In the foodservice industry, superior food quality is critical. Retailer codes of practice driven by consumer preferences are constantly changing. That’s why Loma Systems, Carol Stream, Ill., is helping St. Clair Foods expand their production lines and integrate new processing technologies to help them stay one step ahead of customer demands and consumer trends.
St. Clair Foods is one of the premier foodservice providers for salads and entrées in the United States. Managed out of Memphis, Tenn., since 1976, the company offers hundreds of different products from their signature salad dressings to chilled salads, dips, frozen entrées and side dishes. With “quality as the main ingredient,” according to Brian Edmonds, vice president, it’s no wonder the company is quickly expanding their distribution channels. Consumers can find the St. Clair brand in restaurants nationwide, in popular retail stores and even on television. While the St. Clair brand is synonymous with quality, private label and custom-formulated products are becoming a rapidly growing segment of the business. No matter how the St. Clair brand reaches your table, you can count on their award-winning delectable tastes.
St. Clair Foods has been a loyal Loma Systems customer for 20 years, a relationship that started based on a referral from a fellow foodservice colleague. So, when St. Clair Foods approached Dave St. John, regional sales manager for Loma Systems, about proactively providing a second line of defense to ensure consistent quality and preserve food safety standards, he immediately paid a visit to the plant.
“Industry food safety regulations are very strict, but having worked with St. Clair Foods for many years, I know they hold their products to even higher standards,” says St. John. “With a Loma Systems IQ2 harsh-liner metal detector already on each of their six production lines, we needed to implement a system that would complement their existing technology.”
Loma Systems immediately began the task of mapping out St. Clair Foods’ operations from receiving raw product, filling and packaging for distribution. Like many food processing facilities, St. Clair Foods was using the Loma Systems metal detectors as offline inspection systems, running large, finished 12- to 30-pound containers of product at the final stage of production.
“We called in Loma Systems because their products operate extremely well in our environment,” says Dennis Spence, plant manager for St. Clair Foods. “We operate our production areas at very cold temperatures, and because our products are produced in strict accordance with HACCP guidelines, we subject our systems to harsh, wet washdowns.”
For the past 10 years, St. Clair Foods has scored 95% or higher on external industry sanitation audits and they aren’t about to stop that trend.
“We’ve put our Loma Systems’ IQ2 metal detectors through some tough conditions and they still work like they are new. They are definitely rugged systems,” continues Spence.
After learning more about St. Clair Foods’ production process and environment conditions, Loma Systems immediately recognized that x-ray inspection was the right technology to help the company adhere to their own strict standards for product quality. Loma Systems worked with St. Clair Foods to integrate two X4 PipeLine x-ray inspection systems, one on each of their highest volume production lines. It was decided the two X4 PipeLine systems would be placed in-line to add an extra layer of protection at the beginning stage of production to control the quality of raw product.
The two high-volume production lines run a continuous flow of product at high flow rates. Blue cheese dressing, chunky salsa and potato salad are run between 15,000 and 30,000 pounds per hour. The organic nature of these products is not consistent, so Loma Systems recommended a 3-inch pipe width to improve product flow rates and prevent product blockage.
“We run multiple products on each line, so it was important to find a x-ray inspection system with solid product memory,” says Spence.
The X4 PipeLine systems store up to 10,000 unique product profiles, and will auto-calibrate, ready for production within 30 seconds. The X4 PipeLine system also detects metallic and non-metallic contaminants such as glass, stone, calcified bone, high-density plastics, flavor clumps and rubber. Loma Systems’ x-ray technology also measures density, counts components, identifies missing or broken products, monitors fill levels and checks for damaged or malformed packaging.
“In the food processing industry, you are always at risk. Anything can happen at any time. Our goal is to mitigate that risk, and we feel the combination of metal detection and x-ray technologies will play a huge role in providing that extra level of protection for our customers,” says Edmonds.
“I recommend that any food processing facility take a multi-level approach to protecting their distributors, retailers, customers and the reputation of their brand,” he adds. “Since integrating the X4 PipeLine x-ray inspection systems, we have been able to share our results and best practices with our suppliers, and help them improve their processes as well. As a result, the quality of raw product we receive has significantly improved.”
St. Clair Foods can now capture product images using Loma Systems’ proprietary image processing and 3D modeling technology with speed and reliability. This data capture system significantly reduces the number of contaminant instances found during the final stages of production—before product reaches the consumer. This is crucial in protecting the integrity of the St. Clair brand.
As part of the package, Loma Systems included start-up and one week of onsite training for operators and users.
“One of the key reasons our implementation went smoothly was the start-up and on-site training,” says Spence. “We are able to use our x-ray systems without a special operator. Our own team can operate them using the icon-driven control panel.”
“The Loma Systems service team is very accessible,” he adds. “If you have a question, they are just a phone call away.”
To learn more about Loma Systems metal detection, checkweighing or x-ray inspection systems, call 800-872-LOMA.