When was the last time you picked your own fruit for breakfast? Chances are the delightful slush of berries in your favorite yogurt comes from the leading specialist Zentis Polska and has gone through sophisticated GEA valves in the process. Innovative ideas, superior hygienic concepts and great cooperation are decisive factors in the making of this success story.

The acclaimed Zentis brand from Aachen, Germany, has been pleasing discerning palates since 1893 with fine fruit preparations and confectionery. 1995 saw the foundation of the company’s industrial products branch, Zentis Polska, now the biggest producer of fruit preparations for the dairy and baking goods industries in Central and Eastern Europe. Located in Siedlce, east of Warsaw, Zentis Polska and its 200 employees produce premium additives recipes for top-brand yogurts, desserts, ice cream and more at an output of 42,000 tons per year.

Promoting sustainable food production and biodiversity

The company's recipe for success includes novel approaches, including offers of isolated fruit ingredients that improve the fitness properties, color or shelf life of products without the use of artificial additives. Examples are food dyes reached with health-friendly antioxidants naturally found in vegetables, fruits, or berries. “Sustainable food production, health and convenience are strategy and particular interest of Zentis today,” explains Adam Głowacki PhD. Eng., Zentis Polska’s Director of Technical Development, “and many producers are moving towards a clean-label policy, using only natural ingredients now for purely natural products. We offer our extensive knowledge and a wide selection of vegetable or fruit-based, dyes and compounds to support them.”

System upgrade with GEA’s support

From the company’s ever-expanding agenda, the idea of a major system upgrade was born and, following several years of consideration, made a reality in 2019. The ambitious goal was to build a system for high-pressure processing in a tight and varied production schedule, three shifts a day, seven days a week.

Two separate mixproof valve cluster’s consisting of VARIVENT valves type K; responsible for CIP distribution for the entire plant

Adam and his department always do their own technical development, with the support of hand-picked suppliers, such as GEA. The Siedlce plant shows a variety of GEA components at work, from highly appraised GEA Hygia H pumps (see special story on gea.com) to sophisticated GEA VARIVENT® hygienic seat valves, GEA butterfly valves and, for aseptic applications, GEA Aseptomag® valves. These components have proved their worth for many years, as Adam points out: “Good things must be shared: These solutions I really trust. Components of this quality make production easier and save maintenance times.” GEA’s valve technology especially contributes to the successful plant performance in two process areas – mixing and CIP.

Mixing – the heart of the production line

Production valve cluster consisting of mixproof valve type R, change-over valves type W/Eco, hygienic leakage butterfly valve and hygienic butterfly valve

Except interior applications Zentis supports their customers with technology of aseptic dosing and mixing of own produced high-quality fruit preparations with yogurt or quark, which are proved by world-wide applications in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa too. The mixing and dosing stations on the production floor are where everything comes together to make the best products, and refining these operations is what the engineers at Siedlce love best. Their new, extended setup relies on versatile, hygienic GEA VARIVENT® Mixproof valves type R, which are equipped with two independent valve disks to prevent any possible contamination of the product. In addition, ECOVENT shut-off and divert valves from the GEA VARIVENT® portfolio are used to guide the product flow as required. Valves with special functions, such as GEA VARIVENT® Control valves type P-15, have proved invaluable in achieving reproducible mixing results.

“Every kilogram of our product is worth a great deal to us as it is so concentrated”, asserts Adam. “A super helpful thing is that all our GEA VARIVENT® valves are available in all dimensions, even very small ones, so we can reliably upscale our processes from lab to industrial size.”

CIP – the indispensable addition

Responsible system development does not stop when the process delivers the envisioned product properties. It must also ensure the safety of the product by devising food-grade CIP (Cleaning In Place) solutions to keep all flow paths and components hygienically clean. “This can take longer to develop than the actual production steps”, adds Adam with a shrug, “but we are finished only when we can produce our natural products safely.”

Like many producers, Zentis Polska found time and space restrictions critical when designing their current CIP solution. Their breakthrough idea was to build a central “valve island” to control the CIP flow for the entire process line from one point – ingeniously located in the top structure above the facility’s production area to save floorspace and not interfere with processing-related activities. Consisting of 4 × 9 GEA VARIVENT® Mixproof valves type K, the aggregate looks simple, “but is highly complicated”, as Daniel Paluch, the responsible GEA Sales Engineer Separation & Flow Components, puts it: “These valves are very easy to maintain if you have quick access to them, and Adam’s team put real thought into this. And they bent the pipes in clever ways to compensate for temperature fluctuations and prevent excess pressure on the valves.”

Automated valve and process control

Two separate mixproof valve cluster’s consisting of VARIVENT valves type K; responsible for CIP distribution for the entire plant

All process valves at Zentis Polska’s facility – for processing as well as for CIP operations – are equipped with digital GEA T.VIS® control tops and connected to the plant’s central control unit. That is because it is virtually indispensable to manage and monitor all valve functions automatically if you want to achieve the precision and flexibility that Zentis Polska’s processes and production schedules require.

The control tops from GEA offer all the modern digital functions needed for this, enhanced by minimum handling effort. In addition, Zentis Polska uses the information feedback from the valves to validate and archive process operations. The digital communication protocols that make this possible are 24 V DC for the shut-off and divert valves and 4–20 mA for the control valves in the Siedlce plant.

Applying future-proof technology

Over the years, the partnership of Zentis Polska and GEA has taken many productive facets. Developer Adam Głowacki’s experience and confidence in GEA’s technology is matched by sales engineer Daniel Paluch’s expert advice. Useful routines between the two include quick transfers of 3D valve drawings or required manuals to Adam’s team so they can use them in CAD and other programing software to develop process solutions in minimum time. “There have been discussions,” he reflects, “but never a mistake, and everything we built worked really well. And if I ever hit a wall, there is Daniel right by my side.”

The team at Siedlce has even gone further and started supplying certain technical solutions, including built-in GEA valves, to its own customers: “We deliver difficult-to-handle natural additives,” Adam points out, “so it makes sense to add fitting mixing and dosing solutions to the package.” Regularly held GEA seminars and trainings ensure that Adam and his staff always have a current grip on what is possible with hygienic valves.

His conclusion is a promise to both partners in this success story, Zentis Polska and GEA: “I’m looking forward to enlarging this cooperation.”

These solutions I really trust." - Adam Głowacki PhD. Eng., Director of Technical Development