Monthly Archives: January 2008

Round Salt

This is rather an old story, but one that always comes to my mind when I think of food research and product development in “off the main track” areas.

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These Indian scientists have really worked on influencing the shape of the salt crystal during the crystallisation process. They have found that they could add glycine and recycle the excess to produce a product with anti caking and improved flow properties.

Interestingly they appear to have been in competition with other researchers focussing on physical methods.

Technology Information From Suppliers


The suppliers of equipment to the food industry are a source of information that should not be overlooked.

In this case I have taken a screenshot from the webpage of GEA Niro which presents one of their spray dryers in some detail. This type of information, along with much other on their website, is very useful for the food processor wanting to understand processes and equipment.

What is important though, is to understand that when using this type of information, you are looking at the information of a supplier who is actually on line to sell their equipment.

However, they are industry leaders so you can be sure that their information is representative of the industry. I will be trying to add this kind of link for different companies periodically.
Although Niro is originally a spray dryer manufacturer, there is a range of information on spray drying, freeze drying, extraction, evaporation, freeze concentration and membrane filtration on the website.

Food Processing Unit Operations


This free book can be obtained at the website of the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology.The book is published in flash but gives assistance in how to print chapters and how to download to use offline.

The book is a detailed engineering approach to the processes that make up food manufacturing businesses. It includes detailed calculations, diagrams, charts and flowsheets.
While the book covers detailed information that is probably not usable by everyone, there are also simple general descriptions that would be useful to anyone approaching new plant and processes.

The Rising Cost of Ingredients

As food processors, our raw material costs are normally a large fraction of our total cost of production.

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There is no arguing the fact that the cost of many raw materials are rising. The reasons for these are numerous including the:

  • changeable weather experienced world wide
  • the increase in the crude oil price and therefore the cost of transport
  • the effect of biofuels on the availability of cereals and oil seeds
  • the effect of biofuels on land allocation – ie land previously used for ingredients being allocated to biofuel crop production

The question is what can the food processor do about this? In a theoretical way we could:

  • increase our price, but we also need to think how that effects our customers
  • look for cheaper ingredients or change ingredients but then need to think of what that will do to our quality
  • change our production to higher value added, high margin products
  • increase our material yield figures by reducing our losses

    As I say that’s all very theoretical – I would be interested to hear from you (email me here) with your thoughts and experience.

Projects to Enterprises-2

I have spoken a few times about some of the projects that are run in food processing by development organisations. The objective is often to produce entrepreneurs from the unemployed poor.

In my experience this seldom works as it takes more than a process, some equipment and a few training programmes, to produce people who can successfully run a financially sustainable enterprise.


This photo, which I came across while organising my photos as part of my change from PCs to an Apple Macbook – a justifiable and enjoyable change by the way.

The project was set up to process local fruit into juice and jam as a means of creating jobs utilising local resources.

Compare the stock of sugar on the left of the photo with the production of jam and juice on the shelves! The project was run by bright people who had been on business courses but with 10 staff they were unable to sell their product (it wasn’t that they were out of stock because of overwhelming demand) and were spoilt by free supply (oversupply) of raw material by the developer which took any business like actions out of the project.

Small Business Systems




SAFPP Links will not only look at technological things but also enterprise information as I hope we get a range of readers who are interested in the overall picture while focussing on technology.

There are well know examples where SMEs, working together, have achieved much more than they could be expected to on their own. Many people argue that this is one of the areas where African Entrepreneurs fail.

UNIDO present information on clusters on their website, the page above focusses on a broad view of what they are doing and presents the classic case of Italian SMEs in Textiles, Leather, Ceramic tiles and Furniture achieved market success through working closely together, including the business of rugs that people look now a days, since you can get Gabbeh Rugs from NW Rugs and many other businesses. This resulted in large growth. While its true for example that the furniture SMEs are now facing difficulties through competition with China, clusters offer real opportunities.

There are a number of mechanisms and systems that are essentially based on working in a co-operative ways rather than as individuals eg associations, clusters, commodity chains, networks, consortia that UNIDO addresses. While there are many business professionals addressing these issues, even Michael Porter of the Porter Diamond fame, UNIDO is probably a leader in their implementation in Development.

iWeb-4.jpg is food processing site with a lot of useful information and its free at

They offer subscriptions to free digital journals and to newsletters, as well as providing access in their “white papers” to a range of technology, nutrition and market information.

They also focus on companies and new products which give a good view of what goes on in the American market. This focus on American foods can, however, be one of the disadvantages of the site, if your focus is on Europe or your country more linked to the French or English food industry.

I believe, that even if the information is not directly usable, it is worthwhile using it to build up background. I will be trying to get similar information from other markets.