Manufacturing & Technology

Reliable and Flexible Extrusion and Feeding Technology for More Variety in Plant-based Meat Alternatives

The market for plant-based products has seen immense growth over the last few years. In addition to vegetarian and vegan consumers who have always been prone to trying all types of meat alternatives, more and more people are now opting for a flexitarian lifestyle.

This group of consumers has set the goal to reduce their meat consumption. Therefore, they are looking for adequate plant-based replacements for all of their favorite meat products such as sausages, burger patties, or the meat used in pasta sauce. To meet these requirements and ensure a wide variety of vegetarian meat alternatives are available, producers have to react – both in terms of their product development and production set-up. The German startup company Vemiwa Foods demonstrates how the adaptation to this new consumer behavior can be successful. A flexible production setup that allows for switching between different products is key. For this reason, Vemiwa chose a modular ZSK Food Extrusion System from Coperion which not only offers the required flexibility but also ensures a high product quality.

Flexibility of food extruder to meet production requirements

Using the Coperion ZSK 43 Mv PLUS Food Extruder in Hybrid Version and Coperion K-Tron feeders, Vemiwa produces vegan meat substitutes High Moisture Meat Analogues (HMMA) such as chunks, pulled varieties, and mince in a wet extrusion process. With his roots in a family of traditional butchers, Vemiwa founder Michael Walk Jr. aims to please customers with flavor, quality, and innovation in plant-based alternative products using no artificial additives, colors, or aromas.

© Coperion

Instead, he only uses natural seasonings and regional proteins. The company is bio and IFS Food certified. Vemiwa also offers white labeling and commission extrusion to provide other companies access to the market for plant-based products. High flexibility as well as high end-product quality are thus important demands upon Vemiwa’s extrusion equipment.

Coperion’s food systems are highly versatile and fit Vemiwa’s requirements perfectly. The process section’s modular design results in the greatest possible flexibility. Recipe changes and modifications can be implemented by simply changing the screw configurations and the process configuration. The highly accurate and reliable Coperion K-Tron feeders for adding protein powder and liquids into the process, together with the extruder, ensure the highest HMMA product quality and tremendous flexibility in production. Comprehensive expertise provides seamless integration of each technology and component into the production process.

High accurate and reliable feeding solutions for best end product quality

Besides the extrusion system, high-accurate and flexible feedings solutions are necessary to deliver high-quality end products. Unfortunately, many protein powders have challenging flow characteristics. Inconsistent flow can have a substantial negative impact on product quality because the manufacturing process depends on an accurate, continuous supply of raw materials to the extruder.

Vemiwa / coperion plant
© Coperion

Gravimetric feeders with flow aid devices such as the Coperion K-Tron ActiFlowTM system play a vital role in continuous supply of protein powder to the manufacturing process.

Gravimetric feeders discharge powders into the extruder while measuring the discharge rate. Loss-in-weight feeders are the most common, consisting of hoppers mounted on load cells or a weigh scale with screw feeders to move the product from the hopper to the production extruder. As the powder flows out, the hopper’s weight decreases. This loss in weight gives an accurate measure of material flow, even if there are changes in the bulk density of the material. A controller adjusts the flow rate to the desired setpoint.

However, bridging or ratholing can occur in hoppers due to material flow problems, which may prevent the controller from maintaining the desired rate. The Coperion K-Tron ActiFlow technology, a smart non-product-contact device that applies gentle vibrations to the hopper wall, carefully activates the bulk material with the optimal amplitude and frequency. It communicates with the feeder controller to automatically adjust vibration when it detects a material flow issue. In this way, the vibration is limited to the amplitude and duration necessary to restore the flow. The feeder controller compensates for the effect of vibrations on weight measurement, and reducing the vibration ensures that the impact on flow rate is kept to a minimum. Using highly accurate Coperion K-Tron feeders, suitable technology and the Coperion extrusion system ensures a highly reliable production process.

Overall, Vemiwa’s success shows that flexible extrusion and feeding technology can put food manufacturers in the position to accelerate a change in the market and offer an ever-growing variety of plant-based products.

More about Vemiwa Foods:

Contact at Coperion: John Sheehy, Global Key Account Manager Plant-Based Foods: [email protected]

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