05 Feb 2018 --- Looking to fulfill growing demand from the food and nutraceuticals industries, the Illinois, US-based contract manufacturer and co-packer SternMaid America’s US plant is one of the most modern of its kind and offers comprehensive, customized contract manufacturing services in the compounding and co-packing of powdered substances. The facility has a blending capacity of about 4,000 tons annually. SternMaid America offers further customized services ranging from raw material purchasing and warehousing to blending and delivery of finished goods.
In October last year, the company invested in a modern double-head system to increase the capacity of its can filling line. The news came at a busy time for SternMaid as a whole, with the company opening its second production plant in Wittenburg, Germany last year and also extended its filling capacity after it invested in its new Doypack line in March 2017.
FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with William Solomon, COO of SternMaid America who discussed the current market opportunities and challenges that SternMaid is experiencing. “The manufacturing process has become more sophisticated in terms of testing for quality and new specifications for manufacturing products. As a result, contract manufacturers have had to invest in new technology and educate themselves and their customers to stay abreast of new developments within the industry.”
“Today’s contract manufacturers not only have to comply with cGMP 21CFR parts 110 and 111, but they must also understand the regulatory policies of the FDA and the FTC. This translates into a contract manufacturer knowing and advising clients continually throughout their relationship, as opposed to just fulfilling orders. The contract manufacturer’s role has also become more focused on educating the client on the need for testing. As testing requirements have increased, so too has the financial burden on companies,” he explains.
For smaller companies especially, and for manufacturers with a frequently changing product range, it is a challenge to install costly facilities or constantly update the relevant technologies, according to Solomon. “Increasingly, therefore, companies are now choosing to concentrate on their core skills – whether they be development, marketing or distribution – while the task of blending or filling products is outsourced to specialized firms. This reduces the volume of work involved and releases capacity. In principle, contract manufacturers either clear the way for the customer’s core activities or they take on the manufacture of products and quantities that cannot be integrated satisfactorily into the company’s own production system.”
Nowadays, there is often a demand for specialists who can supply an all-in-one package geared precisely to the customer’s wishes, as is the case with SternMaid America. The company offers the whole service chain from one source: from blending of powdered foods and nutritional supplements to a comprehensive package that includes the purchase of raw materials, quality assurance, co-packing, warehousing and delivery.
To fulfill growing demand from the food and nutraceuticals industries, SternMaid America recently installed a modern double-head auger filler to increase the capacity of their can filling line. “Including further peripheral plant components, we have invested some US$300,000 in this capacity extension. The double head auger filler dispenses powders into as many as 50 cans per minute per head. Thus, up to 6,000 cans per hour can be filled with a broad range of powdered products – from instant cocoa to dietary supplements. Can filling and sealing is now fully automated, but there is potential for future investment as packing and palletizing is still done by hand,” says Solomon.
“Our customers expect flexibility and reliable, on-time delivery,” he notes. “Even short deadlines have to be met at the right time and with top quality. If a company’s plant breaks down unexpectedly and a contract manufacturer is asked to take over, production must be able to start very quickly. Not only do these new investments increase our capacities in the co-packing sector; they also make us much more flexible. We can now carry out even large orders in a short time.”
For Solomon, “consumers expect consistent taste and appearance in their favored products, as well as a continual stream of diversity.”
If a product fails to meet consumer standards, they will quickly find an alternative. For contract manufacturers, this means focusing on quality, reproducibility and operational flexibility. This requires state-of-the-art equipment, complete control over recipes and the production process, contamination prevention and full documentation of every batch that leaves the plant. To maintain taste results and consistency, our facilities are able to compensate for process changes and ingredient variability, both of which can impact on finished products.
Click to Enlarge“Also, more and more people are increasingly aware of what constitutes a healthy diet,” he states. “They are making the effort to educate themselves about what goes into making their foods and dietary supplements. Contract manufacturers can help companies meet high consumer expectations for finished products.”
Consumers are also looking for cleaner labelings, such as “organic” and “non-GMO”. So, one reason why companies choose contract manufacturers is that they have the certified facilities and equipment required to manufacture products according to specific standards. SternMaid America, for instance, is certified for contract manufacturing of organic quality foods and food supplements.
“On a product-by-product basis, we can also offer non-GMO, gluten-free and/or vegan certified foods and supplements,” Solomon adds.
“The demand for wellness products will continue to rise, fueled by an aging population with a preference for natural, holistic solutions as well as by younger people who have adopted a preventative approach to health,” he continues. “There has also been a strong move from the industry towards sourcing organic materials and targeting the vegan and organic markets. In terms of ingredients, protein is definitely trending. Many of the new products being developed today contain one or more of the popular proteins – for instance from pea, lentil or fava bean – or the classic dairy proteins. Additionally, there is growing demand for probiotics, digestive enzymes, antioxidants and sugar reduction.”
“Our microblending plant can be used to meet all manner of different production needs – from pre-mixes for use within the bakery sector and protein supplements for the nutraceutical industry to powdered beverage mixtures. The state-of-the-art line is able to mix powders with a precision of 1:100,000, and distributes micro-components such as flavors and emulsifiers very finely. In this way, it is possible, for example, to add probiotics, vitamins and minerals to foods, and larger amounts of fats and highly viscous liquids such as lecithin can be fed in, too,” Solomon concludes.
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