Point Of Differentiation
Andy Hanacek, executive editor
Suppliers are helping processors add value to products by improving the flavor- and color-carrying capabilities of casings in a variety of categories.
Without a doubt, casings have come a long way. Today’s processors are demanding quite a bit from suppliers of casings, including visual appeal and tantalizing flavors for the products they manufacture.
All of these differentiation points, of course, can come with a cost that processors must keep under control, explains Steve Devcich, marketing manager-Fibrous, Plastics and Machinery Systems for Viscofan Group.
“The most common request processors ask Viscofan to add value to their products is, ‘How can we produce more differentiated products for consumers at acceptable, better, production costs?’” he explains. “[Viscofan’s] Smok-E, Caramel, and Roast-E casings allow processors to make new and diverse products, at lower production costs. New pork, beef, and poultry products can be developed with these casings that would otherwise be difficult and at a high cost in a production plant.”
Yet, differentiation of products is only the tip of the iceberg of demands that processors make when choosing a supplier of casings. Casing strength, uniformity and clarity, as well as having a casing that will provide a tender bite are among the qualities that processors also request, says James Mendiola of DeWied International, Inc.
“We see a lot of advancement in equipment technology, so it is important for the casings to keep up,” he adds. “Increasing production without increasing cost seems to be the popular demand. DeWied has introduced the ‘EZ Tube’ to the market, which allows processors to load their natural casings much faster and easier than before.”
Jerry L. Sehon, Jr., general manager at World Pac International USA, Inc., further explains that a new trend is joining the fray of demands processors make.
“The most common demands today are not much different than in the past, which is to find ways to help them be more efficient and cost effective,” he says. “[And] greater emphasis has been placed on food safety in the recent past, especially now with the in-plant HACCP programs.”
World Pac has developed casings that meet those food-safety needs, Sehon explains. The company’s Sun Products Cook and Ship casings are multi-layer, high-barrier casings that allow the user to transfer different smokes, caramels, flavors, colors and spices to processed meats, poultry and cheese. The casings are environmentally friendly and deliver in the realm of food safety.
“The inherent characteristics of the Sun Products Cook and Ship casings significantly reduce the threat of bacteria contamination during and after processing, reduce the number of steps and personnel in processing thereby stimulating a profitable finished product,” Sehon says.
Bill Irwin, vice president of sales and marketing for Nitta Casings Inc., says meeting a processor’s production requirements without degrading the quality of the product is a challenge that Nitta faces in the market.
“In my view, packers are stressing quality, and Old World-style products, made on high-speed linking equipment,” Irwin explains. “Ensuring that productivity goals are met without compromising on the quality of the sausage is paramount. Casings have to provide the finished ‘bite’ requirements that high-quality sausages demand.”
Nitta Mahogany Brand Casings, dyed casings featured especially in the meat-snack category, ensure a consistent finished color, a uniform appearance and excellent shelf life when used on products, he says.
Yet, processors always want a casing that will work on the equipment and in the processes that they have in place, and Irwin says Nitta is plenty capable of meeting those customer requirements.
“We tailor products to the specific market segments, by sausage type, that we serve by delivering the unique attributes that each customer requires,” he adds. “Consistent dyed casings, with excellent shirring for fast loading to the stuffing equipment, provide both improved finished products and excellent productivity benefits. Our customized solutions provide production benefits to the manufacturer and an optimum eating experience for the consumer.”
Viscofan’s future endeavors have a focus on continuing to give processors a way to add value and meet the demand of consumers, particularly along the lines of appearance. Processors are being asked for steam-cooked products in barrier casings to be made with smoke or color, Devcich says, although they are typically only set up to steam-cook in barrier casings. Viscofan’s Smok-E CMVP and Caramel CMVP are barrier coated fibrous casings with different types and intensities of flavor and color, that can be used to create a wide range of color and flavor intensity when cooking in steam.
Viscofan also is adding a “browning” sausage casing for precooked breakfast and dinner sausage products and a new collagen casing for beef sticks that improves color and does not fade.