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Unilever launches first UK regenerative agriculture project

Unilever has launched its first regenerative agriculture project in the UK, working with farms that grow mustard seeds and mint leaves used in Colman’s products. This is the latest regenerative agriculture project from Unilever, building on global programmes that have seen the adoption of Unilever’s Regenerative Agriculture Principles to grow ingredients in Hellmann’s and Knorr products in the United States, France, Spain, Argentina and Italy. Globally, Unilever have an ambitious roadmap in place to invest in regenerative agriculture practices on 1.5 million hectares of land and forests by 2030, helping to ensure food security and supply chain resilience through the supply of agricultural raw materials. The project will initially trial the application of regenerative agriculture practices across mustard and mint farms around Norwich and Peterborough over four-years, including mustard farms which have supplied Colman’s products for over 200 years, with the first crop of the programme due to be sown next month. The project brings together Unilever and two farming cooperatives, the English Mustard Growers and Norfolk Mint Growers, with a group of technical and academic partners, Farmacy and National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). Designed to address the unique challenges and needs of these crops and landscapes, regenerative agriculture practices new to these farms will be trialled including the use of low carbon fertiliser, crop nutrition strategies, planting of cover and companion crops to reduce pesticides use, new digital water irrigation scheduling systems and reduced cultivation. Unilever has worked with the farms to collect and establish baseline data and created a framework to measure the impact these practices will have over four-years, collecting data on soil health, fertiliser use, biodiversity, water use efficiency and carbon reductions as well as impact on yields and farm profitability. Unilever is also funding the development of new technologies to improve data collection on farms, including a device that will be able to measure carbon levels in soil in situ. Andre Burger, Head of Nutrition, Unilever UK & Ireland, said: “Healthy soil should matter to all food businesses and as the climate crisis continues to impact the natural world, we need to not just protect but to help regenerate the soil and farmland used to grow the crops and ingredients we enjoy every day. Colman’s is a British condiment staple and our new regenerative agriculture project will help to ensure the sustainable supply and future of the delicious ingredients and farms that put the big flavour into our products.” Michael Sly, Mustard Farmer, said: “As with all farmers, we are facing the challenges of climate change directly on our land. Alongside our English Mustard Growers Group, we’re on the journey with Unilever and NIAB to integrate regenerative agriculture practices that include strong measurement processes, to improve our yield, improve the soil health, and maintain the flavour of a fantastic product alongside that.” David Bond, Mint Farmer, said: “To increase our resilience and continue to produce high quality products, we need to work with our climate, which means adapting our practices. This new project with Unilever will enable us to implement regenerative agriculture practices on a wider scale, together with more measurement and analysis from our partnership with NIAB, so we can continue to learn and improve for the future.”

Visitor registration opens for Automation UK

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British Automation & Robot Association (BARA), organisers of Automation UK, are excited to announce the opening of visitor registration for this year’s event. The popular show will return to the CBS Arena in Coventry on 18-19 June 2024. Last year was the inaugural Automation UK and it proved to be a massive success with over a thousand visitors eager to find out more about the benefits of automation and robotics for their businesses. It is anticipated that in June the event will be buzzing again with visitors keen to see the latest solutions from an even greater number of leading businesses showcasing their innovative products and services. The primary objective of Automation UK is to emphasise the importance of automation and robotics to the growth of the UK economy. The event aims to motivate and encourage businesses to invest in these technologies by highlighting the advantages they can bring to businesses. Automation and robotics have the ability to streamline processes, often resulting in significant financial benefits for businesses. These solutions have already been integrated into many manufacturing businesses due to the wide range of benefits they can provide, such as automation and robotics performing repetitive and manual tasks, which will deliver an increase in productivity levels. In addition, these solutions can deliver a safer working environment and go some way to solving labour and skills shortages. Integrating automation and robotics is an attractive option to many businesses and last year Automation UK attracted visitors from a wide cross section of industries such as manufacturing, retail/consumer, automotive, electrical, electronics, engineering, aerospace, maritime, food, drink, logistics, transport, oil, gas and nuclear. Automation UK provides an excellent opportunity for visitors to see the latest industrial products and services including robots, robotics systems, systems integration, automation control parts and systems, and sensor and machine safety. There will be a remarkable range of well-known brands keen to impress visitors with their innovative technologies. Some of the founding exhibitors include ABB, Fanuc UK, Festo, Piab, KUKA Robotics UK, Schubert UK, and RARUK Automation. For visitors there will also be live demonstrations and product launches so they can learn and experience all these solutions with their own eyes. Exploring all these captivating products and services provides a chance to speak to knowledgeable exhibitors about suitable solutions and recommendations. There will be a broad range of content rich seminars delivered by knowledgeable industry experts. Visitors can learn about valuable industry trends and gain insights into what to watch out for in the future. The two-day Automaton UK event will provide an abundance of brilliant networking opportunities with industry experts and peers which provides a platform to develop fresh business relationships. One of the visitors to the Automation UK 2023, Shreyansh Agrawal, Founder at Kairos Diagnostics said: “Coming to this event will help you grow your business, network and automate your way to the future.” Automation UK visitor registration is now open, so start planning and book your free ticket, please click here.

