seen in presentations. 

Many customers don’t want to change their entire install base. Instead, they want to take older equipment to a performance level that matches new systems. This approach makes sense and aligns with the principles of the circular economy. JBT’s Green Retrofits allow customers to achieve this goal.

Through our Green Retrofit program, we help maximize the performance of installed equipment by improving its productivity and efficiency while minimizing its impact on the environment.

So, is it possible to achieve both sustainability and cost savings? Absolutely. Helping customers become more sustainable by getting the most out of their products is the essence of a good food processing technology provider. By investing in process knowledge and application knowledge, food processors can unlock significant savings while embracing sustainable practices.

As companies work together to create a greener, more efficient, and profitable future for the food industry, it’s clear that sustainability and cost savings can go hand in hand. Now is the time for businesses to prioritize sustainable processing methods and unlock the benefits for their operations and the environment.