Plant-based ingredients can vary in their levels of carbohydrate, fat, protein, and other essential components, which can lead to greater variance in product quality. For example, a slurry with a variable fat or total solids (TS) content challenges you to adapt the blend to meet fat or TS declarations.
Batch blending requires operators to spend a lot of time checking quality parameters. They have to sample the batch frequently, walk the sample to the quality lab to measure it, and if the measurements are not within recipe limits, they have to recalculate how much ingredient to add, then wait for a homogenous blend in order to take another sample. All this takes time and leaves the process open to operator error. This is one of the reasons a batch process is often not as accurate (close to the target level) or precise (consistent) as a metered inline process.
But with inline blending, sensing and feeding controls provide automatic adjustments to meet the quality parameters of the recipe, boosting both accuracy and precision. Automated recipe control minimizes operator error because it reduces the number of operator decisions. The improved recipe control translates into more consistent product quality – and huge savings.
Inline blending helps cut wastage of premium or hard-to-handle ingredients. For example, the base ingredients can be blended first, and then the expensive ingredients can be fed and metered into the main line to match quality parameters. High precision, increased yield and our guarantees mean more finished product can be produced from the same volume of raw ingredients. Typically, we see a 1% increase in yield with inline blending.
Clever coordination between the blender and UHT system means we can eliminate waste on start-up, and production can be run until the premium ingredient is finished. Other ingredients can be pushed back into their supply tanks. No mix phase equals minimal waste.
Moreover, inline blending minimizes the volume of product that is likely to degrade. The end result? Higher product yield and less giveaway of expensive ingredients.
Inline blending requires fewer tanks to produce the same amount of product per day, and since they are smaller, they have smaller footprints and can be housed in smaller buildings. This enables starting up with a lower investment cost.
“Inline blending streamlines production for plant-based beverages,” says Helen Sellar, Product Manager for Liquid Foods at Tetra Pak Processing Systems. “In fact, we believe so strongly in the operational efficiency results we have seen, that we offer performance guarantees for total solids in our inline blending solutions.”
In beverage production, blending of liquid ingredients can be done in a batch tank, much as it has been done for decades. And this is fine for small batches up to 5,000 litres. But modern inline blending enables a larger-scale continuous process, permitting much more efficient and consistent production.
Inline or continuous blending combines several different liquid streams into a single large stream. This represents a paradigm shift over batch blending because it requires fewer and smaller tanks. Both the ingredients and the resulting blended product can also be measured more precisely and efficiently with automated instrumentation.