Precise and fast labelling with new AP380e Label Applicator

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Having a label applied accurately, precisely and wrinkle-free is important as it elevates the product presentation, a critical factor in driving sales. DTM Print, international OEM and solution provider for specialty printing systems, recommends semi-automatic labelling solutions like the AP-Series Label Applicators as they offer a consistent look across all packages and also help businesses to speed up their production. The AP380e Label Applicator is the newest model of the AP-Series. This state-of-the-art applicator is designed to streamline the label application process on round or cylindrical containers, offering increased speeds and new features, making the labelling process faster and more efficient. With approximately 30% increased speed than the AP360e and AP362e Label Applicators, it ensures labels are applied swiftly and accurately, providing a seamless finish on a wide variety of containers. The inclusion of a new label liner rewinder further optimises operations by keeping the waste liner material off of the floor and winding it into a roll for easy disposal. Key Features of the AP380e Label ApplicatorPrecision Labelling: The AP380e applies labels with impeccable precision, ensuring a professional appearance for every finished product. • Label Liner Rewinder: The waste liner is rewound as the labels are applied to the container, allowing for less clutter during high-usage periods. • Increased Speeds: The applicator’s enhanced speed capabilities result in a significant boost in labelling efficiency, allowing for more containers to be labelled per hour. • Reliable Performance: For detecting the labels, the AP380e is equipped with a mechanical sensor flag which, unlike ultrasonic sensors, can process transparent labels without black marks. This purpose-built sensor flag has been installed in over 38,000 AP-Series applicators and is known for its longevity and reliability with various label types and thicknesses. • User-Friendly Operation: The intuitive design of the AP380e makes it easy to operate, providing a hassle-free labelling experience. Lea König, Product Manager for Labelling Solutions at DTM Print, summarises the benefits: “The AP380e optimises the production process thanks to the built-in liner rewinder. At the same time, it significantly increases the production throughput. With the AP380e labels are applied flawlessly and reliably, giving the finished products a highly professional appearance.” The AP380e is an ideal accessory to the label printing and applicator solutions offered by DTM Print, including the LX-Series of desktop colour label printers. It is also compatible with labels produced using various printing methods, such as flexographic, offset and thermal transfer. Pricing and Availability The AP380e Label Applicator is priced at € 1,795 (MSRP) and available from DTM Print or through authorised DTM Print partners in Europe, Middle East and Africa. DTM Print offers customers a three-year warranty for AP380e units within the EU, UK and EFTA countries after registering the product on the company website (register.dtm-print.eu). As an additional service DTM Print offers to modify the container rollers for custom containers. Product information about AP380e and all other AP-Series models is available at dtm-print.eu. Follow DTM Print on Facebook and on Twitter.

Moisture control is a crucial step in quality food processing: MoistTech represents the diamond standard

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Moisture is important in any manufacturing process, but when it comes to food processing, excess moisture can ruin products and create excess waste. And what is worse than a wasted effort? Economical losses and decreased productivity. With continuous online moisture measurement, food production plants will find huge money savings. Knowing the moisture content of the materials used throughout the food and baking process has become one of the most critical components in the industry as many raw materials sold today are based upon weight. MoistTech moisture sensors can provide a quick test of the moisture levels of the manufacturer’s raw ingredients, effectively saving purchasing plants a lot of money. While moisture is MoistTech’s major focus, it also supplies analyzers for the continuous online measurement of protein, fat/oil, sugar, seasonings, caffeine, and other constituents or elements that absorb the NIR beam. Moisture measurement and control can provide immediate benefits: ● Reduce dryer usage and energy costs ● Proper control of the infeed and dryer exit ● Better final product quality ● Consistency of your final product ● 100% product inspection Realizing that many food processing companies use many primary reference measurements, either in-house or outsourced, MoistTech’s NIR moisture sensors are easy to set up and use which will provide instant and precise measurements due to no constituent losses in handling. Instant measurements provide manufacturers with savings in analysis costs, delivery times, and shipping costs. It is also important to know the moisture content during the mixing stage in the food manufacturing process as water affects the quality and consistency of the end product. Variations and excess moisture in mixes can result in clumping and out-of-spec recipe formulas. Testing food moisture during this time will allow adjustments to be made throughout the mixing process to manage moisture levels. Manufacturers strive to have the best-finished product. The amount of water a product has affects the taste, appearance, consistency, stability as well as the shelf life. Testing the moisture levels of the final product ensures manufacturers that they have the highest quality product and consistency. Whether finished products have too much or too little moisture is a main concern for food manufacturers. Some food items are sold by weight, which reduces costs, can make the item lower in fat/calories, and prevents it from being too dry. Adding too much water can affect the crunch by making the item taste stale or even worse contributing to bacteria/mold growth. Sensing moisture content throughout the process also provides food manufacturers cost savings in energy and fuel costs, as well as having less product waste. With continuous NIR online moisture testing, manufacturers can monitor moisture levels which in turn, can precisely control ovens, dryers, roasters, and fryers to optimize the production process with minimum energy requirements. Near Infrared Technology and Food Production Although the discovery of Near-Infrared (NIR) is attributed to William Herschel in the late 19th century, the first industrial application was not until the 1950s. NIR spectroscopy and imaging are fast and nondestructive analytical techniques that provide chemical and physical information of virtually any matrix. NIR can tell us things about a product in a similar way to visible light. When light hits a product, it will interact in various ways. Transmitted light will pass through the product while backscattered light will reflect from the product. Light will also be absorbed by the product. Absorption is the key to the most effective moisture measurement analysis technique. A Crucial Aspect Immediate ROI is seen with the installation of a moisture measurement system as the plant controllers can instantaneously notice the reduced waste, energy usage, and overall increase in product quality. When looking at moisture measurement systems, be sure to evaluate features that will be most beneficial to your operation. The best ones to look for are: ● One-time calibration: Pre-calibrating the sensor to be ready to read your specific application ● Multiple applications can be read: The moisture measurement system can remember up to 50 different applications and measurements so you can easily switch back and forth to allow the machine to acknowledge a new product is being read. ● Immediate results: The sensor produces hundreds of readings per second to allow the user to have immediate access to the product moisture content, allowing for increased or decreased dryer control. ● All equipment included: Everything needed to operate the sensor is included and the software can be installed on an unlimited number of devices, allowing for better access throughout the process. ● State-of-the-art technology: Continually researched and updated technology allows for the most accurate results in the moisture measurement industry. ● Installation: Ideal for installations on chain and screw conveyors. MoistTech is very experienced with the requirements in the production of foods and snack foods. Its sensor calibrations, measurement wavelengths, algorithms and sensor optical requirements are pre-set at the factory. Typical accuracy is about ±0.1% moisture. Typical analog range is 0-10% moisture. The outputs can be adjusted to optimize PLC or recording requirements.

