Health is not a trend – it’s a lifestyle. And consumers are increasingly looking beyond dairy to newer plant-based alternatives, such as beverages from potato, pistachio, and hemp. So how can food producers keep pace with consumer tastes and refresh their product lines? There are two answers to that question: one is to set up a new processing line customized to your specific new product requirement, the other is to start with converting an existing line. Here’s a closer look at how to do the latter.
Of course, capitalising on the surging popularity of plant-based beverages will be easier for some producers than others. But converting from dairy can be a relatively straightforward process, and we have the expertise and the knowledge to make the transition seamless.
Most plant-based beverages are low acid products and hence the key unit operations for plant-based beverages remain the same as for dairy beverage – viz mixing, UHT, homogenization and aseptic filling. The process requirement on Ultra-high temperature (UHT) treatment, for example, is similar, but the process must be adapted to the different composition of the raw materials.
This scenario offers the fastest time to market and gets your products on the shelves with the lowest possible capital expenditure (CAPEX). On the other hand, this approach relies on specialized ingredients and hence there is limited room to manoeuvre around cost of ingredient or product customization. The key upgrades required for mixing, UHT, homogenization and cleaning are as below:
In most of these cases, the flour needs to go through an enzymatic treatment step. Therefore, a Tetra Pak® Extraction unit minus the grinding unit needs to be added. This involves higher upfront investment but provides an overall lower TCO due to the lower cost of the raw materials. It also provides manufacturers greater flexibility in product design.
The oat, rice or soya need to go through a grinding step. Oat and rice need to go through an enzymatic treatment step, the requirement for which will be similar as described in scenario 2 above. Soya does not need enzymatic treatment. The other processes – enzyme deactivation and fibre separation will be needed as described in Scenario 2. A Tetra Pak® Extraction unit will need to be added. This option has higher capex requirement than Scenario 2, but also has the lowest TCO due to the saving on the raw material cost. The higher the volume for plant-based beverages the manufacturer produces, the more attractive this option becomes. This option also opens opportunities for product and process customization even further than scenario 2. For this set up, over and above scenario 1 and 2 requirement: