The Canadian dairy sector was influenced by two major trends in 2020: The COVID-19 crisis and the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA).
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Photo: Mongkolchon / ADOBE STOCK

While the pandemic caused temporary production cuts, the CUSMA agreement improved market access and removed limits to exports of skim milk powder and infant formula. Ultimately, milk production in 2020 exceeded 2019, and the forecast for 2021 is that this upward trend will continue. The reasons for the rising milk revenues are due to the Canadian Dairy Commission announcing an increase in the butter support price, expected re-opening of food services as vaccines become freely available, and higher, more stable U.S. non-fat milk prices. Due to these three factors, revenues are expected to increase by $1.69 – $1.77 per hectolitre in the Canadian milk pools.

Driven by population increases, rising income levels, urbanization, and changes in dietary patterns – particularly in China and India where milk supply is not keeping pace with the growing demand – developing countries offer a compelling opportunity for North American dairy companies able to bridge the gap between supply and demand overseas. However, maximizing that opportunity will require change, including:

-Adoption of digital technologies for consumer engagement and product innovation;
-Greater use of advanced manufacturing processes and technologies;
-Increased shelf life of milk and related products; and,
-Compliance with international safety and cleanliness requirements and quality standards.

Changing products
Health-conscious consumers the world over are ditching trans fats and changing what they eat. This is good news for the dairy industry. Consumption of dairy products is on the rise, with organic milk, natural, unprocessed cheeses and Greek yogurt leading the way, dairy consumption continues to rise in spite of plant-based competitors like almond, soy, and rice-based milks. On average, each Canadian consumes about 14.65 kilograms of cheese on an annual basis as of 2018, up from 12 kilograms in 2004, according to Statista Canada.

With the shift in consumer demands to healthier eating, dairy producers have the opportunity to spice up their brand and tailor their products – or create new ones — based on consumer habits. Moreover, the use of digital consumer engagement technologies will make this step even easier. Using big data and analytics to understand consumption patterns can also help tailor production and marketing strategies for better results at optimum costs.

More efficient operations
Continued industry consolidation and the resulting formation of mega-farms has created the opportunity to add current-state automation and other efficiency-enhancing technologies to both operations and production. The widespread adoption of automation will change the way milk is produced, improving profitability, milk quality, lifestyle and animal welfare. Greater use of advanced manufacturing processes and technologies will be vital if dairy farmers are to capture share in emerging global markets.

Extended shelf life – greater safety
The use of advanced technologies will also help companies increase the shelf life of their products. Safety considerations will be a high priority for the extended shelf life (ESL) products and ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk needed to reach customers around the world. In adding these technologies, producers must comply with international safety, cleanliness, and reporting standards similar to the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The goal of the FSMA is to take a more proactive approach to food safety, shifting from reacting to foodborne illnesses to preventing them before they start. From incoming raw materials through final product distribution, maintaining safety and hygiene will be a priority when complying with FSMA.

Components designed to minimize contamination risk, reduce the use of cleaning and disinfecting agents, and provide secure cover for equipment will be in high demand. Stainless steel terminal boxes and electrical enclosures with sloped tops and sealed access points will prevent chemical intrusion and/or corrosion from wash-downs that could result in electrical failure, unscheduled downtime, expensive repairs and potential product contamination.

The stringent food safety standards demanded by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Department of Health Canada (Health Canada) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affect almost everyone involved in the North American food supply chain, from manufacturers to shippers to retailers. For food and beverage processors, preventing contamination means aggressive sanitation protocols that ensure equipment is clean at the microbiological level.

Enter hygienic design, an approach to enclosure design that puts the concerns of food and beverage manufacturers front and centre.

What is hygienic design?
Hygienic design enclosures are stainless steel wallmount housings and free-standing enclosures that are designed and engineered to protect your mechanical and electrical control equipment while preventing food contamination, as well as preventing corrosion from frequent exposure to harsh cleaners and high-pressure hot water and steam. For food and beverage processors, hygienic design is a win-win, leading to lower risk of contamination and recalls, plus shorter cleaning times with less water and fewer chemicals required. The bottom line: designing for hygiene from the start leads to more uptime in the long run.

Understanding hygienic zones
Food and beverage plants have different zones that require different levels of hygiene. Some companies, like Rittal, engineer their lines of hygienic design enclosures with these hygiene zones in mind.

Basic hygiene zones have no open processes where food could be contaminated, and thus no wash-down requirements. These areas include things like building systems and automation, power infrastructure and switchgear, packaging, palletizing, storage, and conveyers for finished product. Typical enclosure requirements are NEMA 12 and either carbon steel or stainless steel.

Medium hygiene zones involve beverages or food that are contained, mixed, or processed in vats, vessels, tanks, and/or piping. While there are no open processes, the equipment is regularly drained, flushed, and cleaned, along with the floors and other surfaces, which means equipment should have some resistance to water splashing, corrosion, and chemical vapors that may arise during the cleaning process. These are areas where beverage and bottling operations take place — think milk production, breweries, and distilleries. These areas usually require slope-top enclosures that are NEMA 4X and stainless steel.

High hygiene zones contain open processes where food is splashed on the machines, floors, and other surfaces. These zones require the highest degree of hygiene — they are sanitized with aggressive cleaning agents plus high-temperature and high-pressure water, which means the equipment must have the highest degree of water and chemical resistance. Typical applications include food processing equipment and conveyers for raw and unfinished product. Typically, enclosures must be IP69, slope-top, brushed stainless steel, and have gaskets made with FDA-approved materials. By selecting the right enclosure for each individual hygiene zone within the plant, food and beverage processors can incorporate hygienic design into every step of the production process.

Nine hygienic design features to look for
-When choosing enclosures for a food or beverage processing plant, look for these key hygienic design features:
-No gaps between the enclosure and its door or cover. For example, a continuous silicone seal door gasket will help prevent the intrusion of water, steam, or contaminants and can be easily replaced when worn.
-A smooth surface grain that eliminates tiny pores that could harbor microorganisms.
Internal hinges mounted inside the sealed zone to simplify cleaning.
-An integrated, non-detachable rear panel to guarantee reliable hygiene and sealing in an area that is difficult to monitor.
-Side panels that are screw-fastened from the inside to eliminate threads or other crevices that could harbor dirt or bacteria.
-Hexagonal screw fasteners without the head slots that could allow debris to collect and with external seals to keep moisture out of the enclosure.
-Easy-to-clean stainless-steel locks and cable glands.
-Sloped tops and sealed access points to prevent water or cleaning agent infiltration that could result in electrical failure, unscheduled downtime, and expensive repairs.
-An Ingress Protection rating that is consistent with the line’s cleaning protocol. Common IP ratings for F&B applications include IP 66 (dust-tight and protected from high-pressure water jets from any direction), and IP 69K (dust-tight and protected from steam-jet cleaning).

Nominations are open for Fonterra’s board election but a repeat of the drama that rocked the vote three years ago can be ruled out.

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