Dry edible beans like pinto beans, navy beans, black beans, garbanzo beans and kidney beans are widely consumed across the United States in households, restaurants, flour mills and snack foods manufacturing. According to a 2021 report, United States Bean Market, prepared by market research and consulting firm Renub Research, the dry bean market in the U.S. is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.93 percent between 2021 and 2027. Factors driving the growth in U.S. dry bean consumption include widespread interest in ethnic foods featuring cooked dry beans, rising immigration particularly among the Hispanic population, and changes in Americans’ dietary awareness trending towards a more vegetarian lifestyle including the consumption of plant-based proteins.
Many fast-food restaurants have expanded their offerings of vegetarian and vegan meal combinations, which has created expanded opportunities for dry bean processors to provide fully-cooked and ready-to-eat dry bean products. This includes R.S. Hanline & Company (R.S. Hanline). As one of the largest fresh produce distributors in the Eastern and Midwestern United States, since 1986 the company has become a trusted fresh produce supplier to some of the most reputable food service, retail, food manufacturing and wholesale distribution companies in the U.S. R.S. Hanline recently expanded its production capabilities to include a state-of-the-art fully-automated, continuous-process soak-cook-chill-IQF (individual quick freezing) line for processing dry beans into fully-cooked, ready-to-eat products.
R.S. Hanline, focused on expansion
R.S. Hanline has built its reputation on delivering a diverse offering of value-added services that includes an extensive line of fresh-cut, specialty and locally-grown products for all market
segments in the produce industry. This includes repacking, ripening, fresh-cut processing, overwrap, wholesale, private-label packaging, forward consolidation services and transportation solutions.
Headquartered in Shelby, Ohio, in 2016 the company expanded its geographic footprint by opening a second facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, expanding its combined storage and manufacturing space to more than 300,000 square feet. These facilities maintain 22 separate cold storage and processing units to ensure a completely integrated produce program for its customers.
Within the past five years R.S. Hanline has also expanded its distribution capabilities to incorporate a produce brokerage under the name Hanline Fresh, a 3PL for refrigerated trucking, Entourage Freight Solutions, and the company has grown its asset-based trucking fleet allowing it to deliver fresh produce throughout a distribution network of 32 Midwest to East Coast states.
“Our new Cedar Rapids facility and distribution network allows for large enterprises in the foodservice and retail space to implement a single produce vendor program across the greater Midwest and East,” says Cody Granneman, COO of R.S. Hanline. “This ensures our customers consistent and nimble next-day distribution and optimal shelf-life for their products.”
Adding to its expanding roster of capabilities, in 2020 R.S. Hanline opened its latest facility for food processing and warehousing, located on the outskirts of Detroit in Romulus, Michigan. This facility is focused on edible dry bean cooking, IQF and temperature-controlled storage.
New continuous-process facility for dry bean cooking and IQF
“We had been researching the processing of dry beans since 2013 to support the needs of one of our large restaurant chain customers,” says Granneman. “In early 2020 a building became available in Romulus with an installed state-of-the-art IQF, and additional machinery that could support dry bean cooling after cooking. We moved ahead with the acquisition of the building and proceeded to build out the line for dry bean soaking and cooking to support the installed equipment.”
The new plant in Romulus is a 55,000-sq.-ft. facility designed with a four-stage continuous-process for transforming dry beans into fully-cooked, ready-to-eat products. These stages are:
- Soak tanks soaking of beans
- Continuous-process pressure cooking
- Continuous-process cooling
This process line is comprised of the latest industry technology for soak, cook, cool and IQF in the handling red and dark-red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans and garbanzo beans.
“We are processing 400,000 pounds of fully-cooked, ready-to-eat (RTE) beans per week now,” says Granneman. “Approximately 64,000 pounds of beans are produced per day on one shift. Once cooked and cooled, the beans are put through the IQF, then conveyed into our 20,000 square-foot deep-freeze storage. The line is completely automated from soak through IQF.”
R.S. Hanline selected Lyco Manufacturing to supply the equipment for batch tank soaking and continuous-process pressure cooking, and to support the already existing Lyco continuous-drum cooler.
Batch soaking of beans
Lyco manufactured and installed six soak tanks for batch soaking of the dry beans prior to cooking. Each soak tank has a diameter of 126 in. and measures 12 ft. in height.
A precise measure of 10,000 lbs. of dry beans and water are introduced into each tank at staggered intervals, and allowed to soak for 12 hours. Each tank discharges through the bottom, where the beans are flumed directly into the cooker. The automated process ensures a consistent flow of beans into the cooker.
Continuous-process pressure cooking
For cooking the beans, the R.S. Hanline plant is using an advanced continuous-process cooking technology called Pressure-Flow®, developed by Lyco. Pressure-Flow was specifically designed to par-cook or fully-cook dry beans, rice, grains and other particulates, offering food processors a continuous first-in/first-out pressure cooker that maintains product texture, firmness and quality, while reducing cook times by 90 percent compared to conventional atmospheric continuous-process cookers.
Inside the pressure vessel is Lyco’s Clean-Flow cooker system, which uses a screw auger to slowly move the beans through the cooking process while submerged in water under pressure. Photo courtesy Lyco Manufacturing Corp .
