SS: What engineering challenges do you see your customers facing when they enter this market space? How are these overcome?
Dave Carney, Bühler Aeroglide (DC): Customers conduct trials at our product innovation centers where we develop product trial plans to support them, and many are progressing in a strong innovation phase. We are seeing increased interest in trials using insects, tree nuts and edible seeds, and fungal, yeasts, fermented proteins and other novel ingredients. Novel ingredients mean that not all functional properties are well known or understood, which requires more effort in trials and product development. Trial plans are adjusted as results occur, to define reliable and adaptive processes that protect the integrity of the sensitive ingredients and can be scaled up for production.
SS: Do the engineering challenges change depending on whether the product is wet or dry?
DC: There is a big difference in food safety and handling of the finished products. Dry pet food kibbles are considered as low-moisture foods; wet products are high-moisture foods. This is taken into account in every step of the process and plant design.
SS: Can you offer an example or two of how Bühler has helped a non-traditional pet food processor produce food for our furry friends?
TB: One of the leading pet food processors in Chile took an initiative to replace meat-based protein with plant-based protein in an existing, well-established product. While the product had the same appearance, it had different drying characteristics. Initially, when line capacity and product quality issues arose, it was not clear what caused these differences. Upon closer examination, we determined that the only change was in the ingredient formulation utilizing plant-based protein. By sending portable lab drying equipment and technologists to the customer site, we were able to conduct extensive drying trials to determine optimum operating conditions for the new product formulation. FE