Do give a brief background of your company.
TFT is a privately-owned company and was established 25 years ago. We provide solutions for mainly the bakery and confectionery industry. We do not sell standard equipment, but rather manufacture these according to what our customer wants for his specific product or process.
Everything is tailor-made. We have some components that are standard, and we put these together and redesign them to make a working solution for the customer.
Our high capacity marshmallow lines are a big focus for TFT. We do the complete kitchen from the cooking of the sugar syrup to the complete processing—injecting gelatine into the cooked syrup, cooling down the marshmallow and aerating it, extruding or depositing it, giving colour and/or shape to it, all the way up to packaging.
The big benefit of this system is that TFT supplies all its equipment with all water systems for the jacketed components ‘on board’. All process temperatures are set according to the recipe being produced. This feature eliminates operator interference and thus mistakes.
Another focus of the company is the provision of filling for sandwich biscuits. Such filling can include cream, caramel, marshmallow, jelly, jam, and more. We provide the filling to third party companies who actually make the tartlet or sandwich biscuit. Since we have provided hundreds of these lines in the past 25 years, we have a pool of preferred partners for the actual capping machine.
These are the two main focuses of TFT, but every day we get queries from the customer for something complete different. For example, how to make a foam for an Angel Kiss, a Japanese Dorayaki batter and filling, or even peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the biggest USA peanut butter producer.
Also we are able to talk with the customer to better profit from a certain line that they have. Thirty percent of our business consists of more or less standard solutions; 50 percent are lines where our engineers design the best solution together with the customer. The last 20 percent are the out-of-the-box process solutions that we produce together with the customer.
It’s not only about making equipment, but also thinking together with the customer about the markets he’s in or he’s targeting, the opportunities in these markets, and the different trends of each market. Here at TFT we all have a background in food technology; more than just trying to sell equipment to customers, we can help ponder over solutions with them to improve their businesses.
What are some of the current trends you’re seeing in the market at the moment?
I think about 80-90 percent of the products we’re seeing now in the market are those that we’ve been seeing for years. These include cakes, tartlet, sandwich biscuits, and wafers, which we can help with given our expertise on crystalising and aeration technology.
What I see now that more and more customers wants is equipment that is very versatile. They do not only want to make one type of biscuit all year round; they want to be able to make (on one machine or two) a whole palette of different types of products. It is quite a challenge to design such equipment, because these would have to be able to produce biscuits of different diameters for example, with fast turnover times.
Cleaning also has become more important I think, particularly automated cleaning and the ability of the equipment to store the data of cleaning cycles. If something goes wrong down the line at the retail stage with shelf-life or some other aspect, companies can look back at the equipment’s data system to see the cleaning cycle of that particular batch of products. They can see what it was that might have gone wrong, what the operator did at that moment, and figure out how to go from there.
Also, although happening at a slower rate, I see more customers gradually starting to care more about the quality of products over the quantity. These involve complying with all kinds of legislations and certifications, specific to the markets they are targeting.
In your opinion, what do you think will be important going forward? In the next five to 10 years for example.
At the top of my head, automation will definitely become more important. This will comprise less manual labour, less maintenance, while improving production and quality.
Taking artificial and foreign ingredients that consumers do not know off the ingredients list will also be important. This will however depend on the various markets that are being targeted. Not all consumers around the world are very conscious about where their food comes from, but still we’re seeing consumer demands moving in this direction.
The bigger global producers are definitely moving in this direction. They’re driven much by health, safety and product quality. The smaller businesses have yet to show any movement, but I think they will look into this in the coming years, because they have. It’s eat or be eaten, I think. It’s not that nothing is happening at the moment; instead it is a slow but steady improvement.