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JBT alco’s Business Development Manager, Thomas Kleine-Ausberg, tells the story of how alco recently inaugurated a mega production line for a customer in Southeast Asia in response to growing demand for healthy, convenient foods. The line stretches to almost 34 meters and is capable of handling 1,000 kilograms of chicken per hour.

Consumers worldwide are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of healthy and natural ingredients in everyday foods and this awareness has been reflected for years in global trends such as alternative protein sources or reduced-fat meat products. Since 1977, alco has been developing high-quality machines, complete process lines and customized solutions for food production and now, as part of the JBT corporation, is very successfully represented in the global food industry market with convenience food processing and preparation lines. 

Around the globe

State-of-the-art machines from alco produce both classic and new, innovative food products from alternative proteins, vegetables, cheese, fish or meat on every continent. The global reach of alco was illustrated in 2021 when a major food industry group from Indonesia, located over 11,000 kilometers away from alco’s German manufacturing base, expanded its production output in 2021 with the help of an alco convenience line. The manufacturer fills the shelves of major Indonesian supermarket chains such as Hero, Bromo Swalayan and Transmart with ready-to-eat chicken nuggets, burger patties and other poultry products. 

A line more than 30 meters long

In addition to a forming machine AFM and a coating line, the individually assembled convenience line also includes a continuous fryer and a Pro series spiral oven. The line extends over a total of 33.9 meters with a capacity of 1,000 kilograms per hour. 

The agreement came about after the customer visited alco’s food technology application center in Bad Iburg, Germany. Here, everything needed for a product-specific practical test on original machines on a production scale can be found – under realistic conditions and under the supervision of alco‘s application engineers and product consultants. Alco’s know-how in the manufacture of machines for high-quality food products is a result of years of experience, a constant exchange of ideas with our customers and continuous development.

But a product test alone is only the start of the process. The interaction of product and machine also had to function smoothly 11,000 kilometers away after planning, construction, delivery and final assembly. However, alco overcome the many logistical challenges to put in place a line that today produces numerous poultry products for the Southeast Asian region in a fully automated process.

Effective operations

So how does the system work? Production is roughly divided into four successive process steps. Starting with the forming of chicken nuggets, chicken bites or even patties, the forming machine AFM offers the customer countless possibilities.

Individual mold plates enable product molds in 2D, 2.5D and also 3D structures. The great advantage of the forming machine AFM is the fast and smooth changeover of the mold plates and thus also the product line. The user benefits from minimized downtimes, simplified cleaning processes and a correspondingly optimized cost-income ratio. 

In the subsequent step, the preduster ABM PRO applies a thin layer of flour to the poultry products. This intermediate process has an enormous impact on the optimal hold of the subsequent battering and the perfect coating of the product. The desired thin or thick batterings as well as fine or coarse-grained bread crumbs are then applied via the battering and breading machines. 

Additional technical applications such as blow-off systems, vibrating plates and pressure rollers prevent excess application quantities and firmly massage the breading into the product. The excess medium is continuously fed back into the coating circuit in a special media return system to conserve resources. 

The further developed coating line is equipped as standard with stainless steel motors, an intuitive PLC control via touch panel with recipe management, and belt speeds of 2 to 21 meters per minute. In the penultimate step, the poultry product is ideally fried in the fryer AGF PRO in less than 35 seconds over a length of six meters and process temperatures of up to 200°C. 

Even browning in the spiral oven

Finally, cooking in the spiral oven ASH PRO puts the finishing touches to the products. Here, thanks to the spiral design, a cooking zone of 42 m² is provided in the smallest possible space. Two powerful fans achieve optimum airflow and temperature distribution inside the spiral oven and guarantee even browning of the product from all sides. The chicken nuggets and chicken bites are fully cooked in the spiral oven within seven to nine minutes, reaching the desired core temperature of 80°C. 

With specific food machines from alco, companies not only save valuable working time and costs, but also ensure a consistently high quality standard at all times.

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