Food trends are changing at a rate of knots. Over recent years, consumers have become much savvier in their choices when it comes to what they’re putting in their bodies and what they want to know from manufacturers. From vegetarianism and veganism to allergy awareness, the UK’s dietary requirements are now more intricate, where brands need to step up their game to diversify their offering and appeal to the masses.
Let’s take a look at some of the prominent changes in the food & drink industry recently:
UK consumers are now choosing to opt for meat-free products more than ever before. We’ve been advised of the effects that animal rearing is having on the environment, leading to many thinking more carefully about their meat consumption. Whether that’s going the whole hog or taking the flexitarian approach of one or two meatless days a week, consumers now find comfort in the meat-free offerings by manufacturers.
2018 saw the UK launch the highest number of new vegan food products compared to any other country, knocking Germany off the top spot. Quite clearly, more and more consumers are choosing to completely eliminate animal products from their diet. Food producers have so far responded remarkably in introducing innovative products to suit this lifestyle but more can definitely be done to expand further.
The tragic death of a 16-year-old girl after eating a Pret A Manger sandwich unknowingly containing ingredients she was allergic to sparked major investigations into issues surrounding food preparation and packaging. Product handling and minimising interactivity with potential hazards (nuts, egg, soy etc) are paramount for those that suffer allergies. Correct and thorough labelling then removes any doubt for the consumer’s decision-making.
Many consumers are now choosing to, or have to for health reasons, cut certain food elements from their life. This often covers gluten and dairy but even includes plans such as the keto diet which encourages a high-fat, low-carb lifestyle. Therefore, food packaging and ingredient lists need to be clear from the outset so that consumers can make informed decisions about food.
The details above demonstrate that food & drink manufacturers are currently juggling a number of responsibilities; to be able to diversify and create innovative products that tie in with the latest trends, ensure food safety remains a top priority and be confident that in-house manufacturing operations are as streamlined as possible to make this happen.
By taking a look at redesigning the internal fit-out within a food manufacturing facility, there are several ways that will ensure their responsibilities are met:
- Hygienic Surfaces
Easily washable surfaces throughout a food factory are so important, and this doesn’t stop at just worktops. Having internal walls made from hygienic insulated composite panels encourages easy and regular wash-down of facilities; with a crisp white panel finish, a system like this is aesthetically-pleasing to the eye and importantly, shows up dirt effectively.
- Separation of Manufacturing Processes
Ideally, food products containing allergy-inducing ingredients, such as nuts and egg, should be manufactured separately from allergen-free foods to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, with the same process applied for meat and their vegetarian/vegan alternatives.
This can be achieved by the simple installation of a food-safe insulated panelling system, creating separate areas within the main production factory and completely segregating any contact between offending ingredients (eventually stamping out the ‘may contain traces of…’ labelling). When further production lines for new products are introduced in the future, this is easily attainable using such systems as they require minimal handling on site and can be easily installed in a live environment.
- Wash & Change Facilities
Not only important for maintaining the highest standards of food hygiene across the board, incorporating appropriate staff wash and change facilities promotes good practice for staff working across different production areas, handling different ingredients.
Depending on the requirements of the business, panelled areas suitable for hand washing right through to full showering facilities can be constructed for this purpose.
- New Product Development & R&D Facilities
We’ve seen the likes of Halo Top emerge into the industry recently, who have changed the ice cream game as we know it. Their gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly alternative that’s high in protein, low in calories yet still plentiful in flavour is one of many products that consumers are loving. It’s innovations like this that are certainly keeping other food manufacturers on their toes.
Therefore, the need for in-house R&D facilities should be welcomed to continue to work on new product development. Sanitary, sometimes fire-rated or even ATEX-rated, testing or analysis areas can be installed using food-safe cladding panels to suit operational requirements, with temperature control also factored in if required.
- Dedicated Packaging Facilities
Maintaining consistency throughout the manufacturing, processing and packaging of food products delivers a strong brand message to consumers. Again, by incorporating dedicated facilities for the packaging of products, including effective separation design for high-risk ingredients, this allows for much more control and clarity for consumers.
As we can see, simple tweaks to a food manufacturers’ internal production layout allow them to adapt to the changing trends within their sector. With consumers paying closer attention to what’s in their food, being able to deliver transparency while streamlining their in-house operations will keep the competition fierce and keep customers wanting more.
With over 70 years of experience in the food & drink industry, Stancold boasts unrivalled technical expertise when it comes to food-safe fit-outs for manufacturers. Working with UK-based manufacturers of insulated composite panels, we work with businesses to design, supply and install the highest quality of internal panel solutions such as packaging areas, testing laboratories and new production areas to suit our clients’ requirements.
If you’d like to discuss plans to make adjustments to your manufacturing facilities on site and would like some design advice and a competitive quote, get in touch with us here or give us a call on 0117 316 7000.
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