An Ishida fresh food weigher at Tanfield Food in County Durham has helped to increase accuracy of key ingredients and nearly quadruple throughput for a pioneering range of gourmet convenience meals.
Launched in 2005, the Look What We Found range is described as: “gourmet food for busy people,” offering a delicious, hearty selection of ready dishes in meals, soups and pour-over sauces. All the recipes feature the finest ingredients from small-scale specialist producers, to enable consumers to enjoy and serve restaurant quality food at home in minutes.
Uniquely, the freshly prepared dishes – such as wild rabbit with leek and elderflower sauce and camargue red rice and smoked haddock pottage with nadine potatoes and saffron – are packed in convenient, easy to store lightweight pouches.
The pouches are then slow cooked in traditional steam pressure cookers after filling, to give each recipe freshness for longer, with shelf lives of around 12 months. Sizes vary from 200g – 350g for retail up to 1kg for catering packs.
The immediate success of Look What We Found led Tanfield Food to purchase an automated filling line. The key objective of automating the process was to increase the number of pouches filled from around 460-600 to around 2,000 per hour, depending on the complexity of the number of ingredients to be packed.
The Ishida CCW-NZ-106 Fresh Food Weigher (FFW) is used to ensure pinpoint accuracy of major ingredients for each recipe, including meat, fish and vegetables. According to Tanfield, thanks to the FFW, product giveaway has been reduced from around 3g to less than 0.5g.
Using Ishida’s proven multihead weighing technology, the computer selects the combination of hoppers that most closely matches the target weight. A set of booster hoppers under the weigh hoppers holds product not initially selected by the computer. This frees up the weigh hoppers to accept more product and thus generate additional weight combinations, which further increases weighing speed and accuracy.
The FFW features linear belt feeders and special non-stick hoppers with scraper gates that avoid product sticking and ensure a smooth, reliable and consistent product flow through the weigher. An IP 65 waterproof construction allows easy cleaning of all contact surfaces.
Target weights for each individual recipe ingredient are stored in the FFW’s memory for instant call-up via the touch screen RCU. These range from 25g of onions to 562g of chorizo. Tanfield has specified a second set of hoppers and belts, so that the machine continues to operate while the other set is being cleaned. Changeover can be carried out in less than 30 minutes.
Weighed product is discharged into plastic pots, which contain all the other ingredients for each recipe. These are added to the sauce and filled in a Toyo Jidoki retort pouch filler. The empty pots then circulate to receive more product. The new automated system is filling over 2,000 packs per hour, depending on the individual recipe.
The decision to purchase the Ishida FFW was based on Tanfield’s senior management’s previous knowledge and experience of the company’s weighers.
“My background is the snack food industry where I had used Ishida weighers successfully for many years,” explains Engineering Manager Dave Dunn. “It was therefore a natural step to speak to Ishida to see if they could provide a weighing solution to handle our gourmet range for this specific project – and the FFW proved to be the ideal solution. We have been delighted with its performance. Its accuracy is excellent and it has helped us to meet our increased throughput targets. After sales service and support have been up to Ishida’s usual high standards.”
“The success of the Look What We Found brand Complete Meals range, which has added exciting and sometimes unusual carbohydrates to the recipes to complement the protein and complete the meal, really challenged the packing system, which has responded extremely well,” adds Tanfield Foods’ Co-Founder and Executive Director Keith Gill.
With such strong demand, the company is currently considering the installation of an automatic feed system for the FFW to further increase speeds.