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Support sought for carbon slashing sweet stoving methods

By Jane Byrne , 04-Oct-2010

The Carbon Trust hopes industrial scale trials evaluating the drying of gums and jellies using technologies such as microwave based curing will help move the UK confectionery industry towards less energy intensive processes than the conventional stoving methods.

The UK based low carbon economy advocacy group is now challenging producers, equipment suppliers, technology providers and manufacturers to form consortia to trial and demonstrate new energy efficient technologies for drying and curing sweets, and added that it will fund the project up to an amount totalling £500,000.

The call for proposals is open from 21 October to 16 December 2010.

Curing gums and jellies

Finding energy efficient technical processes that can then be replicated widely across the confectionery sector is the ultimate goal of the Carbon Trust.

Gums and jellies account for approximately 28 per cent of the confectionery market in the UK by volume, and carbon emissions from their production hits 60,000 tonnes per annum.

Using alternative methods such as microwave technology to dry or stove the sweets could cut these emissions by 40 per cent, according to estimates of the low carbon advocates.

Confectionery sector collaboration

Al-Karim Govindji, technology acceleration manager at the Carbon Trust, said the advocates have been working with Cadbury, Nestlé and Tangerine over the past six to eight months to monitor energy use in the gums and jellies segment of sugared confectionery production and to identify the process that was the most energy intensive.

“The collaboration involved the placement of meters at the Nestlé facility in Newcastle and the Cadbury site in Sheffield to determine energy flows at the plants, while Tangerine provided data from an existing metre at its Leeds site,” he told ConfectioneryNews.com

This monitoring phase, Govindji continued, indicated that the conventional stoving method for jellies and sweets was the most energy hungry process in confectionery manufacture, and that an alternative was needed.

“Some confectioners are currently trialling a stoving system based on pumps that can retain heat, a method which is low carbon and can generate huge savings for the industry.

However, as scaling up of this technology is already underway in at least two confectioners in the UK, the Carbon Trust is looking to support additional stoving technologies such as a microwave-based system, which are not as developed but can also offer considerable carbon savings for the industry,” he said.

Unlocking the barriers

Govindji said that Carbon Trust’s push will help accelerate the commercialisation of technology by unlocking the barriers to industry wide adoption such as plant scale testing.

“We have been focusing on microwave based stoving technology as a huge body of research exists around the subject, with significant testing conducted at the University of Nottingham,” he continued.

Risk threshold

However, there is a high risk threshold with the alternative stoving method in terms of impact on product quality and, as such, plant scale trialling is required, cautions Govindji.

“We anticipate that the method will be applicable to 70 per cent of jellies and gums. Some jellies have a hard outer coating, which is not always achievable with the microwave stoving process,” he explained.

David Prosser, operations director at Tangerine Confectionery, said that the sugar confectionery manufacturer fully supports the work being carried out by the Carbon Trust to help reduce energy within the industry and stressed that Tangerine is keen to take an active part in the production site trials:

“The possibility of using microwave technology to generate heat for our stoving cycles to help reduce product turn round times as well as reducing cost is an exciting prospect, which would if successful provide huge benefits for our particular industry.”

Govindji said that the industry can tap into insights from the research phase undertaken by the Carbon Trust in collaboration with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Cadbury, Nestlé and Tangerine Confectionery at a seminar in Birmingham on 21 October. Further details can be found here

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