Tastier than a tart: growing worldwide demand for foodstuffs promises continuous growth for the food industry. Valve makers are set to profit, yet they have to fulfill higher requirements.
The food industry will have to meet great challenges, as the world population is set to grow from currently 7.1 billion people to around 9.1 billion people in the year 2050. In order to keep step with growth in emerging markets, the production output of foodstuff nearly has to double, according to the UN's Food & Agriculture Organisation.
Focus on Asia and Latin America
One thing is for certain: due to growing demand for foodstuffs, the food industry will remain a dependable partner with growth potential for the valve sector. “New open markets in Asia and Latin America are speeding up the effect“, states Dietmar Pallasch, a product manager at industrial valve maker Mankenberg.
Numerous valve makers are therefore understandably focussing on these markets outside of the EU. Milk products are one example: by 2016, the Asian-Pacific region is expected to grow 24 per cent, whereas the Middle Eastern/ Asian markets are set to grow 18.1 per cent, according to the German Engineering Federation VDMA's Euromonitor International. Forecasts for the beer market are also good: the Asian-Pacific region is expected to grow 23.4 per cent by 2016, the Latin American market by 22.1 per cent and the Middle Eastern/ African markets by 26.7 per cent.
These lucrative markets naturally are highly competitive. “In China, there are over 1000 small, local makers, that can produce a lot cheaper and can deliver very quickly“, says Jing Yuan-Töpperwien, Regional Sales Asia Mankenberg. Yet this doesn't change the promise of such markets, as “our valves are ‘made in Germany‘, which remains an outstanding quality feature.“ Products can only gain a market share if they are of constant high quality, easy to maintain and are advertised as such. “We have to place a special emphasis on communicating that we not only distribute products, but also know-how“, explains Yuan-Töpperwien in view of the company's strategy. Mankenberg's target group are medium-sized and large companies, “which will continue to grow in the future and want to engage with the international market.“
Growing demand for production facilities is not the only thing that needs to be satisfied. In the aftermath of various food scandals, the food industry has become sensitized and is paying attention to the quality of plant components with eagle eyes. In times where a great multitude of media intensively covers scandals, no company can allow its reputation to suffer or be ruined by contaminated foodstuff.
“The food industry is characterised by hygiene-sensitive processes“, emphasises Iris Nachtigal, a product manager for “clean service“ safety valves at LESER, Hamburg. “Easy and complete cleanability of all parts of a plant, apparatuses and components directly used in the production process is of high importance.“ This also counts for safety valves, which are needed in beer brewing or bottling and whose inlet area is constantly in touch with media. “Safety valves need to be designed with as little cavities, corners, dead spaces and gaps as possible, as residues foster bacteria growth and expedite corrosion“, explains Nachtigal.
Paying attention to contamination
LESER collaborated with food plant engineers and developed its range of “Clean Service“ safety valves. The so-called 48X series is entirely made of stainless steel, has a low dead space ratio, high surface quality, FDA conformant elastomer and a large selection of aseptic connections. An optional pneumatic lifting device makes it easy to clean, and the operating condition is shown using a proximity switch.“
Low contamination levels through bacteria and residues are of major importance. LESER set its sights on minimising dead space at the inlet – the lower, the easier it is to clean. Some valve types feature a dead space free vessel connection, which is directly welded into the vessel. An o-ring disc ensures a high level of tightness. Elastomer bellows protect hard-to-clean parts in the guiding and bonnet area from contamination. All fixing elements like screws and nuts are placed inside of the bellows. It is a fact that “cleanability is an enduring issue and of increasing importance for the sector“, underlines LESER's Nachtigal.
Same requirements as drug industry
Mankenberg states the same. “Similar to the drug industry, the food industry has the highest requirements in terms of cleanness and safety of plants“, explains Pallasch, a product manager at Mankenberg. Highest requirements are made “for the entire process, so that for example a microbial contamination can be eliminated for all phases of production, through to packaging.“ The company expects even higher cleanliness specifications, such as for surfaces. All in all, higher specifications will have to be fulfilled in the future, for lower prices.
Mankenberg envisages that valves for the food & beverage sector will soon be manufactured the way products for the pharmaceutical industry are made. This means that valves for the food industry would be on a level with products for the drug industry, “however for considerably lower prices per unit.“ Pallasch: “In general, the food sector is not as financially strong as the drug industry.“
Beer brewing is one example: here, hygienic processes are essential. Complex stainless steel pipe systems are utilised to feed the fermentation tank, remove yeast after fermentation process and transfer the young beer into maturation tanks. Pressure levels stemming from carbon dioxide emissions in the fermentation tank have to be controlled. “Saturation of young beer with CO2 and the later quality depends to a high amount on the pressure“, explains valve maker Gemue. On the other hand, the fermentation process is slowed down if pressure is too high. “Superfluous CO2 has to be purged in a controlled manner.“
Dynamic stress for valves
Adding flavour to the fermentation tank, transferral of young beer into maturation or storage tanks can all be done using standard stainless steel valves. Gemue developed combi switchboxes for controlling valves, which can be implemented directly on a valve's actuator.
Valves in breweries are used in nearly all areas – from the mashhouse to the fermenting cellar to bottling. One critical issue are the rapid changes in pressure levels when switching from cleaning to bottling. This creates dynamic stress valves have to cope with. Temperatures ranging from -3°C to +95°C create a further challenge for valves.
Nothing would happen without them: next to automation, valves are of great importance for the food industry, as a great number of valves are used in the production process. They are often used for creating and distributing compressed air, cooling devices and for energy recovery. In addition, valves are important in the cleaning process. They are an essential part in bottling. Valves control the energy cycle and handle steam, hot water, ice water or compressed air. An energy outage could lead to a standstill – unreliable valves would cost cash.
Trend towards universal applications
A further trend: valves should be able to be applied universally in the food sector. Mankenberg is working towards this goal and is developing a pressure regulator which can be used for all media in the food and beverage production. “This means the valve has to have all sorts of physical characteristics, be it high or low pressures or handling steam, fluids or gases over various temperature levels“, explains Pallasch, of the company's product management. Furthermore, such a valve may not exceed a certain, low price level. The food industry offers lucrative opportunities, despite rising requirements and numerous challenges. Investing in the development of efficient and aseptic valves provides the means to skim growing markets.
Innovations in the fields of valves will be presented at Valve World Expo from December 2 to 4, 2014 at Düsseldorf fairgrounds.
Petra Hartmann-Bresgen M.A.
Kathrin Kleophas van den Bongardt
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