Technology Timeline

FE highlights some of the most important developments in food manufacturing during the last 75 years.

During its 75-year history, spanning 900 editions, FE has reported on thousands of technological developments, innovative engineering designs and incremental improvements in food manufacturing technology and equipment. The timeline shown here lists some of the most important developments. These are listed according to the year they were first reported in Food Engineering. In some cases this was when they were developed or patented; in most cases when they were first commercially applied to food manufacturing. There can of course be many years between the two. Programmable controllers, for example, first appeared in 1969 but were not reported by FE until 1973. EVOH, a major barrier resin, was first manufactured in the U.S. in 1965 but not applied to food packaging until 1984.

So, Time Travelers, let's pop the cork and journey back through -- 75 Years of Food Frontiers.


Thermostatic on/off temperature control

Closed-loop pressure & liquid-level controls

Enamel-lined cans

Tube-in-tube short-time milk pasteurizer

Electromagnetic metal detector

Continuous retort for in-can sterilization

Food Industries magazine launched


Air-blast freezer

Tilt fork-lift truck


Direct steam injection to pasteurize, sterilize

Photoelectric colorimeter

Automatic flow control for liquids, gases

Sliced bread



Vapor-vacuum jar sealer

Automatic vegetable color sorter

Continuous band oven

Multi-plate freezer


Chromatography slashes analytical time

Gabletop milk cartons

Vertical form/fill/seal packaging machine

Nozzle-discharge centrifuge, leads to wide separation applications

Rotary-drum vegetable cutter


Direct electrometric pH measurement

Plate heat exchangers pasteurize milk

Milk first fortified with Vitamin D

Mono-, diglycerides in vegetable shortenings


First ingredient application of citric acid

Fruit/vegetable slicer/dicer

Motorized conveyors

Automated setup machines allow fiber shipping cartons to replace wood


Band-oven zone control of speed, color

Shell-and-tube heat exchanger for hot-filled juices

Scraped-surface heat exchanger for margarine process

Ozone boosts warehoused shelf life


Ultraviolet light controls microbes in process plants

Pouch form/fill machine

Beer cans

Ethylene accelerates banana, citrus ripening

Automatic controls “robotize” refrigeration systems

Hot-break process boosts tomato color, yields

Propionates control “rope” in bread dough


Automatic pH control

Heat-shrinkable film (Pliofilm)

Frozen orange juice concentrate

Solvent extraction of soybean oil


Pneumatic conveyors for flour, sugar

Cry-O-Vac film

Lactic-acid preservatives

Continuous extrusion first applied (to pasta)


Viscosimeter measures product viscosities

Ascorbic acid prevents browning, rancidity in processed foods

First vending machine in U.S.


Spectrophotometry measures food colors, constituents

High-temperature/short-time (HTST) pasteurization developed


Volumetric solids feeder for blending

Jacketed comminuter


World War II spurs mass-feeding market, convenience foods, institutional packaging

War accelerates applications of freezing, drying, dehydration, concentration and packaging technologies developed in ‘30s

Automated density, Brix control

Vinyl films

Coiled tubular heat exchanger flash-heats citrus products

Tunnel freezer

Continuous gravimetric solids feeder


Controlled atmospheres boost storage life of fruits & grains

Steam peelers


Infrared spectrophotometry

In-plant chlorination reduces bacterial load on foods


Low-temperature evaporation of citrus juices

Vacuum-evaporation cooling of vegetables & fruits


Positive pressure reduces microbiological contamination in food plants

Photoelectric cells control oven, conveyor speeds

Thermoplastic labeler

Continuous cake mix systems

Closed-loop systems control product quality characteristics (through 1950)


Magnetic retort loader/unloader

Automated case loaders for bottles, cans

Automatic checkweigher

Vacuum-gas packaging

Saran PVDC film

Polyethylene film

Mechanical truck refrigeration

First vacuum-packaged food product (bacon)

Continuous hot-gas coffee roaster


Clean-in-place (CIP) systems evolve as stainless-steel pipe, efficient detergents and organic acid cleaners become available

Preformed portion-controlled frozen meats

Frozen TV dinners in disposable aluminum trays


Silicone-glazed bakery pans

Automated case palletizers

Aluminum foil & foil laminates

Dole (Martin) aseptic canning process


Aseptic canning commercialized

Eight-spindle can seamer

Encapsulated flavors

Air-actuated control valves

Meat-liquifying comminuter (for baby foods)



