- 12:30 PM

Process Synthesis Applied to the Food Industry

Michiel Meeuse, Unilever Food and Health Research Institute, Olivier van Noortlaan 120, Vlaardingen, 3133 AT, Netherlands

In the last decades process synthesis has really penetrated the chemical industries. A lot of examples are available in the open literature where application of one of the various methodologies has led to significant improved processes: lower capital and operational costs. Compared to the chemical industry, the food industry is still many years behind. The current process design approach is still mainly an evolutionary approach based on best practices. So there is a huge potential for cost savings (and product quality improvement) in the food industry.

There are various clear differences between the typical chemical processes to which process synthesis techniques have been applied and the food products: h food products are typically structured products where the performance is determined by the internal microstructure of the product h the unit operations are quite different, less reaction and separation, more mixing and preservation h food processes are generally multi product processes, so on the same line different products with different properties need to be produced h cleaning is an essential part of the operational policy because of food safety and quality reasons.

In this paper we will present an actual case study where we applied process synthesis techniques to develop a new process for a food product with significant business benefits. The product is an emulsion with special requirements for the surface composition. One of the process steps in the current process is a maturation step. In this step the product needs to sit in a tank for a couple of hours in order to obtain the desired interfacial composition. This maturation step is a bottleneck in the process. By applying process synthesis we were able to design an alternative process without the maturation step. The new process leads to a reduction in cost and an increased flexibility of the process.