Using a Nitrogen Purge in the Food and Beverage Industry

A simple nitrogen purge system can greatly benefit packagers in the Food and Beverage Industry by removing oxygen from a container. Replacing oxygen with nitrogen – either just before performing the fill, just after the fill or right before capping a container – can prolong the product’s shelf life while preserving the taste, color and texture of the food or beverage.

To understand how the nitrogen purge system works, consider the packaging process and the effects of oxygen on foods and beverages. On automatic packaging lines, bottles and/or other containers will be loaded on to a power conveyor system using a laning conveyor, a loading turntable, using manual labor or in some other manner. Of course, the bottles that are loaded on to the conveyor are empty, and in the Food and Beverage Industry will likely travel through a rinsing machine or other container cleaning machinery to remove dust and debris prior to continuing down the packaging line.

While the container cleaning equipment helps keep the packaging process sanitary and removes dust and debris build up, it does not have the same benefits as using a nitrogen purge system. While container cleaning equipment helps keep the product free from outside contaminants, nitrogen purge creates an atmosphere that assists in prolonging the useful life of a product.

Once rinsed or otherwise cleaned, containers will normally move to the filling machine. At this point, a nitrogen purge can be set up to inject nitrogen into a container before the container is filled with product. The main reason for using a nitrogen purge before a fill, however, is usually not the preservation referred to above. Instead, adding nitrogen to an empty container can strengthen the container, making it more rigid. This is especially useful for certain plastic bottles (like certain water bottles, for example) that are truly manufactured to be a rather flimsy bottle, sometimes to simply save on cost.

More often than not, a nitrogen purge system will be found between the filling machine and capping equipment on a packaging line. Once the container has been filled with a food or beverage product, some headspace will remain – the empty space between the product and the top of the bottle. This headspace, when not run through a nitrogen purge system, can have a detrimental effect on food and beverage products.

In a normal environment, the headspace will be filled with some oxygen. Long term contact with oxygen can lead to the deterioration of food products. When in a closed container, oxidation can destroy vitamins and nutrients as well as help to create an atmosphere for the breeding of certain bacteria and other contaminants that lead to spoiling. Using the nitrogen purge system removes the oxygen from the headspace, replacing it with nitrogen gas to counteract the negative aspects noted above. As bottles or containers leave the filling machine, or as they enter the capping machine, a purging head will blast the headspace with nitrogen gas. Immediately capping or otherwise sealing the containers minimizes the oxygen captured in the headspace. The result, less oxidation and an environment less likely to foster bacteria and other contaminants, which in turn leads to a longer shelf life and the retention of the normal taste, color and texture of the food or beverage product.

Nitrogen purge systems can be manufactured in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Single head machines can attach directly to a conveyor system to purge each bottle as it passes under the purge machine. Other nitrogen purge machines may be manufactured with multiple heads on a single frame, allowing the machine to roll up to an existing packaging line. In general, each nitrogen purge system will be manufactured based on the project for which it is built, with production demands and the existing equipment greatly influencing the design.

Key Factors To Consider When Choosing Your Restaurant’s Food And Beverage Distributor

When setting up your own restaurant business, there is more to the whole process than simply choosing the dishes that will go into the menu, the d├ęcor and set-up of the establishment, and hiring your staff. To make sure that your business is a success, everything should be at its best, especially the food you will serve.

Choosing the right food and beverage distributor can have a great impact on everything that you serve in your restaurant. As such, it is important that you choose the best provider of this service.

You can make sure you will choose the best food and beverage distributor to work with by considering the important factors below during your selection process:

Prices and payment terms and conditions. A good way to begin your search is to get price lists from all possible distributors. You can also request for a sample contract so that you can compare their proposed terms and conditions in addition to the prices. Once you have these documents, make sure you also have your price list of items you will need regularly and calculate how much each product costs from each supplier individually. According to business experts, never accept the first offer from a distributor. Don’t be afraid to negotiate; ask what else they can offer at the price they gave you. Don’t forget to make a counter-offer as well. Also, if the prices a company gives you are suspiciously low, be wary. You can consider their offer by check the quality of the products they deliver and their delivery schedules as well.

Delivery schedule. Consider how often you need your supplies to be delivered to your restaurant. This schedule will usually depend on the food items you need for your menu. If you want to serve everything fresh, you will have to schedule deliveries every day. You will also need to specify what time you need the distributor to be at your establishment: will it be early morning or during closing time? Before agreeing on a contract, make sure the goods will be delivered at the agreed time and try to set it as one of the conditions for the supplier to strictly follow.

Maintenance of quality. Lastly, you may be getting a good price on the delivery of supplies and the service provider will stick to the schedule; however, will they be able to maintain the good quality of all your ordered goods? The last thing you want to happen is to pay a lot for the best ingredients and see this investment go to waste because the vegetables and fruits wilted or the meat rotted because the delivery truck isn’t equipped with the best cooling system or it malfunctioned along the way. It is important that you have a good idea of the delivery vehicles, equipment, and other pieces of technology the distributor has before signing up with them.

Advantages to Computers in the Food & Beverage Industry

Computers have revolutionized the food and beverage industry as they have nearly every other industry. Computers have had positive, measurable effects on the front end and back end of hospitality operations. Computers systems have improved employee performance, and food and beverage quality and consistency. Within the food and beverage industry there is no longer a question of should technology be used, but rather a question of which technology to use? In the food and beverage business, computers are here to stay.

In the hospitality industry, customer service is an absolute critical factor for success. Computers are helping in this area in several ways. In many restaurants, the wait staff can process various forms of payment at guest tables, which allows guest to leave directly from their table without the need to stop at a centralized checkout station. This has removed long unsightly lines, which annoy customers, and disrupt the flow of traffic in food and beverage businesses. This service is made possible by either small hand held computers which handle credit card transactions using wireless technology, or via remote point of sale systems that interact with a central computer system. This improves the customers dining experience, which should be the goal of any food service business.

A key management concern of any food and beverage business is the profit margin. In this vital area of business, computers have also proven to be an indispensable tool. Computer systems help manage the entire food service process from ordering the ingredients needed to produce menu items, to forecasting the amount of items to prepare for each dining period based on historical patterns. This helps to reduce wasted food, which is very expensive and comes out of the businesses profit. It also helps in preparing menu items before hand, which reduces customer wait time. Computer can also forecast with high accuracy rates the volume of business to be expected which allows managers to properly staff their business. This is vital because having too much staff on hand can consume unnecessary amounts of payroll, and not having enough staff on hand will cause customer service problems.

Computers are also being used in very innovative ways by some food and beverage businesses. For instance, Darden Restaurants that owns and operates the Red lobster and Olive Garden chains uses computers to help choose new building sites. This computer system uses a software program called the Darden Site Analyzer. The software gathers critical information needed to select a site, such as demographics, distance to other restaurants and customer information specific to the Darden business model. The program then analyzes the site and provides a series of reports to help Darden make the final decision. Darden plans to improve the software so that it can evaluate things such as whether a new Darden restaurant will negatively effect other Darden restaurants in the same area.

Computer systems have become a vital part of all aspects of the food and beverage industry, they help with purchasing decisions, inventory control, employee scheduling and training, and customer acquisition and retention. A leading indicator of this growing trend is the fact that many hospitality training programs now include computer and technology courses in the curriculum.

Each year innovators are creating more unique ways that technology can be used to enhance the overall commercial dining experience. Computers make out of home dining a more enjoyable experience for the consumer and a more profitable manageable experience for business managers and owners.

(c) 2006, Marcus Barber