Skip to content

Fresh shoots of growth: why plant-based foods is the trend to watch for 2021

Plant-based protein alternatives is an industry that has grown in significance hugely over recent years, and will likely continue to do so. Here, JBT’s Sales Director Sergio Rabadán Velazquez explains what is driving the trend and why all players in the industry need to pay close attention.

Ask what have been the key trends of the last 12 months and the answer for most people – with good reason – will be an obvious one. But away from the pandemic, another important trend has been making an impact and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead: the demand for plant-based meat substitutes across a wide swathe of products. At JBT, we have working closely with the processing industry to develop tailored solutions to fit individual product needs.

Of course the subject of plant-based foods at JBT is not a new one. We have been working for a number of years on applications that substitute animal protein for vegetable protein. But what has happened in more recent times? There has been a huge change with a focus on a reduction in the production and consumption of meat because of its impact on the environment and a growing interest in proteins generated by plants. There is also a perception among many consumers that vegetable protein is better for a healthy diet than animal protein.

Plant-based foods that mimic meat taste, color and appearance are a fast-growing global market

How significant is this trend? Well according to a study carried out by Euromonitor International, global sales of meat and milk alternatives reached US$36 billion in 2019 and are continuing to grow. Sales of meat substitutes rose by 9% between 2019-2020 compared with 4% over 2018-2019.

As these figures indicate, one of the most important segments within plant-based foods has been the growth in products based on plant proteins that seek to imitate traditional, meat-based products. This has led to an enormous boom in hamburgers, sausages and bacon based on vegetable proteins.

To meet this demand, we at JBT have designed new processes for our customers who are formulating new products based on the raw materials. We help customers develop these products, adapting to each of the individual processes, the kind of product being developed, and the best means of processing it, at our Food Technology Centers, including at our facilities in Helsingborg, Sweden and Livingston, UK. We can assist customers in the development of the products, and following that we carry out practical testing in a factory setting.

JBT specialists work closely with plant-based foods processors to develop individually tailored solutions

Increased demand
JBT’s considerable experience in delivering solutions for the plant-based foods industry has proven invaluable given the huge increase in demand at a consumer-level, and the need for processors to develop products that effectively mimic the taste and appearance of meat-based foods, often at speed. 

An increased awareness of environmental concerns is fueling a desire on the part of many consumers worldwide to consume less meat. if you have a product that says it can effectively substitute meat in terms of taste, aroma, color to that which you have on your plate, and it comes not from animals, but from plants, people are willing to pay the same amount or more money for it. This has led to a demand especially for plant-based hamburgers, followed to a lesser extent by sausages and bacon substitutes. 

However, substituting a meat-based product for a plant-based alternative that offers the same eating experience is far from easy. Taking plant proteins and developing a protein that imitates the text, color, taste and aroma of meats is very difficult to achieve. We at JBT have designed and developed processes and systems – from cooking to freezing – which do just that, but which furthermore are tailored to meet the needs of each individual processor, while also complying with stringent hygiene standards required when handling plant-based products.

It seems likely plant-based meat substitutes are here to stay, and we at JBT will make sure customers produce foods that deliver and optimum experience, from taste to texture, time and time again.

Click HERE to request more information about JBT’s plant-based foods solutions

JBT’s FWE: keeping Ready-To-Eat foods safe

Adorable baby girl eating fresh vegetables

As food technologies and solutions have improved, so consumer buying habits have evolved, with an increasing emphasis on ready-to-eat (RTE) meals. However, handling such ready-made foods during freezing brings risks, including avoiding hazardous bacterial outbreaks. Protecting end consumer health and brand reputation has been key to the development of new freezing solutions from JBT, which are focused on eliminating possible bacterial growth.

Potentially deadly bacteria, such as listeria, that cause serious health emergencies can lead to factories being closed down – permanently. Even if this does not happen, the damage that can be caused to a brand’s carefully-honed reputation can be considerable, never mind that a food borne emergency can put consumers – adults and children alike – at risk.

JBT’s unique, hygienic solution combines disinfection with hot steam sanitation and innovative Fully Welded Enclosures (FWE), a hygienic design which removes the risk of bio film and microbiological growth in a freezer unit. “Steam sanitation works best with fully welded enclosures as normal caulked panels cannot endure the heat,” explains JBT’s R&D Manager Christopher Fogelqvist. “Cracks, worn parts, scratches—all defective points—are places where food can get caught and bacteria can grow. The one goal is to ensure no contamination that could harm the health of a consumer.”


Hygiene by design
Offered across JBT’s entire Frigoscandia freezing equipment range, an indication of FWE’s success and trend towards the ready-to-eat market is the fact that quote requests for the technology doubled during 2020. “When it comes to designing freezer surfaces, we want to avoid having crevices because bacteria can get in there,” says Fogelqvist. “JBT’s freezing equipment range has been designed with open profiles, sloping and minimized overlapping surfaces, so that when you flush the freezer during cleaning, you don’t have any hidden surfaces with risk of bacteria growth.”

