November 2011/Prepared Foods -- Food companies typically develop small-scale food samples or prototypes in a lab. However, when going to full-scale production, challenges exist, because the products will often not be the same. Therefore, lab equipment that mimics full-scale production can be very beneficial.

MicroThermics Inc. designs, develops and manufactures customized small-scale, continuous flow, thermal processing systems. Its equipment is used to simulate food production processes, such as pasteurization (HTST), sterilization or aseptic processing (UHT), and hot fill in the lab. One MicroThermics client, Eatem Foods Company, is an industry leader in food base manufacturing and a quality supplier of savory flavor systems, broths and concentrates, and seasoning bases. Eatem Foods Company shared its positive experience and the advantages of investing in a MicroThermics system, chosen after careful consideration.

Due to company growth, market trends and customer demand for aseptically processed samples, Eatem Foods invested in MicroThermics processing equipment, and the company is reaping the benefits. Kitrina Vazquez, food technologist at Eatem Foods Company, explains they are “now seeing less waste in large pilot plant test and full-scale runs. Another benefit is the ability to make controls for comparison to pilot plant and full-scale production runs. The aseptically processed products made using MicroThermics equipment possess better sensory properties (taste and appearance), and prediction of their outcome is easier,” she adds.

When considering this investment, Eatem Foods had many choices. “Due to our facility capabilities and the majority of our customer capabilities, the best option was a Tube-in-Shell UHT water heater,” says Vazquez. Requests for samples like sauces, gravies and cream soup also called for the addition of an In-Line Homogenizer to be attached to the UHT unit.

In order to determine customer needs, MicroThermics utilizes a questionnaire to understand facilities and capabilities. Sandeep Rajan, technical sales manager for MicroThermics, Inc., states, “This allows customization of equipment and flexibility with processes.” After thorough evaluation and investment, Eatem Foods is happy with its new abilities to make broths, sauces and gravies in the lab. The unit purchased helps Eatem better serve its customers and create products as close-to-true, aseptically processed products as possible in a lab sample.

For example, a customer of Eatem Foods needed a prototype of a creamy potato soup that used little to no starch. By changing variables, such as pre-heat temperature, final heat temperature, hold times and velocities, Eatem Foods achieved the consistency, taste and mouthfeel the customer desired. The company has many other examples where a product development issue was solved using MicroThermics processing equipment. Vazquez says, “The MicroThermics unit has been helpful in giving Eatem Foods the ability to duplicate full plant operations to better serve their aseptic projects.”
Providing Technical SupportVazquez notes, “MicroThermics’ technical support is very important, and Eatem Foods has purchased a yearly maintenance contract to ensure their unit continues to run properly. According to Vazquez, “Eatem Foods has seen sales increases in all areas where the MicroThermics equipment has been involved.” MicroThermics was recently recognized by the Institute of Food Technologists with the Industrial Achievement Award for its contribution to the field of food science and technology. pf

--Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

For more information:
MicroThermics Inc. • Raleigh, N.C.
Sandeep Rajan • 919-878-8076 •