Processors feel the pinch


07 June 2023
Energy cost-saving measures now a key focus for those producing potato snacks.

AS energy is such an expensive commodity right now, snack makers are looking at how they can reduce the costs of frying potato products, while also looking at meeting looming climate change deadlines.

Michelle Knott spoke to a number of producers in an article published in 'Snacks'.

Fredrik Ronnberg, SAles and Marketing Manager with Rosenqvists Food Technologies said: "Producing potato chips requires a lot of energy. Considering the current supply and cost situation for energy, this poses the biggest challenge for the snacks industry."

General Manager with Heat and Control, Bobby Kane, believes there is likely to be a shift away from gas towards alternative energy sources, and this will vary by region and country.

"In a major frying system, 90% of gas use is around the fryer. How do we take that to zero? We have to reduce energy needed in the fryer."

Green hydrogen, biomass boilers and electrification might all be contenders, depending on local conditions, he said. Surrounding infrastructure and market conditions could present obstacles however.

"IT's one thing electrifying stuff like small pellet fryers, but if it's a 3,000kg/h potato chip plant, I doubt electrification is a long-term solution because it taes a lot of power for a fryer to drive off all that water," he said. "For now, we're still quoting a standard system for most customers because commercially that's the only way they can operate."

Rosenqvists Food Technologies takes part in several EU-funded development projects to optimise energy supply to European processors, and a key focus is opportunities for crisps/chips production.

"There are some exciting projects ongoing to significantly lower the carbon footprint," said Fredrik. "We are aware of plans to utilise recovered energy from the processing line and convert this to high temperature steam to create a fully circular energy system. Concept ideas for heat pumps are being investigated and could prove interesting for the future."

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Holistic solutions that make better use of available energy may mean looking further afield than factory gates, he said.

"There are other already-tested ideas for some processors to collaborate with local partners where energy can be re-used, for example local heating systems, greenhouses or some other type of production. We also learn about initiatives for solar panels and production of biogas from potato waste streams."

For now, frying equipment suppliers are helping system operators optimise existing installations and giving out energy saing advice, as well as looking at energy-saving features for future production lines.

TNA Solutions' Arnaud Jansse said one example is optimising thermal oil temperatures in the indirect heated thermal oil systems, enabling a gas burner can be operated more economically. "The fryer is creating lots of hot vapours, so a decent heat recovery system to utilise this heat somewhere else in the production line is something that needs to be considered."

Minimising surface water on slices of potato entering a fryer can reduce required energy in production, and the temptation might be to dry away as much as possible, but care will be needed in order to ensure potato slices slide off each other rather than clumping, said Fredrik. 

Other cost-saving tips include insulation of the fryer hood and choosing potato varieties with the optimum dry matter content. 

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Source: Snacks