An EU-funded project has developed three prototype ovens that will reduce energy consumption and save time during the baking process.
The ovens produced by the Low Energy Ovens (LEO) project all use innovative infrared technology that provides an overall energy reduction during the baking process of between 20 - 40 % and a gain in time of up to 70 %.
The infrared technology developed by the project was first discovered to be suitable for baking purposes in the FP6 EU-FRESHBAKE project.
The LEO project was formed to further expand on this discovery, with the development of the prototype ovens and a subsequent assessment of their suitability for commercialisation being amongst the project's key aims.
During the project's final meeting that took place in December 2015, the LEO consortium partners agreed that their final results did indeed give a powerful indication that the infrared technology has strong market potential and could transform the European baking industry.
The project has already prepared a detailed business plan for the commercialisation of the technology, working in close collaboration with all actors within the baking value chain.
The three LEO prototypes (a batch-deck oven, a batch ventilated oven, and a conveyor oven) were constructed and tested not only in a laboratory setting but also in two professional bakeries in France and Germany. This was to ensure that they would be attractive for a wide target group, including both craft and bake-off bakeries.
Small to mediums sized companies (SMEs) represent an important share of European bake-off companies, around 40 %, and most of these bakeries use medium-scale ovens, similar to the LEO conveyor oven prototype.
The batch oven prototypes were constructed to specifically target small traditional craft bakers, which represent the bulk of the European baking industry (over 60 % of the total market) and are the principal source of supply for fresh bread in Europe.
To guarantee the ovens' ability to save both time and energy, specialists conducted an in-depth environmental, social and economic life-cycle assessment in line with the International Reference Life Cycle Data System.
They also performed a relevant sensory analysis and consumer acceptance study. A bakery market study was also prepared and has since become a reference document for the bakery and oven manufacturing sectors.
Although the project officially finished at the end of 2015, LEO partners will continue their collaboration to perform new tests on the prototypes and improve the ovens before manufacturing begins and they are formally introduced to the market.
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For more information please see the LEO project website: leo-fp7.eu/index.php/en/