Food producers are launching new products based on milk, whey, and plants at a high pace to match consumer trends. What is most optimal: testing at Tetra Pak or renting a pilot plant?
The key to success with product development is knowledge about the pre-treatment of the raw materials and about how the individual components of the raw material are separated with the greatest possible precision to be combined into new foods. Membrane filtration plays the main role in these processes.
To match the innovation pace of food producers, Tetra Pak Filtration Solutions has established a new product development centre in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2021, and at the same time increased its fleet of pilot plants that are rented to customers.
"The advantage of testing new solutions and products in our product development centre is that the food producer does not have to dedicate a lot of resources to the task," says Hanne Sørensen, Product Manager, Food and Beverage based Applications, PhD, who is leading several development projects within plant-based filtration solutions.
A test typically requires one month of preparation, while the trials run intensively over a week. Tetra Pak Filtration Solutions designs the test together with the food producer, handles the raw materials, performs the trials, and delivers the finished solution.
“Customers can choose how much they want to be involved in the trials. Either by being present in the product development centre and work with our experienced food technologists and engineers to develop the new products and adapt the production processes. Or they can participate virtually. Then, our employees run the trials themselves and send samples and data to the customer,” she says.
Examples of tests are fractionation of milk and plant proteins, removal of bacteria, concentration of dry matter, recovery and concentration of proteins, and removal of minerals.
Through Tetra Pak's international setup of product development centres and customer innovation centres, we help our customers with the entire process behind new product launches.
“In the product development centres, focus is on the technical solutions, while in the six customer innovation centres, which are located in Europe, the USA, and Asia, we develop the product concept; from idea to branding and launch, so that the product stands out on the shelves,” she says.
The setup in the product development centre is adapted to each individual test. Having completed the test, Tetra Pak can dimension an industrial membrane filtration system.
“The time and resources that the customer saves in-house by letting us do the work is usually not a visible expense in the accounts. The only "disadvantage" for the customer by using our test centre is that money must be put on the table. The advantage is that we have many years of experience gathered in one place in running many different applications, just as we continuously test which membranes are best suited for which applications,” explains Hanne Sørensen.
Tetra Pak Filtration Solutions offers several types of easy-to-use pilot plants that food producers can use at their own premises. Including spiral wound membrane pilot plants, ceramic membrane pilot plants, and plate and frame pilot plants for a wide range of dairy or plant-based applications.
"Pilot plants are also a really good solution that allows customers to innovate and develop new products that they can bring to market and test changed process parameters," she says.
Tetra Pak ships the pilot plant to the location and delivers drawings of the system. If the company so wishes, Tetra Pak offers start-up of the pilot plant as well as training in using it. The food producer can then perform trials on its own raw materials with its own staff, and with its own packaging.
The results from the test can be converted to production on an industrial scale.