Vegan Food Group gobbles up German tofu manufacturer

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Vegan Food Group (VFG) is set to become one of Europe’s largest plant-based manufacturers with the acquisition of TOFUTOWN, creating a major European CPG company alongside leading brands Meatless Farm, VFC, and Clive’s. This positions the combined entity for profitability in 2024, with a clear line of sight for scaling group revenues beyond €100m. Established over 40 years ago by Bernd Drosihn, TOFUTOWN is a major supplier of 100% natural, organic tofu, spreads, and meat alternatives in the EU, predominantly in their home country Germany. The company, headquartered in Wiesbaum (North Rhine-Westphalia), supplies major retailers such as Aldi, Lidl, DM, and Edeka under the TOFUTOWN brand. With 55,000 sqm manufacturing across two sites, the Lüneburg (Lower Saxony) is one of the largest plant-based factories in Europe, with the capacity to produce a wide range of new plant-based lines. Dave Sparrow, CEO of the Vegan Food Group, said: “VFG will now be a major player in plant-based food, with a significant manufacturing scale across three sites, employing over 300 staff, and with a strong network of strategic manufacturing and supply chain partners. “This acquisition allows VFG to fast-track our growth across the UK and the EU in chilled, frozen, and ambient products, in both branded and own label retail, as well as foodservice.” The Vegan Food Group Ltd has developed from the initial company, VFC Foods Ltd, founded in December 2020 by chef Adam Lyons and Veganuary founder Matthew Glover. The new holding company which acquired Meatless Farm and Clive’s Purely Plants in 2023 already boasts a range of 80 SKUs in the UK and EU across 21,000 distribution points. “Joining the Vegan Food Group is an exciting opportunity for TOFUTOWN to successfully continue Bernd’s vision over the coming decades,” said Markus Kerres, CEO of TOFUTOWN GmbH. “With Germany and the UK being the two biggest markets for plant-based foods, we’re well-positioned to thrive over the next decade.” “Consolidation is required in the plant-based space, and with early signs of a rebound, the Vegan Food Group is well positioned to capitalise on market conditions and supercharge growth in the UK and Europe,” added Matthew Glover, co-founder of VFC, Veg Capital and Veganuary. Vegan Food Group has entered into a share purchase agreement to acquire all shares in Tofutown.com GmbH with completion pending final institutional authorisation but expected to happen soon. KPMG played a pivotal role in conducting the financial due diligence, while Addleshaw Goddard provided expert legal advice, ensuring a seamless and strategic execution of the deal.

Paulig to make €42m investment in Tex Mex and Snacking production in Spain

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Paulig is aiming to strengthen its position in the Tex Mex and Snacking categories in Europe with a 42 million EUR investment into a new savoury snacks production facility in Spain. Paulig expects to start building the factory in 2025 and production to commence in 2026. “This investment marks an important step in the execution of our international growth strategy. It will further strengthen our position in the Tex Mex and snacking categories in Europe after the acquisition of the snacking company Liven in Spain in 2022. It will also increase the company’s innovation capabilities in these categories,” says Rolf Ladau, CEO of Paulig. Paulig operates in 13 countries and has production facilities in six countries including Finland, Sweden, Estonia, UK, Spain and Belgium. Paulig’s snacks factories are located in Spain and Belgium. “We are planning to inaugurate our new factory during 2026. We want to be a trusted partner for our customers, and with the new facility, we are dedicated to maintaining a steady supply of innovative snacks to meet growing demand in the future. We want to offer our customers high-quality products that are made in a sustainable and efficient way. Furthermore, we currently employ approximately 340 people in Spain and anticipate hiring many more in the years ahead,” says Thomas Panteli, SVP Supply Chain and Sourcing.

Illva Saronno completes acquisition of ENGINE Gin

Illva Saronno, an Italian multinational spirits company, has acquired Engine, a 100% Italian organic gin.

