Researchers at Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) have begun work on two projects that will help drive the food and drink sector in a post Covid-19 world.
Both projects have been funded by Innovate UK, which works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy – delivering productivity, new jobs and exports.
Martin Howarth, Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering said: “Both of these projects are examples of the ground-breaking work we do at NCEFE to apply engineering knowledge to food processing.
“It’s about using the capacity and technology we have in the UK and adapting that in new and innovative ways to drive growth which will be all the more important as we move into a world after Covid-19.”
One of the projects will see NCEFE work with local SME JJA Pack, who service and support cup filling and bottle filling machines for the food and beverage industry.
The aim of the project is to repurpose a condiment filling machine, through a redesign and adoption of advanced digital tools, so that it will be able to fill containers with hand sanitiser with an output capacity of 36,000 litres per day.
The second will see staff at the centre support Baker Perkins to develop new technology for the commercial production of meat substitutes using, for the first time, flour from whole beans and pulses as the main ingredient, rather than expensive and highly processed isolated pulse protein.
This will strengthen the UK’s food supply chain and address both commercial and consumer concerns arising from Covid-19 about the dependence on food imports in the event of future pandemics or other international supply chain disruptions.
It will also investigate ways of achieving the desired range of textures using purely processing techniques or label-friendly ingredients, rather than additives.
Jamie Ashpole, Director of JJA Pack said: “I strongly believe that the filling system we are designing will give the food industry the ability to run faster for longer with the capability we will be able to predict potential issues and breakdowns.
“This gives us a chance to create a greater presence in the marketplace which will hopefully lead to further orders, allowing us to employ more staff and boost the local economy.”
Keith Graham, Business Development Manager at Baker Perkins, said: “The UK food industry will benefit from this project by being able to respond to demand for environmentally-friendly and clean-label meat substitutes using ingredients that could be grown and/or processed in the UK.
“As the demand for these products is increasing worldwide, UK food processing and equipment companies will benefit from export opportunities.”