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Make it mouth-watering

“Vegetarian” has always existed. Until now, this trend has appeared in waves and ebbed away again. Now, this trend has established itself as a conventional form of nutrition.

More and more people eat less meat. They eat a flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diet. Food manufacturers have already adapted to this and are producing the corresponding foods. The increasing number of company start-ups for the development and manufacture of plant-based products, as well as the focus of large meat producers on this nutritional segment, are proof of the trend’s robustness.

The right product for everyone

Pea, soy, and wheat protein, as well as algae and many other vegetables are the raw materials for modern vegetarian and vegan products. However, these plant-based alternatives are still used in the meat sector. Alternatives to meat should smell, taste and look like meat. It is particularly important that alternative products have the same texture as meat. They must seem authentic. At least for customers who desire an alternative to meat because they don’t want to eat it but aren’t willing to miss out on the mouthfeel and flavor – the prime example here is the burger patty. With appropriate additives and spices as well as special technical and thermal processes, manufacturers can now develop meat-like textures and flavors from vegetable raw materials.

Customers who don’t eat meat for ethical or sustainability reasons don’t necessarily look for meat substitutes. But they gladly take advantage of the opportunity to pick up a veggie sausage or soyburger – just like vegans, vegetarians or flexitarians. Here, however, such products must also look tasty. Appetizing products that appeal due to their perfect shape and size highly influence individual purchase decisions.

Production under special conditions

The production of vegetarian or vegan products poses a particular challenge for food producers who also process meat. They must meticulously separate their production processes for the different types of products – both in terms of rooms and of machines. Industrial production facilities provide these extra rooms and machines. Small businesses, however, may produce on different days after thoroughly cleaning their machines.

Solutions from Vemag Maschinenbau (Verden, Germany) have the decisive advantage here because they can process all pasty and free-flowing products, regardless of which raw material is being processed. They can meet all customer requirements quickly, and the equipment is suited for both plant-based and meat products.

One machine for many applications

Burger patties, plant-based ground meat, spreads, sausages in all shapes, filled and unfilled balls – there are no limits to what can be made. With its vacuum fillers and flexible, extensive range of attachments, Vemag offers solutions for every requirement. Its machinery processes emulsions of any kind. The proven conveyor curve technology of the vacuum fillers offers every conceivable flexibility in the manufacturing process. Because the conveyor curves can be individually deployed, they can be adapted to raw material characteristics such as temperature, viscosity and lumpiness. While “normal” ground meat is processed at –2 ºC, vegetarian spreads, in contrast, must be processed at 80 ºC.

One advantage of Vemag solutions for industrial production is that due to the large number of different attachments and resulting flexibility, companies can use their existing machines when expanding their capacities to produce plant-based products. Operators don’t need to adjust to new machines but can work with the units they are already familiar with.

In addition to the high-performance filling machines of the HP series, numerous attachments such as forming machines for patties and balls, co-extrusion devices for filling balls, length-portioning devices for sausage production, and solutions for depositing and insertion in trays and thermoformers are available. Suspension devices for sausages and cup-filling machines complete Vemag’s portfolio.

The end product is always in the foreground

According to Vemag, the company is constantly striving to develop solutions in close cooperation with customers and users. For example, the alginate line with the CC215 was created to produce sausages and molded products such as sticks in alginate casings – a purely vegan solution based on algae. Immediately after leaving the co-extrusion head of the CC215, the gel-like alginate is brought into contact with a calcium chloride solution and cures directly. The string of products prepared in this way is now further processed according to the requirements – direct placement on a hanging line or singly onto a belt, readied for a thermal process, or placed directly into trays.

The BC236 ball controller or FM250 shaping machine ensures first-class results when making formed, plant-based alternative products with a perfect bite and meaty texture like burger patties. The FM250 produces patties using forming nozzles and an integrated flattening belt.

The BC236 shapes products with counter-rotating perforated plates through which the compound is fed and then cut off. An optional flattening belt ensures perfect patties on up to six lanes.

A co-extrusion device even enables veggie bacon to be made. Thanks to the raw materials in the product, it hardly differs in taste and color from the meat-based original.

Vegan ground meat can be divided and fed into trays by the MMP223 portioner – precisely, with exact weights and only the smallest give-away possible.

Industrial sausage production

The fact that vegetarian and vegan products are made by established meat producers is demonstrated by the Rügenwalder Mühle company – par excellence. The company has successfully used Vemag machines for years to produce meat-free sausage products such as “Vegetarian Mills Sausages” and cold cuts such as the vegetarian Schinken Spicker. Rügenwalder Mühle uses vacuum fillers and the LPG218 length portioner. This solution is predestined for hot dog production and automatically processes only artificial, polyamide and collagen casings. It convinces with its exceptional length and weight accuracy, above-average production speed and superlative hygienic properties.

Michael Ebersberg, Product Manager ­Convenience, Vemag Maschinenbau GmbH

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