Issue 38

Small-scale start to big new ideas

Pilot production brings the latest innovations faster to market

PreheaterInnovative ingredient ideas can provide food manufacturers with all kinds of benefits. But first manufacturers have to hear about them, understand the difference they make, and try them out on their own production lines. Without that sequence of events, not even the most profitable ingredient would ever make it into commercial production.

Trine Trúgvason is operating engineer for the Arla Foods Ingredients pilot production line where promising milk-based ingredients are produced on a small scale until promising sales warrant investment in a capacity expansion. “Pilot production gives us an opportunity to show the market what an ingredient can do on a bigger scale than the test batches produced in the laboratory,” she says. “Customers can then run trials right up to commercial scale, making it easier for them to bring their own new products to market.”

High priority investment
Located at Arla Foods Ingredients’ whey processing facility in Denmark, the pilot production line was given a makeover in early 2012, achieving a higher level of automation and the capacity to treat 380 tonnes of milk a week. “These investments reflect the high priority given to pilot production, where we try things out and gather experience,” Trúgvason remarks. 

Responding to customer interest
One of the products currently in successful pilot production is Lacprodan® CGMP-20, a bioactive whey peptide suitable for the diets of people with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU). Increasing customer interest led to a doubling of capacity earlier this year. During 2013, pilot production will cease on completion of a new commercial-scale Lacprodan® CGMP-20 line.

Several other products are also currently in pilot production, where processes are adjusted and optimised to ensure a smooth production scale-up when sales show sufficient potential. “We are the link between laboratory tests and large-scale production. It’s up to us to develop and adjust the process. At the same time, we still have to live up to specifications as we sell our products to customers,” says Trúgvason.