Ultrasonic viscosimeter

X-rays inspect grain for infestation

X-rays measure solids and density in fruits, sugar solutions

Polyethylene-coated paper packaging

Freeze concentration process

Food Industries magazine converted to Food Engineering


CO2 stuns hogs for slaughter

Electrostatic separation


Continuous dough extrusion system

First commercial continuous bread-dough process

Vibrating conveyors for delicate products

Continuous beer & soft-drink bottling lines

Continuous blending systems

Ionizing radiation for “cold sterilization”

Analog computers applied in food industry

Freeze-dry process developed


Direct steam injection for pasteurization, sterilization

Self-cleaning centrifugal separator

Statistical quality control

Electronic variable-speed drives


Electron-beam system for sterilizing meats

PID controller

Ultrasound homogenizes dairy products, destabilizes enzymes, extracts flavors, accelerates cheese ripening, kills bacteria

Infrared dryer

Continuous cheesemaking process

Continuous bread-dough extrusion


Hydrostatic can sterilizer

Electronic color sorter

Punch-card electronic batching system

Mylar polyester film

Product variables measured on-line

Spiral belt freezer

Boil-in-bag frozen foods


Gas-flushed packaging

Electronic sequence controller

UHT pasteurization commercialized

Continuous on-line Brix measurement

Decaffeinated coffee


Infrared cooking and baking

Plastic milk bottle

Polypropylene and Nylon films


On-line moisture control

“Breathable” polystyrene film for produce


Rigid polystyrene containers

Aseptic milk packaging process

Continuous freeze dryer

Liquid nitrogen (LN2) freezing systems

Plate-type evaporators

Continuous deboning system


Continuous vacuum/gas-flush packaging machine

Retort pouch


Fluidizing freezer

Steam injection for instant sterilizing

Bactofugation triples refrigerated shelf life of milk


Textured soy protein

Automated milk standardization; 2% milk

On-line chromatography

Freeze-dried instant coffee

Cold filtration for packaged draft beer

Single-serve aseptic puddings in easy-open cans

Form/fill/seal system for PVC bottles


Crateless retort

Central control of milk receiving, processing & CIP

LN2 and CO2 crust-freezing

First totally automated food plant

HTST cooker/extruder

Wrap-around carton

Aseptic glass bottling system


Continuous freeze-dry process

Electronic measurement of vacuum in cans


Digital controller, accepts analog I/O

Aluminum foil/polyethylene barrier film

Liquid CO2 cryogenic freezer

Continuous LN2 freezer

Ultrafiltration sterilizes liquids

Solid-state instrumentation


2-piece all-aluminum can

Tape-controlled form/fill/seal packaging machine

30-second milkfat analysis

Vacuum pouch packaging machine

Ultrafiltration fractionates whey

Digital computer, digital batch controller

Metallized polyester bag

Rotary IQF freezer


3-A sanitary standards for dairy equipment

High fructose corn syrup

Solid-state electronic-drive motor control


Automated poultry eviscerator

Automated wastewater aeration

Pouched milk (Canada)


Cryo-mechanical freezer

Feed-forward control

Multiple-effect plate evaporator

Plug-in electronic circuit cards

Aseptic blowmold/fill/seal plastic bottling system

Direct acidification of cheese

Digital process control

Closed-loop control

First coextruded films

Polypropylene bottles


Programmable digital controller

7-hour Salmonella detection


Electronic fat/lean measurement

Microwave dryer, fryer

Continuous freeze dryer

In-process can temperature sensor

Continuous sterilizer controls

Automated chromatography

Aseptic bagging system

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)


Solid-state programmable controller

Aseptic form/fill/seal of rigid plastic containers

Scannable bar codes

Microprocessors & microcomputers

Vacuum-packaged primal beef cuts

Falling-film sterilizer commercialized


Radio controlled warehouse vehicles

Aseptic bag-in-box system



Multi-ply plastic barrier bottle

Radio frequency finish heat for crackers, biscuits

Cryogenic air freezing system

Microwave vacuum dryer

Cook/chill process


Laser scanners

First microwaveable frozen food products


Ovenable paperboard, ovenable plastic tray

Microprocessor-based equipment controls

Electrical tenderization of beef


2-piece tin-free steel can

Twin-screw cooker/extruder

Microprocessor-based on-line instrumentation

Microprocessor-controlled packaging machinery

Controlled/modified atmosphere packaging (CAP/MAP)


