Keeping factory capacity ahead of fast-growing market demand has been a big challenge for Snowbird foods which has recently completed a multi million pound improvement programme to assure its position as the UK’s leading supplier of fully cooked and frozen sausages (and other comminuted meat products) along with its famous Stuffing Balls.
The investment focused on comprehensive process improvements, capacity increases and more versatile equipment to enable the product range to be expanded and produced more economically.
A multi-head weigher and associated form, fill and seal bagging machine enables Snowbird to fill 0.5 and 1 kilo bags handling the same weight product in the time previously taken to fill 4 and 6 kilo bags.
The new combi cooking line can also bar mark products and has significantly increased the scope of new product development, allowing more combinations of size, shape, weight, texture, nutritional composition and flavour of both cooked comminuted meat and stuffing products.
In-line cookers were added on two production lines, quadrupling capacity and in-line nitrogen freezers replaced blast freezers.
A thermal boiler was commissioned to power the cookers through a safety jacket (controlled to within one degree of optimum), Rockwool fire retardant panels were installed and a positive air pressure system was added to the high care area where defrost and eat products are made.
Within the high care sector more hygienic new walls and ceilings were installed along with increased positive air filtration capacity and improved product conveyors reduce waste, improve efficiency and further enhanced hygiene.
Packing of high care products has been separated from the production area and automatic weighing systems have also been installed.
New heat exchangers with re-use systems provide hot water to maximise cleaning efficiency and there has been a thirty per cent reduction in chemical requirements. Plant life and thermal transfer efficiency are also improved.
Chilled water to all ingredient points ensures maximum product solubilisation together with good 3D protein gel formulation on cooking to deliver sausages with a plump and juicy appearance.
The highest resolution metal detectors available have been fitted to the freezer exits, thus further reducing the risks to food safety.
The latest upgrade is a simple piece of equipment which is enhancing services to customers whilst also moving Snowbird towards an improvement in its green credentials. A specially commissioned bag printer has been installed which can handle both four and six kilo scramble-style plastic bags.
Any agreed message can be programmed for printing through the five inch print head and messages can vary from a simple weight declaration and best before date to all the details need for full traceability – and even customer logos.
The new system replaces a time consuming, expensive and sometimes unreliable method using pre-printed sticky labels which occasionally failed and did not survive customer handling processes.
It also enabled Snowbird to heavily reduce the quantity of cardboard used in the factory, thus enabling it to further enhance its green credentials.