During the early days of the pandemic, North American consumers craved comfort and familiarity. There was a massive swing in the early days, with people stocking up on essentials. Cookie variety packs, pita chips, and cheese snacks were where the greatest increases were reported. Overnight, people became home baking enthusiasts. The run on all-purpose flour – or any baking ingredient – saw supermarket shelves decimated. Collectively, North American homemakers snacked more, cooked from scratch, and baked their way through boredom.
Anticipating and adjusting overnight to this changing production landscape, narrowing down Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), adapting packaging formats and operations was made easier with automation. Food plants with flexible processing and inspection equipment were better placed to adapt processing practices to flex to changing consumer tastes and purchasing behaviors.
For many customers, snack lines were working overtime. Shifting from smaller ‘on-the-go’ formats to healthier eat at home options and larger sharing snack bags, new format patterns rapidly emerged as people’s lockdown routines changed. Fortress regional sales manager Eric Garr reflects: “As the weeks progressed, consumers moved from stockpiling essentials to quarantine snacking followed by conscious cleansing, immunity boosting and the rise of the home chef. North American food producers have done a phenomenal job in the most challenging conditions, keeping on top of these changing mindsets and tastes.”
Without the foresight or time to adjust manufacturing arrangements, having equipment that can be easily moved, reconfigured and adapted to reset workflows makes a big difference. Fortress Technology’s Vertex Metal Detector with the optional Halo auto testing system was designed to do just this. Inspecting free-falling snacks and ingredients, the Vertex supports fast product changeovers and can, at the push of a button, be easily re-calibrated and switch between different food applications
Fitting into restricted production spaces where other metal detectors can’t, the inline system incorporates an advanced automatic testing system. For snack manufacturers operating with a skeleton crew during lockdown, the integration of Halo has been a time and labor saver, exclaims Eric.
As well as reducing the cost associated with performing these metal detector tests manually, digital automatic testing improves the repeatability and quality of the performance verifications.
Instead the test samples usually pass close to the aperture walls. Conversely,
Despite its slim stature, the Vertex meets, and in many instances exceeds, the sensitivities of comparable snack metal detection systems. Utilizing the very latest Digital Signal Processing technology, each unit inspects freefalling applications at high speeds, detecting and rejecting the smallest metal contaminants, including pieces of wire, shavings and flat flakes.
Noting the importance of equipment flexibility during these unprecedented times, Eric adds: “How quickly snack manufacturers adapt to changing consumer demands can have a long term impact on brand trust and spending behaviors. Given that verification tests are so critical to consumer confidence, a sophisticated system that uses advanced electronics and the metal detector coil to simulate the disturbance of metal in the center of the Vertex aperture offers a marked advancement on mechanical automatic testing. We are not aware of any other technology in the food inspection market that can perform auto performance verifications so reliably and precisely.” / BJ
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