Mechanical vapor recompression

Microprocessor-controlled process equipment

Microwaveable frozen meals, entrees

Automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS)

Military Meal Ready-to-Eat (MRE) in retort pouch


Distributed control system (DCS)

Process modeling software


Programmable logic controller (PLC)

Recombinant DNA technology

Multi-ply carton for hot-fill shelf-stable juices



Aseptic shelf-stable juice boxes

Supercritical CO2 extraction

Aseptic shelf-stable milk boxes (in U.S.)

On-line color measurement


Recombinant rennin

Dual-ovenable PET

Air impingement freezers, coolers

Extended shelf-life (ESL) dairy packaging


Aseptic plastic-cup packaging system

Personal computers integrate with PLCs

Ethyl vinyl alcohol (EVOH) barrier resin

Process control integrates with information systems

Aseptic low-acid particulate process


In-can minicomputer records retort treatment (Datatrace)

“Intelligent” I/O modules

“Clean-room” packaging

Artificial intelligence

Ultrafiltration concentrates milk to make cheese

Automated retort loading/unloading systems


Robotic packaging, handling equipment

Genetically engineered enzymes, proteins, yeasts


Genetically engineered food crops

CAD/CAM software

Microwave susceptor/receptor packaging

HACCP Shelf-stable entrees in retortable, microwaveable plastic


Ohmic heating

Local area networks (LANs)

Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS)

MAP provides case-ready red meat


DNA probes, enzyme immunoassays for pathogens

Laboratory information management systems (LIMS)

Statistical process control (SPC)

Automated microingredient batching systems

Manufacturing requirements planning (MRP II) software


Process management & information system (PMIS)

Microwave-sterilized shelf-stable entrees, meals

Process operations management system (POMS)

Steam strips cholesterol from milkfat

Cold-filtered packaged draft beer

Distributed I/O


First commercial food irradiation plant

Neural networks

Model-based feedforward control

Open architecture

Multi-mode retorts


Cryogenic air freezing system

Cyclodextrins remove cholesterol from whole eggs

Glass-coated packaging film

Manufacturing execution systems (MES)


Isostatic ultra-high-pressure (UHP) process

Fluid-bed/impingement oven

Indirect heat exchange oven

Radio-frequency cooking, sterilization

Human-machine interface (HMI) systems

Mixproof valves

Rapid biolumenesence test for plant sanitation


Open batch control systems

Client/server architecture


Double-impingement freezers and ovens

Steam pasteurization of carcasses

Catalytic oxidizer for bakery ethanol emissions

SP88 batch standard

Near-infrared/neural network on-line fat analyzer

Predictive maintenance software

SPC software


Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems

QA labs move on-line/at-line

Process models validate control systems

Pulsed electrical field (PEF) pasteurization

Multiphase aseptic design meets FDA requirements for low-acid particulate foods

Object technology minimizes customized software

CO2 extends dairy-products shelf life


Automated poultry evisceration & inspection

Refractance drying for delicate products

Model predictive process control


First commercial UHP product (guacamole)

Eggs pasteurized in shell

Ozonated poultry chill water systems

CO2 and LN2 dry poultry chill systems

Centralized cold-chain management

Pulsed electricity pasteurizes juice

Model-free adaptive control

Supply chain management software


Programmable motion robots

IQF freezer combines LN2 impingement, fluidization

Handheld computer terminals and PDAs

“Smart” valves communicate, predict maintenance

First e-beam irradiation plant for ground beef


HACCP software monitors & controls CCPs

Automated gamma, e-beam and x-ray irradiation plants

Internet purchasing exchanges, B2B e-commerce

Electroheating for UHT milk

CO2 reduces Salmonella in fresh-laid eggs

Modular e-beam system for meat plants

CO2 pasteurizes juices

SP-95 plant/IS integration standard

Commercial UHP juice process


First UHP meat products in U.S.

Web-enabled B2B integrations

Spin-welded retortable all-plastic can


Condition-based machine monitoring

Retortable carton

Electroheated liquid eggs, shelf-stable orange juice


Antimicrobial machine parts & building components

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