New research set to revolutionise ready meals
A collaborative research project involving major food sector businesses and the University of Lincoln, UK, aims to dramatically improve the quality and healthiness of ready meals, while also reducing current food waste levels and increasing the speed of production.
By combining two food manufacturing processes, an innovative system will be developed that will greatly enhance food production within the fast growing markets for ready meals, soups and other sauce-based food products.
Through rapid cooking (using Steam Infusion Vaction technology) and rapid cooling (using liquid nitrogen) the system developed will enable just-in-time production and target areas where there are major opportunities for improvement in food manufacturing including nutritional values, productivity and waste.
Funded by the UK's innovation agency Innovate UK, the two-year Advanced Cooking and Cooling Technology (ACCT) project is led by food engineering specialist Olympus Automation Ltd Group (OAL) and involves the University of Lincoln's National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM), global leader in cryogenic freezing and chilling technologies for food production BOC Ltd, and leading UK frozen ready meal manufacturer Iceland Manufacturing Ltd.
The project aims to study the effects of the rapid cooling technology on sauces, soups and their associated vegetable, fruit and meat ingredients. Via this work a flexible and efficient sauce production system will be created, integrating the new rapid cooking and cooling technologies.
Mark Swainson, Lead for Food Manufacturing Research & Higher Education at the University of Lincoln's National Centre for Food Manufacturing, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be progressing such an important research project with key industry partners, through which we aim to optimise performance and product quality across the food manufacturing sector".
"The knowledge gained from our scientific research into the process technologies and ingredient behaviour will be used to maximise nutritional and health values, as well as enhance product quality and shelf life. We also hope to minimise waste by developing a fully flexible process that reduces production, cleaning and changeover times. This will help the industry to meet the increasingly variable supply requirements of the Retail and Food Service sectors."
Cedric Hanson, BOC's Business Development Manager, Application Technology, commented: "BOC is delighted to be a partner in this project. Our cryogenic rapid cooler is the latest in a line of innovations that BOC is introducing into the UK and - together with our project partners - we look forward to integrating the cooler with OAL's rapid steam infusion to produce a commercial, just-in-time production system".
A major aim of the ACCT partners is that the project will result in the development of a new generation of products and processes to unlock exciting new food opportunities not possible utilising current food process technologies.