“We first started looking at cookers in 2013,” adds Granneman. “We visited Lyco’s facilities four or five times to look at their cooking systems, and did a lot of research to determine if we should go with Pressure-Flow or an atmospheric cooker. We decided to go with Pressure-Flow because of the versatility with cooking beans, and the ability to cook them in 3 to 10 minutes versus an hour.”
At the Romulus plant, the flumed beans arriving from the soak tanks are spread through a dewatering shaker before entering the 50-in. diameter and 13-ft. long Pressure-Flow cooker. The beans are continuously fed into a valve arrangement that allows the beans to enter the pressurized vessel while maintaining pressure in the cooker.
Inside the pressure vessel is Lyco’s Clean-Flow® cooker system, which uses a screw auger to slowly move the beans through the cooking process while submerged in water under pressure to achieve elevated process temperatures. The precisely machined screw auger resides within a stationary wedge-wire screen, and encapsulates the screw from the 3:00 to 9:00 o’clock position. The tolerance between the screw and the screen is less than one-half a grain of rice.
Water agitation via a system called Hydro-Flow® is injected through the screen, which keeps the beans off from the floor of the screen and where they are maintained in total suspension. It more evenly distributes the loading of the beans across the width of the machine, uniformly treating each bean particle. Additionally, a gentle mechanical stirring action is applied on the beans as they progress through the machine.
The beans are cooked to the same degree throughout their movement from entry to exit, with the screw controlling dwell times, ensuring uniform first-in/first-out processing. This totally-enclosed, continuous-flow process ensures consistent quality of the beans. It involves moving each food particle through the process with no breaks or variations in time, sequence or temperature.
Temperature ranges between 200°F to 250°F, and achieves 67 to 71% moisture level. The beans are fully cooked in six to eight minutes, then continuously discharged from the pressurized process chamber through a valve arrangement similar to the in-feed valve. The discharge is onto a shaker screen where the beans are sprayed with chilled water to quickly dissipate surface heat before immediately being conveyed into the continuous-process cooler.
A pre-programmed PLC with HMI interface ensures a highly-controlled process and recipe management, for precise automated control of cook and cool functions, including time and temperature. This results in uniform heating and cooling, and a totally consistent end product.
Because Pressure-Flow is integrated with the Clean-Flow process, it is designed to reduce clean-up from hours to minutes since the screw is totally exposed for cleaning. During clean-up the wedge-wire screen is released from its fixed position, and is continually rotated 360 degrees around the screw, alternately exposing the interior and exterior of the screen to CIP manifolds located in the cover of the machine. The screw can be rotated at the same time as the screen, again exposing all surfaces to the cleansing water sprays. With this capability, the CIP can clean more than 98 percent of the machine without manual intervention.
The internal design of Pressure-Flow cleans the interior quickly and permits rapid changeovers. The Clean-Flow processes, combined with Pressure-Flow, enable the plant to realize higher product yields with less water usage and reduced wastewater.
“We are processing up to 8,000 pounds of beans per hour through Pressure-Flow, one full shift, five days per week,” said Granneman. “We have the option of cooking rice, vegetables or pasta. We can do anything we can do with an atmospheric cooker, but at a much faster pace, and with more throughput and more output.”
“We’re able to get a bean cooked precisely to our customers’ needs, which is pretty awesome,” adds Granneman. “The versatility of the machine is just fantastic.”
The beans exit the cooker and are fed into the Lyco cooler by a belt conveyor. The most efficient method of transferring heat is by submerging the beans in cold water.
The cooler is a continuous-process system that slowly moves the beans through an enclosed perforated drum, 72 inches in diameter and 8 ft. long, resulting in the product being submerged in water, using a rotary drum cylinder to control dwell times. The beans cooled to the same degree throughout the movement in the drum from entry to exit.
The beans are carefully turned over and massaged, while totally submersed in water that is 33°F as they advance through the drum. Careful mechanical agitation combined with Hydro-Flow keep the beans gently rolling in suspension while progressing through the cooling process.
Process time through the cooler is less than three minutes, the beans achieving a final temperature of 40°F. Once through the machine, in a first-in/first-out sequence, the beans are then gently deposited on a shaker screen to reduce surface moisture, then onto a belt conveyor for input into the IQF.
“We are processing up to 8,500 pounds per hour through the cooler,” explains Granneman. “Product damage is near zero percent.”
Individual quick freezing
The cooked and chilled beans are individually conveyed into the IQF tunnel. The -30° F cold air circulates from underneath the conveyor belt with the help of fans. The cold airflow keeps passing through the individual beans in circular motions while they are advancing through the freezer.
The freezing process takes only a few minutes. The short freezing cycle prevents formation of large ice crystals in the bean cells which destroy the membrane structures at the molecular level. This maintains the beans’ shape, color, smell and taste after defrosting to a far greater extent.
The IQF tunnel can process 10,000 lbs. of beans per hour. The beans are output into 1,200-lb. tote bags, then stored in the plant’s deep-freeze warehouse.
R.S. Hanline now has a new state-of-the-art, fully-automated facility for efficiently processing dry beans into fully-cooked and ready-to-eat products.
“We are in a great position as we move forward because of our capabilities,” says Granneman. “And we are very excited about the future.”
For more information, visit Lyco Manufacturing at https://lycomfg.com/