Bühler and DIL complete unveiling of new facility researching future product ranges

The Swiss-based Bühler Group and the German Institute of Food Technologies (DIL) have completed the inauguration of the Technology Centre Proteins of the Future in Germany, focused on developing a wide range of plant-based product series, writes Neill Barston.

As recently reported by Confectionery Production, the venture from the two companies is set to initially focus on meat substitutes, but its developers have confirmed that it has far broader capabilities, with potential healthier snacks and confectionery series being developed at its facilities.

The unique new technology site in Quakenbrück, Germany, is based with DIL’s facilities provides state-of-the-art research, test, and production infrastructure for the development of healthy, sustainable-protein food products, with the site now being operational and ready to receive requests from customers.

As the two companies explained, the new centre will host over 250 scientists and technologists and a growing number of spin-offs and start-up businesses developing solutions that improve food safety and quality as well as technology enterprises.

“The opening of the Technology Centre Proteins of the Future emphasises the strong partnership we have forged with DIL in a very short time frame. With our combined expertise we are making a vital contribution to closing the protein gap,” says Stefan Scheiber, CEO at Bühler Group.

“The proteins of the future must be sustainable. Resource consumption in their production must be kept as low as possible through appropriate processing and products to meet the expectations of responsible consumers,” says Volker Heinz, Director and CEO at DIL.

Plant-based proteins can contribute to solving the current sustainability challenges. It is therefore important to develop underused sources of protein and transform them into attractive high-quality and affordable products that succeed in the food market. The growing consumer demand for healthy, great tasting and sustainable food products, particularly healthy alternatives to animal proteins, represents a great opportunity for the food producing industry.

“The centre with its advanced technological setup and expert teams assists our customers in the food industry as well as start-ups to fully realise the potential of new plant-based proteins and develop new healthy and environmentally friendly food products for a growing market,” says Johannes Wick, CEO Grains & Food at Bühler Group.

The Technology Centre Proteins of the Future supports customers throughout the entire process from prototyping new products and upscaling of production processes to contract manufacturing for initial market phases and comprehensive consultancy services. Combined with the full protein value chain solutions from Bühler, ideas can be realised much faster in complete plant solutions tailored to customer needs.

It will include Prototyping – The team at the centre develops new formulations and applications and produces first prototypes with a pilot scale extrusion system. The service also includes process parameter optimisation, Upscaling – Once the prototyping phase is completed, success criteria are defined for the upscaling process to full production capacity. Tests can be undertaken at the new full scale extrusion plant.

The facility will also engage with contract manufacturing – this service allows customers to launch products within a minimum time frame. As products are manufactured on the same machinery throughout, they can be moved to production stage quickly and with high levels of consistency. The quick-to-market approach minimises risk as customers don’t need to invest in equipment before a viable market penetration is reached.

Equipment consultancy – Once products have reached sufficient market share, the center assists customers in choosing the right equipment for their plant. The highest levels of product consistency are achieved by installing the machinery used in the prototyping and initial manufacturing phases.

At the heart of the centre is Bühler’s advanced extrusion IFS certified extrusion technology. The twin-screw extruder PolyTwin BCTG and the PolyCool cooling die deliver a production capacity of up to one metric ton per hour. The entire production cycle follows HACCP and GMP principles and guidelines.

In addition, the production unit features the most modern downstream equipment. The flexible extrusion setup is suitable for a wide range of food applications such as dry texturisation of proteins, wet texturisation of proteins, encapsulation of active ingredients and cooking extrusion of snack products.

The multi-purpose cutting device from Holac cuts wet texturised proteins into strips, cubes, and chunks. A cryogenic Zip Roll from Air Liquide is installed for the rapid freezing of wet textures preserving product characteristics at the highest level. Special applications can be catered for on demand.

The comprehensive offering is complemented by extensive laboratory services such as chemical, microbiological, and physical analytics of raw materials and analytics of extruded products including particle size distribution, texture analysis, thermal analysis, and microscopic analysis on different length scales. The centre also offers consultancy services concerning the development and process design of extruded food products.

The opening of the site is accompanied by the “Scale it up Innovation Challenge” jointly set up by Bühler, Cargill and Givaudan to foster new innovations and solutions to close the protein gap. Start-ups can use the unique infrastructure from DIL and the partners to scale up their product innovations.

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