Fogelqvist says JBT achieves this by minimizing overlapping surfaces and fasteners, using welding to deliver freezers that are hygienic by design down to the smallest components of the machine. “The FWE is designed to ensure effective and efficient cleaning over the life of the equipment,” he adds.


The JBT Frigoscandia GC70 features a Fully-Welded Enclosure 

Greater awareness
The growth in the ready-to-eat category, he continues, has brought greater awareness across the food industry of the risk posed by bacteria. “Consumers are now eating more fresh frozen food directly from packages. This is a big change in behavior,” says Fogelqvist. “At minus 40C, bacteria growth slows down. The problem is that when the system is thawed out, the bacteria starts growing again, so to have a clean machine is crucial.”

Longer lifespan
However, the FWE design does not just enable steam sanitation and ensure against bacteria growth. The design has a much longer lifespan than traditional enclosures, with far greater endurance against cleaning agents and temperature fluctuations. The JBT fully-welded design also guards against water penetration of joints or cracks which can cause freeze shattering. Replacing an enclosure is expensive, complex and takes time, leading to a loss of production hours, which every customer wants to avoid as much as possible.

“The Fully Welded Enclosure market is growing very quickly due to the increase of RTE foods and in combination with effective steam sanitation and good, hygienic design it is the best investment for protection of end consumer health and food producers’ plants,” adds Fogelqvist. “JBT’s design with a fully welded inside and outside, in combination with stress free joints, and a superior internal hygiene, will provide a long-lasting solution for the toughest food producers during the full equipment life cycle. JBT always strives for smartness in our design.”

LEARN MORE about the fully-welded Frigoscandia freezing equipment range

JBT Northfield CleanFREEZE Spiral Freezer delivers ultra-hygenic spiral freezing with faster cleaning

JBT’s newly launched CleanFREEZETM spiral freezer marks a step-forward from the long-standing Northfield SuperTRAK Structure Supported Spiral Freezer, with a system that offers innovations in both hygiene and cleaning. A radical redesign of the freezer has been focused on making the machine easier and faster to clean and has significantly reduced the risk of bacterial growth across the structure.

By eliminating flat and overlapping surfaces, and reimagining the cleaning system, JBT engineers have been able to bring the overall sanitation time down to four hours from a previous five-six, while maintenance, servicing times and safety have also been improved by moving the fan motors to the exterior of the unit and providing stairs instead of ladders.

Innovative design
According to John Bauer, JBT’s division product manager for freezers, the CleanFREEZE freezer takes the original design on which the SuperTRAK was based and adds new hygienic features, including innovations that differentiate the CleanFREEZE freezer from other spiral freezers and go beyond what is currently available on the wider market.

Among other design improvements, the previous tubular structure has been eliminated from the CleanFREEZE freezer, while overlapping joints have been kept to an absolute minimum and formerly flat, horizontal surfaces have been sloped. “We’ve eliminated thousands of feet of overlapping surfaces through our solid, capless belt support compared with the previous capped, stainless steel tracks, while we’ve made the drum drivebar more cleanable,” says Bauer.

Faster cleaning
However, one of the most crucial changes, continues Bauer, has been a significant reduction in the overall cleaning system time – from defrosting to cleaning to pulldown – from up to six hours previously to an average of four hours. “This remains a foaming style, single pass system but with a significantly reduced cleaning time,” he says.

This has been partly achieved through a radically revised freezer design, which features the fan motors on the exterior of the freezer rather than inside the box, making it easier to service the motor as no defrost process is now required.

JBT’s goal, Bauer adds, was to create a more hygienic, structurally supported freezer that goes beyond what is currently available on the market and in that they would appear to have succeeded.

Learn more information about the JBT CleanFREEZE freezer

JBT’s M-Fryer: the compact fryer with crossover appeal


JBT Stein M-Fryer is the pioneer of “direct” heated immersion fryers where oil is heated directly in the fryer tank for superior temperature control and minimum oil volumes. Engineered to meet the needs of convenience food processors, the M-Fryer has predominantly been used for chicken based snack foods, but increasingly it is finding favor with the vegetarian and meat-replacement industry.

The M-Fryer, which uses as its basis proven THERMoFIN® technology, delivers maximum output and operating economy with great product and process flexibility, providing benefits including superior product quality, cost effective frying, flexibility, food safety, and operating safety.

Key features
One of the key features of the system is that it achieves heat exchange using plates rather than tubes, meaning far less debris build up and a considerable improvement on oil life, explains JBT’s Manager for Coating and Cooking Applications, Bart Kivits.

