Baumer Technologies India Pvt. Ltd offers a broad range of products and services in the field of process control instrumentation. Anil Vijayvargia, product marketing manager, Baumer Technologies India Pvt. Ltd, in an email interaction with Anurag More, talks about the challenges and opportunities about the processing machinery and equipment for food industry. Excerpts:
What is the current industry scenario in processing machinery and equipment for food industry? How do you see the industry going ahead?
With the recent advancement in dairy equipment, we are witnessing continuous / mechanised production lines for products such as rasagolla, gulab-jamun, khoa, peda, ghee, shrikhand, and so on and packaging machinery for packing these products hygienically to increase shelf life and improve product quality.
If we refer in the past one decade this industry has come up with new opportunities for food processing machinery manufacturers includes sophisticated equipment like electronic milk tester, plate heat exchanger, homogeniser, small capacity packing machine, instruments and controls.
Where does India stand in the processing machinery and equipment for food industry?
The food processing machinery manufacturer needs to improve upon the overall quality of the machinery, in terms of selection of the material, design of the machinery, fabrication method and surface finishes.
For improving the quality of processed food, the industry has started using new technology & automation - CIP (Cleaning in Place) system for cleaning of dairy plants, and packing machines for cheese, butter, ice cream, milk powder and indigenous dairy products. They are giving importance to hygiene.
What are the new innovations, research and development happening in the industry?
Food processing adds value to the agricultural produce starting at the post-harvest level. It includes even primary processing like grading, sorting, cutting, seeding, shelling packaging etc.
Many of the emerging non-thermal processing technologies seem to have even greater potential when combined with conventional thermal processes or other treatments. Well chosen combinations allow for the same reduction of pathogenic bacteria with lower doses of the individual processes applied, and hence at lower cost and with better retention of quality.
Osmo air-dried fruits are based on a novel approach towards dehydration. Slices of various fruits like beer, pineapple, jackfruit, mango, etc. are processed in two stages. In the first phase most of the water is removed using sugar syrup as an osmotic agent. In the second phase air drying is done where the moisture content is further reduced to about 15%. The osmo-air dehydrated product is near to the fresh fruit in terms of colour, flavour and texture. The osmo-air dehydrated product can be used in ready-to-eat type foods, ice cream, fruit salad, kheer, cakes and bakery products. Such osmo-air dried fruit- based units can be set up in areas near fruit orchards to the benefit of people. The process is simple and involves operations like selection of fruits, cleaning, washing, peeling, curing and slicing and dicing. To remove water by osmosis the prepared fruit slices are steeped in sugar solution. The slices are then drained, dried in a hot air drier and finally packed in flexible pouches.
Dehydration is one of the methods to preserve seasonal and perishable vegetable and make them available throughout the year in hygienic conditions at reasonable or low cost. Such dehydrated vegetables are easy to transport and cater to the needs of large catering establishments. The advantage of such dehydrated vegetables can be used in various preparations at any season of the year. Traditional sun drying is time consuming, less hygienic and climate dependent.
What are the challenges and opportunities for the industry?
India is the second-largest food producer in the world after China. It's estimated that food processing industry in India will double up over the next decade. Also, huge investment opportunities exist in the food processing technology, and equipments industry, particularly in the areas of dairy & food processing, canning, packaging, thermo processing, frozen food or refrigeration, and specialty processing.
The Indian food processing sector is among the largest sectors in terms of production, consumption, export and growth prospects. Also, the Government of India has made the commercialisation of the country's food processing sector, So, there's a vast scope for the companies willing to invest in the food processing & packaging sector - a sector that's growing 15%-20% annually. Increased literacy rate, change in lifestyle, and mass media promotion are amongst the major contributors to the growing demand of processed food in the country.
One of the major challenges before the food processing industry in India, currently, is the lack of proper infrastructure. Only less than 10 per cent of agricultural produce is estimated to be preserved for processing in India, currently, due to the lack of storage facilities. While in the US, more than 50 per cent of agricultural produce is processed at present.
According to many industry experts, the Indian food processing industry is a sleeping giant and government initiatives will definitely encourage rapid growth in this sector
What are the new trends in the industry?
Rapid transformation in the lifestyle of Indians, particularly, those living in urban India, has resulted in dramatic increase in the demand for processed food. The main reason why processed food is luring the urban Indians is the convenience that it offers to cooking, as they don’t need to spend hours in kitchen to get that appetising food. Growth in working women’s population and prevalence of nuclear families with double income are other trends causing this change in the lifestyle of Indians.
Also, increase in overseas travel and the presence of foreign media in the country has resulted in more Indians opting for processed food.
These trends have largely impacted the Indian food processing sector, as there’s been a jump in the demand for processed, ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food. These trends entail significant growth potential for the food processing industry in the future.
What are the factors driving growth for the industry in India?
Consumers have come to expect their food to be safe, nutritious, tasty and convenient; and on the whole the food industry does an excellent job of delivering products which fulfil these criteria. However, the dairy and food industries are being increasingly challenged with additional demands for “fresh,’ ’natural,’ less processed products. This has stepped up development of novel processes which are less damaging to the foods.
Innovative techniques such as microwave heating and infra-red heating are establishing as new methods, but now non-thermal methods such as high pressure processing (HPP), pulsed electric field processing (PEF) and the use of power ultrasound are being used.
What are the prospects for the industry?
It is clear that the future is going to be an exciting one for the food industry. The potential to develop more innovative products that are enjoyable to eat, convenient to use, and which satisfy consumers’ desire for more natural foods wil