Processing dairy trends at ProFood Tech

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy manufacturers are struggling with production efficiency, unplanned machine downtime, maintaining quality, and environmental sustainability.
Dairy manufacturers are struggling with production efficiency, unplanned machine downtime, maintaining quality, and environmental sustainability.

Related tags: processing, Pack expo, Packaging, Dairy production

Production efficiency, automation innovation and CPG trends in dairy were all showcased at the ProFood Tech show in Chicago last week.

Highlighting a new PMMI report at ProFood Tech recently, Jorge Izquierdo, VP of market development at PMMI, said most growth in dairy processing equipment is being driven by changes in technology and dairy consumption, facilitated by innovation and expansion in new product types.

profood table

Most commonly used dairy machinery include homogenizers, separators, dryers, membrane filters, pasteurizers and churning equipment, split into applications like cream, cheese, processed milk, protein concentrates, milk powder and yogurt.

PMMI projects that membrane filters and evaporators will experience increased demand in the next few years because they are used to produce popular products like milk powders and protein concentrates.

“Since reaching a peak just a few years ago, international dairy prices have fallen steeply. Export availability generally exceeded demand, resulting in accumulation of stocks of some products in the main exporting countries,”​ PMMI said.

“Consumer demand continues to drive the industry in the United States, as shown by the current major processing and packaging trends of convenience, flexibility, safety, and sustainability.”

Automating efficiency

Multinational automation solutions company Emerson said that food and beverage manufacturers in general are facing a lot of challenges, including the demand of a growing middle class. With more consumers able to spend a disposable income, food production needs to be increased.

However, most budgets for production are not being increased and may even be shrinking, causing manufacturers to re-examine their efficiency and how they are using their resources.

At ProFood Tech, Emerson shared that the operational equipment efficiencies of its customers is at about 50%. They said manufacturers could be increasing profitability in their facilities by improving processes like water usage.

Emerson identifies four main areas that dairy manufacturers run into problems--production efficiency, unplanned machine downtime, maintaining quality batch-to-batch, and environmentally sustainable practices.

Companies like Emerson debuted processing solutions at ProFood Tech that help automate facilities and create digital infrastructure. Emerson showcased an automated reader that can be mounted on steam traps for predictive maintenance, allowing a worker to spend less time checking steam traps for defects.

Emerson also displayed PlantWeb, its total digital transformation program for overhauling a client's system. It said that digital strategy is important to increasing technology-driven production, and very few manufacturers have a digital plan in place.

A parallel packaging impact

With the global shift toward more health and wellness-focused products, consumers are avoiding trans fats and choosing food with more natural ingredients. PMMI said they are also gravitating to food that is high in other fats like natural oils, nuts and organic dairy products.

Less processed foods means manufacturers “have the opportunity to improve their brand perception and to tailor their products or introduce new ones,”​ according to PMMI. It is simultaneously impacting packing trends.

Data from Euromonitor says that the majority of dairy products in the US are now packaged in flexible packaging (67%), followed by liquid cartons (20%), paper-based containers (8%) and metal and glass (5%). The new consumer lifestyle has required a few new dairy packaging developments, like the popularity of bottled, drinking yogurt and convenient, individual portions of cheese.

Dairy is evolving into an industry focused heavily on ingredients, particularly in the yogurt category that has seen massive innovation in the US. Izquierdo believes it is still behind other markets like South Africa and western Europe in terms of yogurt variety and consumption, but growing. And the processing and packaging of dairy is growing and evolving along with it.

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