Food processing is undoubtedly one of the fastest moving sectors across the world as consumer tastes evolve. There’s not much closer to human hearts than the food we consume – and eating is not just essential to life but intrinsically linked to human emotion and enjoyment. It’s easy to ignore that the delicious burger on our plates started life in a field or a laboratory – but do we ever stop to wonder, not about the origins, but about the technology behind the food product and the entrepreneurial geniuses who originally invented it?
For over eight decades GEA Food Solutions has been supplying cutting edge solutions for customers. From cutting and emulsifying meat for sausages in the mid-20th Century to today’s highly innovative solutions such as the CutMaster, GEA has always taken great pride in responding rapidly to market changes and staying ahead of that evolutionary curve. Thorsten Balzer, Director of Sales Steering, gives us a guided tour to how 80 years of R&D have helped shape the future of the meat and alt-meat market. Wonder no more!
A recipe for growth and efficiency
It all started 80 years ago. The original “Propeller Blitz” machine was designed to both cut and blend the meat, fat, herbs, salt and other spices to the desired granularity prior to it being stuffed into a skin.
The word ‘sausage’ is from the Latin Salsus, which means Salted
As production forged ahead, so too did developments to increase speed and improve the final product. The vacuum design meant that the blended meat would have reduced air content, a better consistency and appearance and thus consumer appeal.
To cater for growing global demand much larger bowl cutters were introduced and the CutMaster DUO was launched - a revolutionary machine with two independently driven knife heads especially designed for the production of dry fermented sausage (salami). Manufacturing capacity in the 1950s increased (in the same location as it still is today) and significant investment was made in automation.
In the 1970s bowl cutter sales expanded to new parts of the world – great news for this German company still known at that time as Krämer & Grebe. The machine became more complex, automating some of the previously human tasks including loading and discharging. It became known as the Cutmix.
Technology at the cutting edge
Factories were becoming increasingly automated and the Cutmix was extremely easy to use, recording and running recipes and effectively guiding the operator through the process. With the advent of the internet, it was easier to sell machinery all over the world. Cutmix evolved into CutMaster as these labor-reducing machines immediately made factories more efficient, with a short-term investment bringing long-term financial gain.
The CutMaster generation gradually advanced from a few buttons to an internet-connected, recipe-controlled panel that also measures performance, manages speed and temperature and warns of any imminent service issues. The speed of the knife heads has also improved: the blades now reach circumferential speeds of up to 162 meters per second. Knife head configurations can be tailored to the recipe, and the magnetic design enables speedy changeover and minimal downtime.
The real genius of the CutMaster is the flexibility, where the recipe can be altered in a matter of minutes. The design means it can be very quickly cleaned and changed over to the next product. Such are its variety of uses, it has been described as just like a great big Thermomix/KitchenAid!
In today’s market, where consumers are increasingly health-conscious and eating less meat and trying more plant-based alternatives the CutMaster is ideal for rehydration, mixing, cutting and using vacuum to improve formability and appearance. Today, the CutMaster is used by a number of blue chip food companies producing vegetarian or vegan meat alternatives, such as burgers, sausages or sliced products.
What’s in the crystal ball?
There is always scope for improvement, and the CutMaster is under the spotlight for enhanced sustainability, with a team examining how to improve energy consumption, water usage and setting targets for the next developments. Working on the roadmap for the future, we are convinced that water reduction and even elimination targets in the cooking and cooling processes can be met. Noise reduction is also a target, though this is clearly dependent on the products that are run through the machine, and the speed it is run at. The current version is highly reliable, technically advanced. Not to mention the advantage of being manufactured by a global technology specialist that can support nearly all stages of the production process, from freezers to driers, to blenders, to packaging.
What’s not to love about a dive into history to put impressive modern achievements in perspective?