Cryogenics is a hot food and beverage direction, thanks to Linde North America LLC. Its cryogenic gases and chilling/freezing equipment provide the best of two worlds: improved food quality and enhanced production output. Dan Harvey describes how the New Jersey-based organization creates cost-effective and safe cold environments.
In today’s highly competitive North American food and beverage industry, processors need to walk a tight wire that stretches between two points: food safety and profit. Heightened consumer awareness compels them to offer hygienic food of the highest quality. At the same time, they must remain focused on their bottom lines to remain competitive and even stay in business.
Linde North America LLC’s food and beverage segment helps these processors maintain their balance as they step across this precariously positioned rope. In particular, the Murray Hill, N.J.-based company, a member of the international Linde Group, has introduced them to advanced cryogenic freezing technology that fosters both production efficiency and optimal food sanitation levels.
A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Linde North America was established in September 2006 when the Linde Group purchased BOC Gases. A leading international global gases and engineering company, the Linde Group focuses on international business expansion through advanced products and services. Headquartered in Munich, Germany, it operates in about 100 countries, employs more than 50,000 people and, in 2008, recorded $15.9 billion in revenue. BOC, which boasts a 120-year history and a presence in more than 30 countries, developed an extensive product range of gases and associated equipment. Both entities possess a strong focus on applying their expertise to the food and beverage industry.
“As such, the acquisition represents a perfectly suited marriage of two international companies,” says Linde North America’s Head of Food and Beverage Mark DiMaggio. “Both have led with design engineering, project management and application technology for freezing, chilling, controlling packaging atmospheres and carbonation of beverages.”
Still, while the companies were similar, they were different. But as the acquisition demonstrates, these differences proved complementary. Traditionally, BOC served North American food processors that placed high value on production capacity within a manufacturing area. “That translates into how much product can be processed then freezed, chilled or packaged within a given amount of floor space,” describes DiMaggio. “BOC was also concerned with efficient use of cryogen, extracting the most available BTUs out of a pound of cryogen, whether it’s nitrogen or carbon dioxide.”
Meanwhile, the Linde Group focused its engineering and design efforts on efficient and effective sanitation. “The company strives to develop the most hygienic units, to mitigate against harborage points of pathogens and bacteria,” continues DiMaggio.
The acquisition combined these different approaches as well as the two company’s leading attributes. “Through the efforts of integration teams, we have combined two freezing and chilling portfolios, merging production efficiency with state-of-the-art controls and sanitation,” DiMaggio relates.
Linde North America’s food and beverage is a leading segment within the bulk gasses divisions, says DiMaggio, adding that the organization has manufacturing plants throughout the United States as well as in Canada and the Caribbean. These atmospheric plants produce nitrogen, argon and oxygen.
Following the 2006 acquisition, Linde North America began introducing the continent to the more advanced cryogenic food and beverage technology that comprises its Cryoline product line (Cryoline MD tunnel freezer, the Cryoline PE freezer, and the Cryoline “Cyrowave” multi-purpose freezer).
The hygienic tunnel freezer, which Linde North America launched in 2008, helps food processors reduce freezing bottlenecks and downtime while substantially decreasing food-safety risk. The easy-to-operate freezer can be used as a stand-alone technology or added to existing operations. According to the company, it was the first cryogenic freezer designed in accordance with U.S. Department of Agriculture and American Meat Institute (AMI) guidelines for sanitary design.
“Now, as far as food safety, Linde North America meets the AMI standards of sanitary design, as well as all of the European hygiene standards,” says DiMaggio.
But the modular unit is not only applicable for meat products (e.g., meat patties and pieces). The tunnel can be used for just about any kind of food, especially fish fillets, whole fish, other kinds of seafood, as well as ready meals and similar convenience foods, fruits and vegetables, and dairy and bakery products. Also, for multi-purpose use, operators can enter up to 30 different recipes for control settings, enabling them to easily switch from one product to another. As the company reports, this makes the Cryoline MD tunnel freezer ideal for niche producers such as smaller, organic manufacturers who may produce multiple products that require line changes.
A highly flexible and efficient tool, the tunnel features adjustable, high-speed internal fans and controllable gas injection and exhaust levels, all of which optimize the application of cryogenic gases for food cooling and freezing. Frequency converters control all motors, thus allowing users to tweak the complete system and optimize refrigerant usage. To ensure food safety, the product’s sloped external and internal surface eliminates liquid collection and facilitates easy draining, cleaning and inspection. As a result, no hidden nooks or crannies exist to harbor food pathogens. Also, the Cryoline MT line incorporates the latest electronic and functional innovations such as remote control applications, which enables remote collection of relevant data and Internet support.
OTHER RECENT INTRODUCTIONS
In May 2009, Linde North America introduced the Cryoline PE freezer. Well suited for processors working in the food service, ready-to-eat meals and consumer markets, the freezer was designed for portion-control shapes of frozen liquid or sauce foods. Specifically, the freezer makes individual quick frozen (IQF) formed shapes of sauces, purees, soups and a variety of other liquid food products.
The freezer proved enormously successful in Europe. Subsequently, the product was tested and implemented by United States food processors, who realized a significant competitive advantage: The freezer produces IQF formed products characterized by uniform size and repeatability. As it enables precise control of portions, it eliminates the need for extra bags in ready-to-eat meals and allows exact measurement of sauce to food products while minimizing waste ratios.
This freezer works by filling cavities in a proprietary conveyer pre-cooled by liquid nitrogen. The conveyer’s extremely low temperature rapidly freezes the liquid into the shape of the cavity, which stabilizes the product before it’s released. As DiMaggio points out, it’s the only available cryogenic freezing technology that makes frozen pellets, discs, cubes, squares or a combination of shapes for a variety of liquid food products.
Linde North America’s most recent introduction is the Cryoline Cryowave multi-purpose freezer. This high-production capacity technology efficiently freezes IQF as well as flat and tray products, including diced poultry. Boasting a versatile and flexible design, the freezer uses either liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide and it deploys a proprietary mechanism to agitate the product as it is conveyed through the freezer. This gives it the ability to crust-freeze products individually – no matter the shape, form or orientation – without compromising product integrity. “Agitation combined with simultaneous cryogen injection fosters rapid cooling of product. This forms an outer crust that seals in moisture,” explains DiMaggio.
This, in turn, heightens product yield and quality. Also, like the Cryoline PE freezer, the Cryowave easily switches from one product to another, so that customers can consolidate their freezing lines and realize a very cost-effective freezing solution.
While these European-designed products service clients in the protein (poultry and red meat), bakery, seafood and the prepared foods industry segments, Linde North America also caters to the beverage side of the sector, particularly carbonated soft drinks. “As we’re a leading provider of industrial gases throughout the world, our premiere beverage program offers clients the highest food quality-grade carbon dioxide,” says DiMaggio, adding that the program’s network ensures customers supply security.
Meanwhile, the Linde Group and Linde North America continue turning up the gas. Expect to see the Cryoline series accentuated with new technological developments and subsequent introductions. New iterations will further advance product quality and safety, cryogen usage efficiency and production rates.