In the U.K., Brakes is a household name, the company’s delivery trucks can be seen everywhere. As a caterer supplier with a range of more than 15,000 products and sales exceeding US$3 billion annually, Brakes is a key driver in the U.K. food market.
One of Brakes’ many
specialty divisions, Creative Foods Ltd., makes prepared frozen meals,
sauces, soups and desserts for the U.K.’s foodservice and catering
market. This includes restaurants, pubs, hotels, schools, hospitals,
automotive service stations and travel and leisure facilities. It
provides its foods in a variety of formats for caterers to cover
different options, like individual- and multi-portion meals, in-pouch
and foil-tray varieties. The company also produces a range of
individual sauce pouches for serving with meat, fish, pasta or
vegetables. Quick and easy to use, caterers re-heat, pour and serve.
of Creative Foods’ products are frozen immediately after production,
the freezing process acts as a natural preservative, allowing the
company to increase the amount of fresh ingredients in its products.
of the company’s entrees include cooked pasta, a culinary trend that is
gaining momentum in the U.K. Recently, the company made the move to
upgrade its process line for cooking pasta. It was looking for
equipment that was diverse enough to handle all types and shapes of
pasta - particularly long pastas such as fettuccine, linguine,
tagliatelle and spaghetti. These long pastas typically are difficult to
process because they tend to stick together, damaging the product
quality and increasing waste.
This is a common problem for
several U.K. processors cooking long pastas because most food
manufacturing facilities use the batch system for cooking, quenching
Using the batch system involves a basket of
pasta being dropped into a tank of hot water where it stays until it is
cooked. The basket then is lifted out and the cooked pasta is put into
another tank with cold water where it is quenched to take the heat out
of it - but the temperature reduction in this tank does not reach the
desired chilled temperature for the pasta. So, the pasta is then put
into a third tank of chilled water which brings the pasta down to below
41 degrees F, the desired range.
“We do quite a wide range of
products incorporating different pastas,” says Howard Batey, factory
general manager at Creative Foods. “Ninety percent of the time we are
running pasta. The remaining 10 percent is vegetables, like carrots and
potatoes, and a small amount of rice.
“An increasing part of
our business is in the long pastas like spaghetti, linguine and
tagliatelle,” continues Batey. “We could not find a system that could
adequately cook and cool these pastas at the volumes we were processing
without it sticking together. So, we resorted to buying-in our long
pasta, precooked and chilled.
“We were cooking our shaped
pasta in steam-jacketed vessels,” Batey explains. “We were aware that
this method did not give us as much control in terms of timing of the
cooking and cooling because it was being done manually.
our batch cooking and cooling had limitations on how much pasta we
could process at any one time,” says Batey. “We were struggling to keep
up with our production demands, trying to keep all of our lines fed
with cooked pasta.
“We were looking for equipment that could
not only cook, but that could also cool, so we could maintain better
control over the entire process,” Batey continues. “We needed very fast
cooling, so we could get more consistent product quality. We could not
find any equipment that could cook the long pastas without the strands
sticking together. That was the single biggest factor we were looking
at resolving with automation.”
The pasta cooking/cooling
solution that Creative Foods eventually selected is called Clean-Flow,
developed by Lyco Manufacturing, Columbus, Wis. The system utilizes a
rotary drum that provides water injection for agitation to keep the
product in uniform suspension while moving through the unit.
Clean-Flow design incorporates an accurately made screw that is
encapsulated by a stationary wedge-wire screen. The tolerance between
the screw and the screen is less than a grain of rice. The water
agitation injected through the screen keeps the product off the floor
of the screen, where it is maintained in total suspension. Damage to
fragile product is a fraction of one percent, even less than in a
conventional rotary drum set-up.
Clean-up time is dramatically
reduced in the Clean-Flow design because the screw is totally exposed
for cleaning. During clean-up, the screen is released from its fixed
position, and is continually rotated 360 degrees around the screw,
alternately exposing the interior and exterior of the screen to
clean-in-place manifolds located in the cover of the machine. The screw
can be rotated at the same time as the screen, again exposing all
surfaces to the cleansing water sprays. Clean-up times are reduced as
much as 75 percent compared to conventional rotary drum blanchers.
significantly has minimized the cleaning changeover time on short runs
to as low as 20 minutes. This allows for an increased number of
changeovers per shift, giving maximum flexibility and efficiency to
Having a truly continuous process is
something that is a somewhat new in the U.K. The flexibility of running
multiple products throughout the production day at different
temperatures and at different retention times is a unique feature to
Consistent process parameters for
temperatures and recipes automatically controlling the pasta cooking
and cooling hour after hour has completely out-performed the batch
method Creative Foods formerly used.
Food processors are
leaning toward shorter runs and wider product selections with
increasing concern about quick change-over, faster clean-up and
turn-around times. On a standard commercial cooker/cooler rotary drum,
it would typically take two hours to complete the cleaning for a line
transition. That makes it impractical to execute more than one
transition per eight-hour shift. Creative Foods’ cooking and cooling
line meets the needs of quick change-over by speeding up the sanitation
process, which provides the flexibility to run a variety of different
products daily on the same line.
“The attraction to
Clean-Flow, for us, was the flexibility,” Batey says. “The internal
parts can be cleaned much more easily, which means changing between
different products within the same day could be done more quickly. Our
plans were to process relatively short runs of different types of
product. This meant putting through different shapes and types of
pastas, and even completely different products within the same day,
such as switching from processing vegetables to pasta.
quality of our pasta products has improved dramatically - in part
because we now have absolutely consistent cooking times, and are not
relying on manual intervention - and also because the cooling cycle is
now immediate,” explains Batey. “We have almost totally eliminated
product damage, and we are running our long pasta through the system as
well, no longer buying it out. The line is much gentler on the handling
of the pasta, particularly with the more delicate varieties. We are
processing approximately 2,640 pounds of pasta per hour through the
Clean-Flow line, and some days we run the line for 16 hours
continuously. It is running very smoothly.”
In the U.S. alone,
the frozen entree market is a $6 billion dollar a year industry, with
the average American cooking and eating a frozen meal about six times
each month. New and healthier frozen food products, touting the
addition of whole grains, the removal of trans-fats and the use of
organic ingredients, are continuing to keep consumers interested.
Complementing this is the growing trend in ethnic frozen entrée
Internationally, the desire among consumers for
convenience and wholesome, home-cooked meals, especially with families,
is at an all-time high and shows no signs of waning. The U.K. is no
exception here, proving to be a leading market for ready meals, both
chilled and frozen. Smart food manufacturers, such as Brake Brothers,
quickly are realizing that the switch to more efficient automated
systems for processing these entrees is critical to capturing and
maintaining market share in this category.
For more information, contact Lyco Manufacturing; Phone: (920) 623-4152; Web site: www.lycomfg.com .
Streamlining pasta cooking and cooling
February 26, 2008