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Foreign elements are not accepted in our products

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-07-09  Views: 20
Core Tip: Foreign material can end up in products in all kinds of ways.
Foreign material can end up in products in all kinds of ways. Foreign materials are also challenging in the production process of frozen vegetables. It could concern glass or plastic ending up in the products unnoticed. An optical sorting machine prevents foreign objects in packaging from leaving the factory. Hein Dick of Begro says the packagings of frozen products are becoming smaller, and that a shift can also be seen in packaging material.

Begro is part of a group of three frozen food manufacturers in Belgium. The company was taken over by Dicogel in 2001. In 2016, the group expanded even more by acquiring Westfro. The biggest player on the market was thus created. The three Belgian companies work as one company. The integration process started with the last takeover is still in effect. “It’s becoming one unit more and more,” Hein says. Annually, the group markets 200,000 tonnes of frozen vegetables.

Smaller packaging
With a clientele spread throughout Europe and across many sectors, the company has a clear view of developments on the market. “We’ve noticed a diversification in packaging and smaller packaging,” Hein says of one trend. The diversification of packaging consists of a wider supply of packaging material. Previously, frozen vegetables were mostly packed in mono-PE, but the market is now moving more and more towards packaging of polyprop and laminate film, aluminium PE. “Aluminium PE is a more expensive film for retail,” Hein explains.

For industry and food service, packaging of 2.5 and 10 kilos continue to be most important, but within the retail market, packaging is becoming increasingly smaller. Portions of 250 to 350 grammes are becoming more common. “British retail chooses smaller packaging in particular,” Hein says. “Other countries are following, but at a slower pace.” With these smaller packaging, frozen vegetables are used as ingredient of a dish or as portion packaging more often. The smaller packagings are packed in a larger one. “That’s the case with, for instance, steam packaging, these are one-person dishes.”

The well-known classic products, mono-vegetables and vegetable mixes, are the principal part of Begro’s assortment. The company follows other developments on the market, such as grilled vegetables and exotic products, although they aren’t working on these themselves yet. “When opportunities present themselves, we’ll go for it.”

Sales market for frozen vegetables
“The market is growing, but only slightly,” Hein says. “Our sector isn’t the only one to supply vegetables, there’s also the growing fourth range besides the conventional fresh vegetables and their strong distribution model. However, we have to determine frozen has a better reputation in neighbouring countries such as France, Germany and the UK. Media could play a part in this, our trade association is already dedicated to this.”

The most important sales markets can therefore be found in other European countries. Between five and ten per cent of production is sold in Belgium, where retail in particular is a major buyer. Export is sent to neighbouring countries the UK, France and Germany, but also to Southern Europe, Spain and Italy.

While the largest volumes are mostly sold outside of the Benelux, Flanders is the origin of most of the materials. “The more intensive vegetable productions, such as cauliflower, courgette, leek, sprouts and celeriac, all come from permanent growers from Flanders,” Hein explains. Carrot and beans are also grown in Wallonia. Northern France and Wallonia are the largest production area for peas. “Vegetables now come from further away more than in the past.”

Sorting foreign material
Begro invested in six new sorting machines. The free fall sorters are used at the end of the production line, near the packaging in freezers. These optical sorters, called Blizzard, are used to sort out foreign material. “These machines are mostly used for foreign objects, but the systems have continued developing so they can now also detect foreign vegetable objects,” Hein explains. As an example, he mentions stems on beans or black spots on products. “Foreign elements in our products are no longer accepted by our customers.” The costs of these foreign elements are calculated into the prices for producers, so it’s necessary to be certain the products are good upon leaving the factory.

The frozen producer tested three different sorters, but chose Tomra’s machine. “We made samples with foreign objects in the vegetables and had these sorted by the machines. Blizzard had the best results.” The software that makes optical sorting possible is adapted when the situation requires this. Begro mentions new defects to Tomra, who will then work on a new part of the sorting software. “For example, a long stem on cauliflower is difficult to detect,” Hein exemplifies. “We’re now working on this so it can be sorted out.”

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