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Consumer appetite expanding for dairy products


Dairy facilities need to modernize to meet growing expansion of growing tastes and appetite.

Consumer appetite expanding for dairy products
Dairy processing plants are constantly improving and expanding to meet consumers' ever-changing appetite for new dairy products. The global dairy market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.14% in the snack market alone between 2020 and 2024, owing to rising demand for innovative, healthy, on-the-go dairy options.

There are many new products on the market right now that are geared toward ethical eating, gut health, and other health-conscious offerings. Customers want high-protein yoghurt, grass-fed sources, and cheese with added vitamins and minerals, all in portable and convenient packaging. Simultaneously, lactose-free dairy products continue to drive market growth, with yoghurt and dairy desserts being the fastest-growing segments globally.

Aseptic technology has enabled shelf-stable products for long-term storage, lowering refrigeration and transportation costs. Finally, millennial consumer demand is driving the development of novel products such as savory and spicy yoghurt dips, flavored butter, and alcohol-infused ice cream.

As a result, facilities are challenged to scale production without sacrificing quality or safety. How will dairy processing plants cope? The key is to optimize today's operations while planning for future growth. This is how.

Accept a long-term strategy for your dairy processing plant.
Changes and improvements in facility and equipment are being driven by consumer demand and industry trends. Because kneejerk reactions can lead to decisions made without regard for future growth or expansion, it's critical to consider all options and develop a long-term strategy.

Assess future needs
What will your facility requirements be in the next 5 to 10 years? Although it is difficult to predict with certainty, dairy processing plant owners can consider what new products they are most likely to add to their offerings. Facilities should assess available space for ingredient storage, processing, packaging, and finished product storage when incorporating new products. As new flavours are introduced, appropriate levels of segregation to control allergens should be considered. In addition, facilities must plan how to handle packaging waste from ingredients such as salt, spices, and others.

Improve operations
Legacy plants constructed 50 to 60 years ago were not always designed with efficiency and ergonomics in mind. Small systems were frequently cobbled together as they grew. This reactive, organic growth may result in process streams leapfrogging each other, jeopardising the ability to properly segregate hygienic zones.

Workflows are essential for safe and efficient operations. Even minor improvements to operations can increase throughput, reduce time to market, and boost the bottom line. A dairy processing plant's lean operational solutions could include:
  • Improving workflows and product flows
  • Managing waste routes for packaging
  • Reducing/reusing waste (e.g. isolating proteins or water)
  • Maximizing effective use of resources (e.g. heat or water)
  • Addressing process variability
  • Creating lean layouts
Leverage by-products
Dairy byproducts like permeate and whey represent a growing market and, for some facilities, an untapped profit stream. Producers can add flexibility by using multiple product lines that all come from the same source of skim milk to feed various outputs and produce a wide range of products. Of course, such adaptability necessitates an investment in capital, square footage, and technology—but it will result in new profit opportunities.

Whey byproducts, which have long been used in protein bars and shakes, now account for the majority of profit in some dairy plants. According to Innova Markets Insights, the number of new global food and beverage product introductions containing whey protein set a new high in 2020, with 7,409 new whey protein products being introduced. One of the most significant changes is that consumers are now demanding high-quality whey products.

While many dairy plants already have the necessary evaporator and spray drying systems for whey production, a few changes to existing processes may be required to produce premium quality whey products. Because whey protein isolate (WPI) requires 80% protein content for USDA labelling (as opposed to 36% protein for whey protein concentrate (WPC), an upgraded filtration system and a minor upgrade to the facility's lab may be required.

Consider the flow of people and products within a dairy processing plant before making changes to processes. Begin with the following questions:
  • Will the storage vessel obstruct a building expansion or close off necessary hallways?
  • Will drains from raw areas pass through pasteurized areas if equipment is rearranged?
  • Will the air handling system keep a positive flow of air moving in the right direction and control humidity as needed?
  • Is proper drainage addressed after expanding an existing plant?

Plan for expansion
Some dairy processors continue to operate in the same manner that they have for decades: part by part, machine by machine. Each new process or piece of equipment added to the intricate puzzle as dairy processing plants grow and evolve to meet demand. It may appear that increasing square footage is the simplest solution. When planning an expansion, however, keep building safety codes in mind, such as fire truck access and sprinkler systems. Even minor expansions may necessitate major upgrades mandated by city or state laws.

Consider a dairy processing plant that is looking to expand. In the short term, it may be sufficient to simply add on to a room, connect all utilities to drain back into the existing space, and add storage vessels outside of the new space. While this may meet immediate needs, it may create bottlenecks or problems for the next expansion.

An ill-fitting line can complicate cleaning and create waste as dairy processing plants expand. Even minor renovations or expansions can have far-reaching consequences throughout a facility. For example, locating things far apart necessitates longer pipes and larger pumps, not to mention additional cleaning and wasted product in the pipes.

Avoid headaches and reduce plant costs by carefully planning a staged dairy plant expansion. To do so:
  • Map out an expansion plan.
  • Configure plant layout, zoning, and segregation.
  • Make room for cold storage, product collection, offloading, and ventilation.
  • Review building codes.
  • Analyze the ergonomics of system/equipment design.
Process simulation
Dairy plants, in general, are attempting to fit more into a smaller footprint than ever before. Process simulation is an effective tool for assisting facility stakeholders in better understanding their requirements and comparing alternative design solutions. Before risking capital expenditures, process simulations can be used to evaluate process alternatives for everything from a single unit operation to an entire facility.

CRB recently used process simulation to assist with the expansion of a food manufacturer. The accuracy of the models was validated through historical performance and consultation with the client's subject matter experts. CRB used the model to conduct a series of studies for the facility feasibility study, evaluating traffic and material flow in the following scenarios: centralized palletization, end-of-line palletization, and product reload capacity.

Throughput measurement; labor requirements; equipment utilization; people and forklift truck traffic; and staging, space, inventory, and work-in-progress were all considered in each scenario. CRB collaborated with the client's packaging team to address the necessary facility and equipment modifications. The packaging simulation revealed that an entire module could be removed from the packaging lines without negatively impacting profits.

Work with an integrated project delivery team
A holistic approach is required when designing a facility that meets both short-term and long-term needs. A dairy plant expansion project can be identified, planned, and executed by an integrated project delivery (IPD) team with both short- and long-term goals in mind.

Companies that house architectural, engineering, and construction teams under one roof have an advantage when it comes to integration because they can provide a thorough understanding of facility and equipment design, as well as constructability. CRB's ONEsolutionTM is built on the foundation of IPD, with our own distinct approach to achieving exceptional results through lean integration principles.

The right team for your dairy project will look at building codes, functions, utilities, and hygienic processes. They can also provide a complete project solution, from initial planning to operational readiness. In short, they can look beyond today's requirements and plan for tomorrow's successes.

Do you want to expand your dairy processing plant? Contact our dairy experts today to start planning for tomorrow.