This financial operation began in 2021 with the acquisition of a minority stake in Engine (25%) and a global distribution agreement. Through this acquisition, Illva Saronno Holding is able to strengthen its presence in the gin world and focus on a Made in Italy gem with a strong identity and innovative character.

Aldino Marzorati, ILLVA Saronno Holding CEO, said: “We are pleased and proud to announce the complete acquisition of Engine, a 100% Italian brand that integrates perfectly into our established portfolio. The decision to acquire Engine is an integral part of our corporate strategy, aimed at offering excellent products globally.

“Engine appeals to an international audience, positioning itself as a distinctive product in the gin landscape, and we are excited to bring it to the 160 countries in which we currently operate. Today, a young brand enters the Illva Saronno Holding family, synonymous with innovation and quality, and we are confident this will help strengthen our positioning for an increasingly diversified and premium product portfolio.”  

ENGINE S.r.l. was founded in 2021 by Dalla Mora & Partners, led by Paolo Dalla Mora, an entrepreneur active in the fashion and spirits sectors. The inspiration behind this brand is rooted in motorsports imagery, one of oil cans, fuel, and competitions, a passion that has always animated the creator, in a heartfelt homage to the legendary 1980s. ENGINE products stand out for their original and unconventional design, as they’re not presented in a traditional bottle but rather enclosed in unusual tin cans.

Paolo Dalla Mora, ENGINE founder, said: “For me, this is a dream come true. I started ENGINE at the age of forty, after a career as a manager in large companies, from an idea in a garage. I launched the first can in Italy in May 2019, and by April 2021, it had become a successful small multinational, now present in over 30 markets. It’s every marketer’s dream to see their strategies solidify globally, and it’s every entrepreneur’s dream to achieve a successful exit.

“ENGINE is made up of a team that imbued everything with their passion, vision, and fuel. I am convinced that our friends at ILLVA are the best choice to continue the global consolidation of this outstanding work, with a plan that will see our range present in 160 countries within a few years. I am also proud that, among all the interest the brand received, it is in Italian hands that ENGINE continues its journey.

“I will now focus on being a husband and a father; I have to give back to my family the time, patience, and love they have given me over the years, and from today, I will be involved in venture capital endeavors in the food & beverage industry. Never has a payoff be more fitting: ENGINE #fuelthedream.”

ENGINE gin is a distilled gin produced in the heart of Piemonte (Piedmont), using exclusively organic ingredients. It is characterized by a bold taste, where the balsamic aromas of juniper are enriched by the fresh notes of lemon zest and the intense scent of sage, with an elegant floral undertone. Upon tasting, it maintains an excellent taste with a slightly bitter finish from the sage leaves, while the sweet notes of licorice root to ensure the final balance of the product. 

Illva Saronno S.p.A. will continue the global distribution of Engine and in the UK market, distribution continues with Disaronno International UK, while in Italy, Velier will maintain its successful distribution.

The Reefer Trailer Centre launches brand new website

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The Reefer Trailer Centre has revealed the launch of its brand new website. As well as being the UK’s sole distributor for both Chereau and SOR trailers, The Reefer Trailer Centre also has a state of the art workshop facility. It can help you with anything from small repairs to your fleet or even the full refurbishment of accident damaged vehicles and trailers. In addition to this The Reefer Trailer Centre has a wide variety of used trailers available as well as its general asset finance business. All of this is featured on the website along with latest news and so much more. Check the website out at www.reefertrailer.co.uk and get in touch on 01782 358006 or email marketing@reefertrailer.co.uk.

