The growth in the vegan market has been pronounced in recent years but particularly since lockdown. The Guardian estimates the global demand for non-meat, non-dairy foodstuffs will top $24 billion by 2026, coupled with a growth in demand for vegan cosmetics to reach nearly $21 billion in the same timescale.
In the UK, a recent poll by BBC Good Food suggested the trend was most marked amongst the youngest consumers, with nearly one in five of those surveyed claiming to be vegan or vegetarian.
While the earlier trend towards vegetarianism may have worked to the benefit of dairy producers, veganism has left many in the sector concerned for the health of their market. For some the answer lies in branching out into plant-based alternatives, for others it has meant looking further afield to replicate its traditional market.
Outside Western Europe the picture is brighter, suggests pumps specialist Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group in its applications guide How to improve production yield in the dairy industry.
“This is not about complete processing line reconfigurations, but simple, modest investments that offer significant returns over a short payback period
Steffen Knoedler, senior business development manager, WMFTG
The Middle Eastern and Asia-Pacific regions, say the report’s authors, are predicted to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for dairy until 2025 of 6% and 3% respectively, while the Asia-Pacific cheese market is expected to manage 7% CAGR in the eight-year period to 2026.
Yet, those seeking to exploit this will be entering a highly- competitive arena, in which advances in production yield will be paramount. Where cheese production is concerned, yield and recovery of its milk constituents are paramount in order to boost efficiencies and improve profit margins. A particular focus for improvement is the issue of cheese ‘fines’ – small amounts of curd containing casein and fat that may be lost in whey. Morrison (1997) estimates in Cheese Manufacture as a Separation and Reaction Process that between 0.4-0.9% of casein is lost in this fashion.
While recovery may be straightforward, to be viable it must also be cost effective, offsetting capital cost with clear profit improvement.
However, insisted WMFTG senior business development manager Steffen Knoedler when his company’s report was unveiled last year: “this is not about complete processing line reconfigurations, but simple, modest investments that offer significant returns over a short payback period.”
A better whey
Not surprisingly, perhaps, this involves the company’s MasoSine Certa sinusoidal pumps – products Watson-Marlow maintains that have delivered for a succession of European cheese and other dairy manufacturers.
In addition to substantially lower energy consumption, up to 50% lower than conventional pumps used in viscous fluid handling, the rotor offers low shear and pulsation with high suction and easy maintenance.
In the case of one Scandinavian producer with a 70,000 litre/hour throughput of curd and whey, replacing a lobe pump resulted in cheese fines reduction of 900g per tonne of cheese, offering a total additional yield of 63 tonnes of cheese annually and a profit increase of €76,000 per year, says WMFTG.
Similarly, Certa offers better whey/moisture retention than centrifugal pumps as well as better reduction of fat content in whey, says the company. For a plant producing 50,000 tonnes of cheese annually, the savings from fines, moisture and fat could top €165,000 in a year and produce a return on pumps investment in just eight months, insists Watson-Marlow.
Producers of other dairy products such as yoghurt, milk-based drinks and quark seeking to boost protein content will be equally concerned to achieve more efficient extraction from whey and skimmed milk content.
Close interrogation of processes with the benefit of enhanced sensor capacity is playing an increasingly important function here.
Sensing and instrumentation specialists Baumer has helped Homann, part of the Müller Group, to maximise process optimisation.
Proteins for food fortification must be filtered step-by-step in order to optimise the process but this may be dependent upon ensuring the condition of the filter, with the use of calorimetric flow sensors.
Cross flow filtration technology has been the preferred option for the dairy industry, with the media pumped through until the remaining concentrate reaches the desired dry mass, says Baumer.
Temperature and pressure measurement indicate effectiveness of the filtration pumps and the overall process, while the pressure differential of the measured values before and after filtration demonstrates the effectiveness of the filter and highlights clogging issues.
A better and more direct option, advises Baumer, is to measure the flow rate of the medium: if the flow rate is too low, the filter clogs up faster and needs to be cleaned or replaced. When module batteries are connected in parallel, shifts and variations in flow patterns are a problem. If the flow rate is too high, the permissible pressure loss per module is exceeded and the modules telescope.
Thermal flow sensors, such as Baumer’s FlexFlow instruments measure both temperature and flow rate. Having no moving mechanical parts renders them largely maintenance free and they can monitor flow velocity as well as media temperature. Two measuring functions in one sensor reduces the number of measuring points in closed systems and minimises costs of installation, service and storage.
Stainless steel housing with integrated electronics removes the need for complex wiring, with temperature models resistant to 150°C and clean-in-place/steam-in-place capable. At the Homann CIP installations in Bottrop, Baumer’s new CombiLyz conductivity sensors’ maximum deviation of < 1% offered a dosing solution.
Temperature control employing steam is of course used in many applications within the food sector and specifically in the dairy arena. And here, the efficiency of control valves is crucial, says Bürkert field segment manager, hygienic-food & beverage, Kieran Bennett.
Precise specification is vital to optimise product quality and avoid production inefficiency, so the choice of valve size and type is a decisive factor. “While steam isn’t the only method for temperature control in food and beverage production, it’s used by many producers because it’s a very effective method of conveying heat energy,” he explains.
From mashing and wort boiling at a brewery to pasteurising milk and making cheese, steam is used by food and beverage manufacturers across a wide range of applications, he points out. Combined with a temperature sensor and a controller, a control valve is fundamental to a steam system to regulate the flow.
“Ensuring that the right size control valve is specified is an easy way to make cost savings since a common problem is that excessively large valves are often specified. The larger the valve, the higher its cost, and operating expenses can also increase, requiring greater resources for actuation,” adds Bennett. He cited a recent project when a customer requested a replacement for a 40mm valve for steam control. The required valve was intended to fit 40mm pipework.
“Unlike fluid control, the size requirement of a steam control valve will nearly always be a smaller diameter than its adjoining pipework. Further investigation of their application took in to account the volume of product to be temperature controlled, the available pressure and the timeframe within which they wanted their product to be heated. Data returned from the calculations showed that a maximum valve size of 25mm was required for the customer’s application.”
Ensuring that the right size control valve is specified is an easy way to make cost savings since a common problem is that excessively large valves are often specified
Kieran Bennett, field segment manager, hygienic-food & beverage, Bürkert
Failure to correctly specify valve size can also impact accuracy and performance and in the case of pasteurised milk production, for example, accurate control is essential to ensure the right temperatures are met, Bennett cautions.
“If the valve is too small, it might not be possible to provide the desired flow rate and achieve the required temperature change With an over-sized valve, during heating [the system] is nearly fully open, but to stop increasing the temperature and maintain the level, it has to be nearly fully closed. This way, an over-sized valve is too large to achieve the required precision, and tempera- ture fluctuations result with an oscillating effect as the valve repeatedly attempts to compensate.”
Bennett recommends globe valves for the greatest accuracy with the proviso that when this is not essential, a ball or butterfly valve can be used to save costs. For hygienic applications where it is a requirement for the media to be separated, a diaphragm valve is advised.
While the particular challenges for dairy may not be replicated throughout the food sector, the guiding principles underpinning improvement remain, similarly, to extract maximum value through embracing innovative technology and solutions that are not only process but also cost effective.