Equipment Spotlight: MicroThermics Thermal Processor
November 11, 2020
Beverage ingredient suppliers and manufacturers develop products in their pilot plants using tube-in-shell pasteurizers and sterilizers to establish prolonged shelf-life and food safety in their products. One major manufacturer of this equipment for pilot-scale operations is MicroThermics in Raleigh, North Carolina.
NCFIL worked with MicroThermics’ hygiene engineers to modify their largest volume throughput equipment to offer NCFIL clients larger scale capability. NCFIL team members recently trained on and commissioned this flexible and convenient piece of equipment, the MicroThermics Thermal Processor.
A North Carolina Connection
The processor can do both steam injection (direct processing) and indirect processing, allowing NCFIL to evaluate products under many different processing conditions. This precise, easy-to-use piece of equipment is a tremendous asset to NCFIL clients and supports current trends in the food industry.
What’s even better is MicroThermics is a North Carolina-based company with leadership roots in the Food, Bioprocessing & Nutrition Sciences (FBNS) department at N.C. State University, one of NCFIL’s main partners.
Meet John Miles + MicroThermics
John Miles, president of MicroThermics, started his career in 1981 as a product developer for Lipton after earning a bachelor’s and master’s in Food Science. At Lipton, Miles focused on creating new processing conditions for new ingredients, but it was challenging.
Fast forward to his next career phase at N.C. State. Miles was working on his PhD, while managing the university’s dairy and aseptic processing plants, when he created a laboratory-sized processing system in his living room. The product gained interest, and in 1991 Miles and his brother started MicroThermics. Nearly 20 years later, the company has 2,800 pieces of equipment in operation globally.
MicroThermics Processor + NCFIL
MicroThermics + NCFIL Relationship
In 2015, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Sciences and NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) extensively surveyed food industry stakeholders asking how to enhance the state’s agricultural community, which eventually gave rise to the innovation lab concept. As an FBNS graduate, Miles was aware of these efforts and wanted to provide NCFIL the equipment and format they needed to best support future clients.
A Good Fit for NCFIL
NCFIL strives to serve its clients by meeting all of their processing needs in one space. When an entrepreneur has a new product, he or she has a general idea about its product packaging, but also understands the necessity of investigating several options. This small-scale processor is accurate and true to industrial processing; therefore, it allows entrepreneurs to create a safe product they can then quickly scale up.
The thermal processor is a particularly good fit for NCFIL when you consider the current direction of product development. With a majority of the population’s work and school now shifted inside the home, people are doing double-duty and therefore seeking meals-on-the-fly or meal substitutions, like high-nutrient, high-protein drinks as well as healthier foods with plant-based ingredients, like plant-based meats.
MicroThermics Thermal Processor Benefits NCFIL Clients
The most important objective for NCFIL clients is to make a safe product. The MicroThermics thermal processor offers clients that ability in a flexible and convenient system. Here’s how:
- It is not a large processing system tied to a certain function;
- It can perform many different treatment combinations in one day; and
- It can conduct a large batch as well as make many batches of the same material.
Continuous flow processing pumps the fluid through a system that keeps it moving and pressurized and then cools it down before coming into the package environment. This optimizes the thermal process—stabilizing so rapidly that it eliminates the chance for destabilization.
The NCFIL system is so flexible that it can process a variety of products—from teas to puddings to sauces. And when NCFIL is presented with a more challenging product to process, the MicroThermics service personnel team can assist.
Trends in the Beverage Industry
NCFIL is well-positioned to serve its clients, says Miles, especially as the industry moves toward creation of more plant-based materials. To clarify, he states, “We’ve had plant-based beverages for many years, but the difference now is that plant-based beverages are being developed to the exclusion of animal-based beverages, which has its positives and negatives.”
According to Miles, “What’s good is a whole new series of products and ingredients is being explored to go into beverages, like protein from peas. These new products also provide options to people with food sensitivities.”
MicroThermics Processor: Flexible + Accurate
With training complete, the NCFIL team stands ready to help its clients create safe products, utilizing the MicroThermics Thermal Processor to its fullest potential.
The MicroThermics Thermal Processor serves clients in NCFIL’s Thermalization & Packaging Area. You can take a virtual tour here.