Berry good sorting
Sortex optical sorting technology is helping berry supplier Blåtand to drive efficiency in processing its wild berries, as it gears up for growth and expansion into new markets. The international food company supplies frozen berries, jams and fruit preparations to caterers, restaurants, wholesalers and retailers in the food industry. The business prides itself on its environmentally friendly, ethical production that meets the highest of standards across the entire chain – from forest to customer.
Blåtand’s hand-picked berries include deep blue bilberries and bright red lingonberries, a traditional Swedish staple. These health boosting berries are increasingly in demand around the world, as consumers turn to them for their flavour and nutrient rich properties. In fact, research published by Rabobank last year highlights that European berry consumption is on track to mirror the success of the fruit in the US, where the healthy image of berries has helped them to become the highest value fresh produce category, with sales worth more than $5.6 billion.
In addition to retail markets, there is also growing demand for berries in the wider food and pharmaceutical industries. Blåtand is a key supplier to confectionery, bakery and dairy markets, as well as the pharmaceutical sector, which uses bilberries as a key ingredient in supplements to help treat eye problems, such as macular degeneration and retina detachment.
“We work constantly on our quality control procedures to ensure that the products we supply meet the highest quality standards,” explains Ulf Hagner, managing director at Blåtand. “We need to ensure the separation of colour defects, such as brown berries, as well as the removal of stones, sticks, leaves, pine needles and mud balls, which are collected from the forest floor as the berries are gathered.”
Blåtand processes approximately 5,000 tonnes of berries on its 50 metre processing line, which is designed to handle delicate fruits without breakage. The addition of the Sortex F optical sorter with PolarVision technology enables Blåtand to increase capacity and fulfil Hagner’s ambition to grow the business.
Explaining why Blåtand chose Bühler technology for its quality assured, ISO 22000 certified facility, Hagner continues, “Our goal was to create the best berry cleaning process on the market, making it possible to produce a high quality, class one product that is free from foreign material (FM).
“By combining the Sortex F PolarVision optical sorter with our other cleaning equipment, we have achieved our goal, and can now fulfil the requirements of the most demanding customers by supplying them with the highest quality frozen, cleaned berries.”
Zhanna Zhehet, area sales manager at Bühler Sweden, adds, “Sortex PolarVision technology combines two dedicated FM detection cameras – the Sortex PolarCam and high definition InGaAsHD – which remove difficult to detect defects and challenging FM, such as plastic, pieces of wet wood and small stones.
“Importantly for Blåtand, Sortex PolarVision is installed on the new Sortex F optical sorter, which is hygienically designed for zero tolerance for product buildup, meaning there’s a much lower risk of product contamination. It also consumes less energy – in line with Blåtand’s environmental commitment.”
Hagner stresses that Bühler technology has helped Blåtand to increase the yield of its premium berries, boasting consistency in shape, flavour and colour – a hallmark of Blåtand quality, along with second-to-none food safety. “A complete, high tech facility paves the way for processing huge quantities of berries to produce a top quality product with exacting food safety standards,” he says. “Now, with Bühler’s help, we are confident of building our global customer base, while maintaining our unsurpassed reputation and product quality.”