As the benchmark price of a barrel of oil slid below $70, then $60 in early fall, the hearts of energy-conscious engineers sank with it. Investments in energy efficiency are a tough enough sell when commodity prices for gas, oil and electricity soar; when energy costs are retreating, ownership is even less inclined to invest in energy efficiency.
Given the importance of packaging in protecting and promoting products on store shelves, it is no surprise that food and beverage companies are investing more dollars in superior materials and advanced automation to deliver goods to market.
Change is constant, and North American food manufacturers are determined to make sure that the performance in their plants is better tomorrow than it is today. That is one of the key findings in this year's State of Food Manufacturing Study, a survey measuring the pulse of the industry, first undertaken by Food Engineering in 1980. The concern with continuous improvement is virtually universal, based on responses to a new question on how survey respondents' organizations are addressing this need. Given a list of eight options, none of the 186 food professionals who answered the question selected, "No program in place."
"Faster, cheaper, standardized" might best summarize the prevailing wish list for plant spare parts, based on written comments from industry professionals in Food Engineering's 2006 Replacement Parts and Components Trends Survey. The fourth annual study of food and beverage personnel involved in spare parts ordering posed the open-ended question, "What actions could OEMs take to make you a more satisfied customer?" Predictably, lower prices were the most frequently mentioned way to buyers' hearts, though rock-bottom pricing isn't what they have in mind.
If plant construction trends in the food and beverage industry could be filtered down into just three words, those words would have to be clean, safe and economical. Today’s processors are focusing on fundamentals, but with a twist. The stakes-and responsibilities-are much higher. While new greenfield projects are few and far between, existing plants must adhere to stringent food safety measures, guard against security threats and control allergens and cross-contamination.
If officials at Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Inc. and Nestlé SA wanted a symbol of their frozen snacks’ merger, they couldn’t do better than the expanded Dreyer’s plant in Bakersfield, CA. Since 1983, Food Engineering has celebrated outstanding examples of food and beverage facility design and construction from sea to shining sea with the annual Food Plant of the Year award. Nestlé’s Carnation plant in Bakersfield was honored in 1989 (“World’s largest ice-cream plant,” Food Engineering, March 1989).
The heart-rending story of Christina Desforges was a grim reminder of both the rationale behind the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and the challenges faced by processors in helping safeguard consumers with compromised immune systems.