Paul Morican, sales team manager (UK and Ireland) of Handtmann talked to Food Management Today about the challenges of producing alternative protein products.

  • Could you run through the range of Handtmann machinery that is compatible with plant-based product?

Everything is usually compatible. Many if not most of the plant based products available at the minute are imitations of meat product, so all machinery that is used to extrude, to shape, to form or to cut meat can be used in meat-free manufacturing. So, almost all of our machinery base is transferable to meat free; and that starts with our sausage production equipment, which is probably where meat-free actually focussed in the first place.

Handtmann has always been a global leader in high speed sausage processing and manufacturing, so, all of our core equipment for sausage making is transferable to plant-based.

We were also the innovators of alginate coated sausage production as an alternative to collagen or natural skin. Alginate is a seaweed based and, co-incidentally it is also cheaper to operate.

Moving on to formed products such as meat free burgers or balls, our range of vacuum filling machines interface with our range of forming machines, which can be single or multi lane, to produce at a variety of speeds, depending upon customer requirements.

  • What are the latest advancements in plant based processing?

We should start at the process end of our equipment range. Our Inotec Variomix mixer has unique and highly efficient mixing technology via independently driven interacting spirals and this really speeds up the process time. Historically, mixing of ingredients would be carried out in a tumble style mixer for example and over a much longer time, but we now have something very different to offer the market and we are observing a great deal of interest and investment.

Some of our equipment is what we call co-extrusion, where we extrude one product around another in a single process. And we’re now even getting to the point of triple extrusion, where we’ve got three products extruded together.

Vario Mixer IKVM500VAC.
  • When it comes to the overall costs of running these machines day-to-day, are there savings to be made by choosing a particular set up?

There are certainly savings to be made on running costs. As far as possible, we are driving down the costs of running. Within the Handtmann Group, ongoing development of specialist steel is leading to more wear resistant working parts such that, where a customer might have changed a set of contact parts once per year, historically, we’re now looking at a replacement requirement at six or seven years.

So, yes, the machines are constantly being designed and built to reduce running costs, electricity usage, maintenance and energy usage.

  • Could you tell me a bit more about the experts and consultants that you are working with to help customers develop plant based products?

In the past, when discussing equipment with potential customers, we may well have focussed on the capabilities of the machinery and the customer would develop the product.  Over the past 2-3 years we have been far more involved in providing guidance in the product development stage as customers have diversified and this product guidance could be aimed at improving texture, colour, taste etc.  In order to offer a full service, we felt we needed to offer more and to consider the marriage of the product with the equipment.

Our full service is designed to help make great products and minimise risk, and enhance payback times.

For more information go to www.handtmann.co.uk or phone 01582 244440.