“The M-Fryer is more gentle on the oil and doesn’t break it down so fast because the plates have a large contact area,” he says. “Also the low volume of oil inside the tank has a benefit for the processor because they don’t need to put so much inside. The oil inside the fryer is more stationary: it doesn’t have to be pumped around, which helps keep the oil cleaner and helps the oil life.”

Market demand
Another key element of the M-Fryer design is that the system is 1.5 m shorter than any other fryer currently available in the industry, meaning can still achieve good capacity even if there is limited room, while still maintaining production capacity. 

Although the M-Fryer has typically been used by snack and poultry processors for nuggets and other fast-dining options, the solution is increasingly being used to cook vegetarian products in response to the growing visibility and importance of non-meat foods.

“Clearly the demand for vegetarian and meat-replacement products is growing, and these processors are looking for fryers to meet their requirements,” says Kivits. “The biggest growth at the moment in snack foods is in vegetarian products. The industry is growing so fast that all the big, global players are now involved to some extent, so it is being viewed as an area of opportunity.”

LEARN MORE about JBT Stein M-Fryer

JBT’s innovative remote testing: the solution that could have life post-Covid


The end of the Covid-19 pandemic could soon – it is to be hoped – be in sight, but meanwhile it is hugely important for companies within the food processing industry to continue to drive consumer demand. One of the ways JBT is supporting such efforts is through its Food Technology Centers (FTCs), located worldwide, including one such center in Livingston, Scotland, which has been employing innovative methods to help customers test new equipment and machinery.

In fact, the Livingston FTC – along with a similar facility in Helsingborg, Sweden – has led the way when it comes to new innovations in remote testing, allowing products to be refined to customer specifications at a safe distance.

The Livingston site, close to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, was completely refitted after acquisition by JBT and today forms a fully functional technology centre. The centre includes adjacent offices and conference rooms, combining substantial testing capabilities for chilled, frozen and fresh foods all located at the company’s manufacturing facility.

Viable solutions
However, in recent times the site has become an innovator in remote testing, developing solutions that are proving so viable, they could become a semi-permanent feature in the post-Covid world. JBT Livingston FTC’s remote testing services are offering customers the means to carry out testing – with effective real-time remote monitoring – without having the expense of international travel and hotel accommodation. 

As JBT Regional Solutions Manager John Kelso explains, the FTC provides the service for customers when it comes to defining the hardware specifications. “Objectives defined enable our equipment setup for best targeting colour, fat rendering and succulence for example, among other attributes for best preparation and cooking to customer request,” he says. The facility covers the full process from coating, through frying and cooking to freezing, forming an essential part of JBT’s work with customers. 

“In order for a customer to buy from us, we need to know the processing times for the equipment and that’s where the Food Tech Center comes in,” says Kelso. “Obviously, Covid has prevented a lot of customers from travelling, we still need to be able to demonstrate the best yield, color, consistency and appearance.”


Learning process
Starting with video calls, Kelso and his colleagues experimented with a number of solutions for giving customers remote access to testing. However, it was quickly realized that a more flexible and dynamic solution than carrying a laptop around was required. “When video testing, it’s very necessary that someone hosts the local call to provide an interface between the customer and the process and is also able to act as a cameraman  to demonstrate system features while the trial is taking place,” says Kelso. 

In order to further compliment remote interactions, and move from the use of a laptop, JBT is in the process of creating a unique solution that will function like a customer on site. This person or “robot” will comprise a tablet and speakers mounted on a mobile, flexible stand, which is able to act as a remote customer, accompanying the team during the course of the trial and even forming part of the group during meetings. “With speakers and video-audio capabilities, the ‘robot’ is able to watch the trial more closely and can interact with us,” says Kelso.

Of course, experiencing the final taste of a product remotely is unachievable, but Kelso emphasises that other key elements of the process can be shared with the customer, namely product colour, appearance, internal temperatures and yield. 


Europe-wide customer trials
The FTC has – to date – successfully conducted remote trials with customers across Europe, including demonstrating the benefits of a Formcook Contact Cooker to a leading processor.

In fact, so successful has the solution been that JBT is introducing it to its FTC in Helsingborg, Sweden, and there is now talking of the ‘robot’-guided visits continuing once vaccination is widely available. “Despite the Covid situation, we still want to continue trials and it might be something that customers would like to see as an alternative and do even post-Covid,” says JBT’s Netherlands-based Manager for Coating and Cooking Applications, Bart Kivits. “The other advantage of doing a test like this is you get instant feedback. This is the next step from shooting videos and writing a report.”

Back in Livingston, Kelso believes the solution will impact customers positively, given that it is easier to ship three-four kilos of product to the FTC and log-in to a Zoom call than it is to deal with travel and flights. “We have been able to turn this problem into a solution, and customers have been very thankful of the effort we have taken to do this and very complementary about the time we have spent,” he adds. 

Learn more about JBT Research & Technology Centers

1 2 16
%d bloggers like this: