The production of jam poses a severe challenge to the components used in the processes, due to viscous and sticky products. VEGA’s pressure and level sensors guarantee correct product dosage in packaging lines
by Vittoria Ascari
VEGA sensors monitor packaging in one of Europe’s largest jam production plants. The customer is Menz & Gasser, one of the largest jam producers in Italy, and one of Europe’s leading single-portion jam producers. The company operates in fifty countries in four continents, with plants in Trentino, Veneto and Malaysia. Besides offering a great variety of flavours, it also provides a wide range of different packs. Actually, Menz & Gasser supplies both large retail chains and hotels as well as pastry shops.
The company has been successfully operating on the market for over eighty years. The key factors in its success are intensive research and development and constant investment in innovation and new technologies. Every year, more than 150 projects for new products are developed in the company’s laboratories, and in total there are 600 in the pipeline. On average 10% of turnover is generated by new products. For this purpose, Menz & Gasser has set up two specialised research and development laboratories dedicated exclusively to the study of solutions for industrial semi-finished and finished products. A third research laboratory was opened three years ago in Kuala Lumpur, shortly after the opening of the local subsidiary, and supports the development of products responding to the specific needs of Far Eastern markets.
The process from raw materials to packaging lines
The company’s success is ensured above all by strict quality controls of the raw materials. The frozen fruit and ingredients come from selected suppliers and are stored in special cold stores at -20 °C. Depending on demand, the basic product is poured into a container and then into a mixer where it is thawed.
Then, depending on the recipe, sugar, glucose and/or grape juice are added. The solution then moves on to an evaporator, where various thickeners, such as pectin, are used to provide the jam with the right consistency. The properties which essentially determine the quality of jams and marmalades are their aroma, colour, taste, texture, gelling and distribution of the pieces of fruit. Once all the conditions are met, the mass is poured into a reservoir and then reaches the different packaging lines for glass jars, single-portions (mainly used in the hotel sector) or larger packages.
Pressure and level measurement are essential
The precise measurement of pressure and level is essential for the quality of the finished product. VEGA sensors are mainly used in evaporators and packaging lines. The products to be measured range from glucose to fructose, from water to cleaning solutions, to ready-made jam. The fruit is cooked in vacuum evaporators at temperatures which allow preservation of nutrients and vitamins. Pressure measurement with VEGABAR, for instance, keeps the pressure in the evaporators constant. The VEGABAR 82 pressure sensor is a sturdy multitalent used in many applications. It stands out for its ceramic measuring cell manufactured by VEGA itself. The company offers complete solutions for pressure measuring technology. Thanks to the dry ceramic CERTEC® measuring cell, the sensor is resistant to thermal shock. It can handle temperatures of up to 150°C and is therefore suitable for use at high temperatures and under vacuum conditions. It also has an extremely high overload resistance (factor 200).
The VEGAFLEX guided wave radar sensor is used in packaging lines, where it is essential to monitor the level in the containers. Another level measurement monitors stocks in storage silos and tanks.
The process is always under control
In all these applications, steam, condensation, adhesion of viscous product (jam) on the pressure sensor measuring cell and the bar probe of guided wave radar sensors pose a challenge, as do agitators, high temperatures (between 65 °C and 85 °C) and vacuum. Thanks to VEGA sensors, however, the process is always under control and the sensors work reliably even in case of contact with viscous and sticky media or of fluctuating process conditions. VEGA sensors were originally chosen by the design studio which built the plant more than twenty years ago. In the meantime, Menz & Gasser has particularly appreciated their reliability and low or virtually non-existent maintenance requirements.
A practical side effect: if the sensors never fail, the storage and handling of spare parts also become unnecessary.