Tetra Pak has developed an innovative Extrusion Wheel which is capable of producing stick ice cream products with large inclusions, such as cookie dough pieces, nuts and fruit.
The constantly rotating wheel includes moulded cavities where a stick is pre-inserted, then ice cream containing inclusions is injected into the mould around the stick, meaning the inclusions are not damaged, are evenly spread and the position of the stick remains the same.
Elsebeth Baungaard, product and concept manager, extrusion at Tetra Pak spoke with FoodBev’s Martin White about the development of the new technology and how the innovation will affect the future of the ice cream market.
How does the extrusion wheel function and process stick ice cream products with inclusions?
Our Tetra Pak Extrusion Wheel solution is a completely new approach, designed to address all the existing production challenges of manufacturing ice cream products with large inclusions.
It is a vertical rotating wheel with a cavity system – combined with a clever stick-placement function – placed onto a traditional extrusion line. The concept involves the following steps:
This process solves the difficulty of cutting through large inclusions without damaging the smooth ice cream surface, or nudging sticks and inclusions out of position.
Tetra Pak’s Extrusion Wheel allows the production of stick ice cream products with large inclusions such as nuts and fruit
The development process considered three different options, why was the Extrusion Wheel successful?
From the start of the technology project to launch, it has taken approximately four years, with three different options under consideration. Many ideas were explored and screened in the first phase of the project, and three concepts were selected for further evaluation: Ultrasonic cutting, an inclusion-free zone and finally the vertical rotating wheel.
The Extrusion Wheel was successful because of its ability to meet the requirements for product appearance, (well-defined corners, smooth surfaces, even distribution of inclusions and precise placement), at a production cost comparable to that of traditional extruded stick products without inclusions.
When it comes to food waste and production capacity, how much more efficient are production lines with an Extrusion Wheel fitted than conventional lines?
Compared to other solutions on market, the Extrusion Wheel uses less energy – partly because it does not require nitrogen cooling and partly because it is able to run at higher speeds.
This is due to the patented design of which allows for a more precise stick placement, which results in less waste and higher utilisation of the hardening tunnel. Compared to traditionally cut products, there is no difference in energy consumption.
How does the Extrusion Wheel guarantee the quality of ice cream products?
To achieve high standards in appearance some ice cream products require precise placement, such as sandwich products where the ice cream needs to be accurately placed on the biscuit portion of the product.
The vertical rotating wheel can achieve this with high accuracy due to the close proximity of the wheel to the line, and therefore the released ice cream product is gently placed on the steel trays of the line. The Extrusion Wheel also guarantees the stick placement, since this is placed in position first and the ice cream and large inclusions filled onto the stick.
Was the equipment manufactured in response to demand from manufacturers or as an effort to advance innovation in the segment?
The market for premium stick ice cream products is growing – especially for products with large inclusions. In response to this, customers are telling us that consumers are seeking more crunchy, chewy, crumbly chunks in sticks, bars, sandwiches and slices – in addition to cup ice creams and larger packages.
This is linked to the wider trend for novelty products, with studies reporting that consumers are looking to occasionally indulge in decadent, high-quality treats.
There was significant room for improvement for the process of manufacturing extruded products with large inclusions, in particular product appearance, positioning (and minimal waste), capacity and simplicity.
Do you feel that this innovation greatly strengthens Tetra Pak’s position in the ice cream market?
Based on the comprehensive development of this innovative machine, and the customer feedback received so far, we are very confident that this innovation creates a significant contribution to the ice cream industry.
For example, a large Japanese customer has tested the wheel and confirms that it reaches their required level of safety and hygiene, with successful production results. Cleaning tests (both ATP and bacteriological) in our Product Development Centre in Aarhus, Denmark and with customers, have also given conclusive results.
In addition, the first implemented extrusion wheel is already producing commercial products in Scandinavia and a customer in Iran is producing sandwich products in three lanes.
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