Detecting metal while sidestepping in-pack oxygen scavengers
With demand for beef jerky and other portable protein rich snacks outstripping conventional savory snacks globally, Europe’s leading manufacturer and exporter of beef biltong and jerky, Meatsnacks Group, continues to rack up impressive sales.
The U.S. meat snacks segment, valued last year at $2.8 billion has seen sales grow consistently year over year by 7 percent. It’s a similar picture in Europe, with analysts at Ireland-based Research and Markets predicting sales of meat snacks potentially reaching $4.59 billion by 2025.
For Meatsnacks Group — which includes brands Wild West Jerky, Bundu, Texas Joe’s and Cruga — the rising popularity of its premium low-fat, air-dried and cooked and smoked meat snacks is resulting in year-on-year double-digit growth. To cope with this heightened demand, the company recently invested in three Phantom metal detectors from Fortress Technology, specifically to filter out the signal generated by iron filings from each packet’s scavenger oxygen absorber.
Extending shelf life with scavenger absorbers
Prior to installing the three conveyor-style metal detectors, Meatsnacks Group relied on contractors to hand pack and seal packets of biltong, which proved labor intensive.
“Now we have three fully automated lines, which checkweigh, fill packs, insert the scavenger and inspect for metal contaminants,” says David Stephenson, engineering manager at the U.K. Meatsnacks Group site. “It has given us increased capacity, with three lines now running nonstop 11 hours a day, six days a week.”
In order to maintain the shelf life of up to 18 months and protect the products from spoilage, Meatsnacks Group inserts the scavenger absorber into every packet of jerky and biltong.
“We find it’s more effective than gas flushing, and it’s a less complex process for extending shelf life and limiting the growth of aerobic spoilage organisms. Scavengers, which are especially popular in the U.S. market, also protect against loss of color and flavor,” David says.
Scavengers are easy to insert and irreversibly absorb oxygen inside sealed packaging to less than .01 percent. However, because they contain fine powered iron filings, they present a challenge to food inspection metal detectors.
With unique scavenger software installed onto each Phantom metal detector, Meatsnacks is able to simultaneously inspect for metal contaminants in addition to confirming whether each of the thousands of packs processed daily contains an oxygen scavenger.
“The only other option was for a metal detector with two heads. This would have been a bulkier machine and incurred higher maintenance costs,” David says. “To recalibrate, our operatives simply press a button, pass a pack without the scavenger absorber in it through the metal detector, and then one with a scavenger in it. The pack with the scavenger in it provides the signal benchmark, and then anything above this calibrated signal indicates that there’s a metal contaminant and the pack is rejected. Equally, the software can tell if there’s no scavenger absorber in a pack, enabling our operatives to remove and empty the product into the hopper for repacking, which saves on waste.” NP