NCFIL Executive Director’s Perspective: April/May 2021
May 20, 2021
Good news! NCFIL is very nearly at 100% operational status. In April, we commissioned our GEA spray dryer, and we have been busy running piping and building a catwalk for the Bühler twin-screw extruder. Bühler personnel will be onsite May 10 - June 1 making last connections, initiating the equipment, and then conducting a shakedown to determine any malfunctioning components.
Spray Dryer + Extruder: Ready for Action
We’ll run the first products the last week of May. We are presently negotiating with several customers to test new products beginning in June. We fully expect the spray dryer and extruder to be very busy through the end of the calendar year. Customers interested in working with us are advised to connect with us as soon as possible.
The last piece of our Pilot Plant equipment, the Charlotte Colloid Mill and Mayo Plant, has been delayed due to the manufacturer’s inability to obtain critical components. However, the manufacturer hopes to secure the necessary parts in the next 4 to 6 weeks.
Additional Expenses + Long Lead Times
The cost of stainless steel has risen over 45% since November 2020, causing NCFIL some angst as we try to complete several equipment connections. Additionally, costs have risen in nearly every other category, and long lead times have been encountered, or product has simply not been available. Packaging and protein ingredients are a prime example. We’ve advised customers they may have limited packaging options especially since NCFIL is a small quantity purchaser.
Strong Project Activity
Project inquiries have been strong the past two months, and many of these have initiated Statements of Work and budgets to be written. New projects for NCFIL have been steadily increasing. Our staff is at full capacity presently, and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of three interns in late May. These interns are Johnson & Wales University students with both culinary and food science backgrounds. They will work alongside our product developers and pilot plant personnel in project execution.
Additionally, NCFIL has successfully recruited a Strategic Operations Specialist to join our team. This individual will be responsible for inventory and record control, traceability, certificates of analysis, and many other jobs. We’ll make an announcement at the end of May identifying the individual.
Diverse Project Portfolio Mix
NCFIL’s project portfolio mix is quite diverse. Many current projects are focused on healthy eating. The pandemic created more attention for this growing trend, and some very novel ideas and subsequent products have been worked on in our lab, with a couple of products having already launched.
Memore launched three flavors of a powdered beverage for long-term cognitive function maintenance. The launch has grabbed attention in several media outlets, and Memore graciously mentioned the role of NCFIL in assisting with product development.
Several botanical beverages as dairy alternatives are also being developed by NCFIL. These beverages are becoming much more sophisticated and complex, and we are seeing multiple botanicals being used in these formulas. Another trend we are assisting in developing is the use of novel flavors in several categories.
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Thank you for reading this month’s perspective. These are the views and opinions of the NCFIL Executive Director and may not reflect the opinion of others at NC State. We welcome your feedback and perspectives.