Plant proteins from sunflowers, for example, have many properties that make them ideally suited for use in vegan products. Thanks to their good emulsifying properties, they are binders and stabilizers and also optimize the consistency. There is a wide range of applications, from ice cream to spreads. One challenge in the manufacturing process is the low heat tolerance of the proteins. All process steps must therefore be carried out in a way that is gentle on the product.
A producer of plant proteins required a machine for the final process step – the drying of the protein meal. The machine needed to meet the high requirements of food production while at the same time enabling optimum drying even in the low temperature range. In addition, the system had to be able to recover the solvents. Ulrich Vielhaber, Sales Manager at AVA, reports: “We decided on a vacuum dryer with a dynamic drying process to implement the evaporation of the solvents at the end of the process. This means that the product is kept in constant motion. As a result, no nests with higher residual moisture or temperature form, so the proteins dry thoroughly and in a uniform manner.” A fully automatic control system permanently measures and regulates the temperature. Once the desired degree of dryness is reached, the machine shuts down automatically. This means that the sensitive product is not moved any longer than necessary. The evaporated solvents are collected and can be returned to the process, thus saving resources and money.
Before deciding on a particular procedure, AVA carries out an extensive consulting and testing phase. In this particular case, the product’s sensitivity to high temperatures represented a particular challenge. Thanks to the in-house, state-of-the-art test center, AVA’s experts for drying processes can precisely simulate the final process with the respective feed material. These tests make it possible to correctly adjust parameters in advance, to design the machine for best performance and to analyze the economic efficiency of the process. This proven approach of AVA applies to both individual machines and entire process chains. The dryer is scheduled to start operation at the food manufacturer in late 2020.
Volker Spies, Managing Director at AVA, is particularly enthusiastic about the project’s sustainability on several levels: “Thanks to the novel process for extracting plant proteins, a high-quality product fit for human consumption can now also be obtained from plant parts that were previously not suitable for food production. Our dynamic drying process makes a decisive contribution to this.” Thanks to the closed process in the vacuum dryer, the energy consumed during this production step is minimal. The efficient drying process also facilitates maximum recovery of solvents and delivers a high-purity, directly marketable product. “AVA and the BHS-Sonthofen Group are true innovators. Nowadays, this must always include energy efficiency and the conservation of resources,” emphasizes Spies. “In this project, we combined both aspects with the benefit of gaining a high-quality food product.”