New research to help make growing food greener

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A new way to create synthetic fertilisers from waste by-products, which could provide a cost-effective, low-carbon alternative to current synthetic fertilisers for the UK’s farming industry, is being developed by the University of Sheffield. Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Energy Institute and the Institute for Sustainable Food are working with Future Greens, a Sheffield-based SME specialising in controlled-environment agriculture, on a research project designed to improve the sustainability of growing food. Unlike traditional farming systems that grow crops in soil, this type of agriculture uses vertical water-based hydroponics systems that are totally reliant on the application of synthetic fertilisers to supply nutrients essential for plant growth. Using hydroponics to quickly grow food like leafy greens has been a fast-growing industry in the UK commercially, as well as for individual homeowners with limited space and resources to grow their own food. However, high energy prices and volatile fertiliser markets have put this emerging industry at risk. Notably, the cost of synthetic fertilisers, responsible for a significant portion of global energy consumption, has risen by 139 per cent within the last year in Britain. The sourcing of these fertilisers has fast become an economic and environmental concern, with production also responsible for 1-2 per cent of global energy use. This new University of Sheffield project aims to combine food and energy research to advance sustainable farming practices, enabling farmers to grow plants like lettuce and spinach in a more sustainable way by developing an alternative sustainable process for the production of synthetic fertilisers. This process will convert the by-products from anaerobic digestion – a technology which turns waste farm products like manure into energy – into a high-quality, water-soluble fertiliser suitable for food crops. This system, which combines biogas energy production with the conversion of waste products, fosters a more sustainable, circular and resilient system for farming. Successful development of this innovative idea would provide a cost-effective, low-carbon alternative to current synthetic fertilisers for the UK’s farming industry, and would result in additional revenue for anaerobic digestion plants. It would also contribute towards the UK’s goal of a circular phosphorus economy, and build resilience in the UK food industry. Dr Davide Poggio, Research Associate at the Energy Institute at the University of Sheffield, said of the project: “This project represents a novel, systemic approach to urban biowaste management. By integrating biogas technology with vertical farming, we aim to efficiently recycle nutrients and recover energy within urban settings, and enhance the security and sustainability of key hydroponic crops.” Alexander La Fleur, from Future Greens, said: “Working with the university is really exciting for us, since graduating two years ago it’s nice to be back and tap into the valuable expertise. The grant presents a really promising opportunity to find a solution to the environmental and economic challenges facing the fertiliser industry.” The project, which is supported by an Innovate UK Research Starter grant, will foster further collaboration between Future Greens, with Dr Davide Poggio from the University of Sheffield’s Energy Institute and Dr Ian Lidbury from the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food, with Jacob Nickles from the University of Manchester serving as the Innovation Manager. The project will result in a demonstrator at the Future Green site to evaluate the practical application of the new technology.

Egg producer embarks on next venture with substantial investment in manufacturing site

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Egg producer, Noble Foods is embarking on its next venture with a substantial investment in an added-value manufacturing site. In addition to recent acquisitions in animal feed and agriculture, this strategic move, set to begin production in the summer in Leicestershire, signifies Noble Foods’ decision to diversify its offerings and expand its Consumer Foods business beyond traditional shell egg. Noble Foods aims to build on its legacy at the new 10,000 sq m manufacturing site by introducing a range of pre-prepared foods using eggs. At its peak, the site has the potential to use over 1.6 million eggs per week. Aimed at the retail, Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) and wholesale market, foods including omelettes, egg bites, and frittatas will be made at the site, with a pipeline of innovative new egg-products already in development. Will Cadbury, Added Value Business Lead at Noble Foods, said: “I’m excited that our new investment will help us in our ambition to create more egg-based foods, in different formats, so that more people can enjoy eggs throughout the day.” “We already know that eggs are one of the most versatile and nutritious foods, with the lowest carbon output of any animal protein,” Will continued. “This aligns brilliantly with our purpose ‘To better nourish people, animals and planet’ and our investment will really help to accelerate that, by providing more eggs, for more people, on more occasions.” The Leicestershire manufacturing site, formerly dedicated to producing desserts, will offer up to 150 jobs in its phased opening. Will added: “Opening a new facility is a big moment for all of us at Noble Foods and I can’t wait to see the products coming off the line in the coming months. It’s fantastic that our investment will create new jobs in Leicestershire too, and opportunities for colleagues to develop their careers. “We will be bringing nutritious and convenient products to our customers, several of whom already share our excitement. Combining our deep understanding of farm to fork, along with food and manufacturing experience, gives our customers the confidence they’ll be benefiting from qualities synonymous with Noble Foods.”