GEA has built a complete processing plant for infant formula production in New Zealand, which will be used to supply one of the largest producers for the Chinese market.
The plant in Pokeno, 30 miles south of Auckland, boasts a production capacity of 50,000 tons a year and will be used to supply Yashili, one of China’s three largest producers of infant formula milk. The facility is one of the largest infant formula plants in the world and, as a showcase plant for Yashili, will place special focus on innovation and on the hygienic design of the process plant and buildings.
The scope supplied from GEA includes all the key elements: from milk and ingredients reception, to powder production, and to final packing into 25kg bags. All of the main processing technology from GEA assures absolute compatibility and design optimisation, German-based GEA Group claimed.
Milk is received at the Pokeno site and pre-treated. Ingredients are accurately added using high-shear mixing under vacuum. Vegetable oils, dry dairy powders, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals can then be added directly to fresh milk. The resulting formulations are cooled in batches and the batches are then further concentrated by the gentle removal of water under vacuum, using GEA tubular falling film evaporators. The milk concentrate from the evaporators is spray-dried in a GEA MSD dryer to produce a dry powder with high functionality, before GEA Avapac technology is used to pack the powder into 25kg bags.
“We have a plant here that represents the best in class in many aspects and that produces an excellent product,” said Yashili New Zealand operations manager Terry Norwood. “GEA has been a great partner in this project.”
The plant includes a number of highly innovative technologies designed to enhance product quality and consistency, reduce noise pollution, and minimise the use of water and energy. They include multiple feed lines and duplicate up-stream systems (such as for evaporation) to allow continuous, 24-hour operation of the dryer, increasing output, helping to ensure product consistency, and avoiding product quality problems associated with start-up and shut-down procedures.
There is also a built-in flexibility to reconstitute milk powders for introduction as ingredients, allowing greater product flexibility and more accurate management of the milk supply; inlet air dehumidification, for a greater consistency of the final powder; water treatment systems designed to enhance water recovery, leading to reductions in water consumption and minimised disposal costs; exhaust heat recovery infrastructure; advanced process control; and a reduction in noise thanks to the building’s design and “the attenuation of noise at ventilation and process exhaust openings”.
The new site will seek to take advantage of the perception among Chinese consumers that infant formula produced in New Zealand is of a higher quality than that made domestically. It follows the news that China’s food safety regulator had asked three milk producers in China’s Shaanxi province to recall their infant formula powders, after they were found to contain dangerously high levels of nitrate, seven years after the tainted milk scandal that broke consumer confidence in the country’s dairy sector.
In May, Hong Kong-based investors announced that they would build a $50m dairy factory on North Island to help meet Chinese demand for New Zealand-made dairy.
Yashili’s Pokeno plant has already commenced production of some products, and is ready to move into full production in accordance with Yashili’s commercial needs.
Chris Burt, engineering manager for GEA in New Zealand, said: “We have succeeded in including interesting innovations for Yashili. These have combined to optimise the plant in terms of its productivity, flexibility, and sustainability. It is really a world class facility.”
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