When we consider the concept of health, we generally think about being free from injury or illness. We might look at a person’s mental or physical condition, or delve more deeply into nutrition, exercise, sleep and the environment we live in. In recent times, vaccines and medicines have taken center stage as the world battles the ongoing pandemic. Yet, often behind the scenes and anonymous, a vast array of technologies and innovations are working hard, every day, to ensure that the food, drugs, water and energy that we use to stay well are safe, reliable and sustainable. At the heart of many of those processes – and supporting healthy living – is GEA equipment.

Bringing quality plant-based beverages to today’s discerning consumers

Globally, more and more people are adopting flexitarian eating habits, vegetarianism or vegan diets as a response to concerns about the ecological footprint of certain foods. This has subsequently increased interest in plant-based beverages. Soy and pea alternatives, for example, deliver high levels of protein, sometimes more than cow’s milk, and can actually be less expensive.

Bringing these complex beverages to consumers means ensuring maximum quality, hygienic processing and cutting-edge filling procedures to ensure a decent shelf-life without having to rely on preservatives. For products such as soy-, tofu- and oat-based drinks, just to name a few examples, GEA supplies entire production lines that comprise a variety of integrated techniques, including milling, grinding, separation, blending, homogenization and thermal treatment all of which require engineering, planning and automation expertise.

In addition, as well as manufacturing centrifuges, decanters and systems for deodorizing, pasteurizing and enzyme deactivation to prevent oxidization and the formation of off-notes, GEA can also provide turnkey aseptic filling solutions. Particularly good for milk- and plant-based beverages, as well as low-acidity drinks, they use a process that treats the liquid and solid components differently to maximize product quality and ensure that what you drink is safe, pleasant and refreshing.

Preservative-free beverages with a long shelf life

Aligning on-the-go lifestyles with convenience and the desire for healthy food and beverages can also be a challenge. In addition, if no end-to-end cold chain solution is available in remote or rural locations, for example then the task might seem insurmountable. Fortunately, again, aseptic technology makes it possible for end users to enjoy healthy consumer products including dairy based drinks that were once only possible in places where refrigeration was widely available.

High quality, safe and delicious products with a long shelf-life can now be produced and delivered without the need for a refrigerated or temperature-controlled distribution chain. High-speed, sterile production with lightweight, innovative bottles that minimize raw material usage yet enable a wide variety of attractive container designs is all possible thanks to the latest aseptic blowing technology. And let’s not forget the bottle cap! It’s just as important (being in contact with the beverage) and must be sterilized too. We’ve got it covered, though, GEA offers both PAA- and H2O2-based sterilization technologies for caps, including aluminum foil seals.

How freeze drying can save the food we all need

Here’s a scary fact! An estimated 25% of the world’s food calories are lost between harvest and consumption. Often, this waste occurs in homes, restaurants or supermarkets. But, in developing countries, the inability to support a cold chain between the producer and the consumer can pose a problem. Things are changing, though, and the food industry is increasingly focused on reducing waste, increasing shelf-life and creating food that tastes, smells and looks great.

But, we’re not going to avoid a global food shortage by merely producing more food. We must preserve and save more of what we already produce and freeze drying is an excellent way to do this. Lyophilization is not only an effective way to preserve shape, color, taste and nutrients, freeze dried products also benefit from high quality, a very long shelf-life and can be quickly reconstituted by adding water. Plus, they’re lighter, cheaper to store and ship, and require no refrigeration during transport.

GEA has a long history of designing and building freeze dryers for the global food and beverage market, which range from pilot-scale units to commercial, fully automated solutions that help to maximize plant reliability, reduce product loss and achieve top product quality.

Pass the protein, please

Protein is a must-have for maintaining good health and, although meat is an excellent source, more consumers are decreasing their meat intake, citing a greater focus on healthful living, concern for the environment, animal welfare and increased fear of zoological diseases. As a result, the alternative protein market is diversifying and growing apace.

Plants and micro-organisms convert nutrients into protein very efficiently and place less burden on our natural resources. As functional ingredients, they add texture to, as well as optimize the viscosity, emulsification, stability, foaming or fat-binding properties, of diverse foodstuffs. In feed, vegetarian proteins take pressure off livestock production and aquaculture. With a focus on improving protein quality and yield while ensuring the efficient use of resources during production, GEA is constantly developing and adapting its processing solutions to accommodate new raw materials.

Our expertise covers key process steps, including protein extraction, isolation and purification, starch and fiber drying, as well as effluent treatment. We also offer complete lines for the “wet part,” including separators and decanters for extraction, concentration, washing and protein recovery. Plus, we develop robust and reliable processes to produce free-flowing and dust-free protein powders with tailored particle size distributions and excellent dispersibility attributes.

We begin by getting a complete picture and understanding of what customers want to achieve. Once the product is defined, we work backwards from the desired result, then identify the right processes and equipment to create a technology solution that is both optimized and capable of producing a consistent, high-quality product.

Making the most of micellar casein

Consumers are taking a much greater interest in all aspects of their health and well-being, and are increasingly aware of the importance of a balanced diet, including the essential role that proteins play in the growth, maintenance and repair of every type of tissue in the body.

Milk and dairy products are an ideal source of high-quality proteins that give us all of the amino acid building blocks that our cells need. Milk contains two different types of protein, caseins and whey proteins. Casein coagulation is a technique used to make high-protein dairy products such as cheese and strained yoghurts, which represent a key source of nutrition for millions of people around the world. Furthermore, slow-release caseins are increasingly being used in products that are formulated for people with special nutritional needs, such as the elderly, those who may find it hard to eat and health-conscious consumers and athletes.

Our GEA scientists, engineers and industry specialists partner with global customers in the dairy industry to configure efficient, environmentally sustainable plant to process the highest quality casein products using acid, rennet and microfiltration methods. Our expertise spans complete plant for casein recovery, from liquid processing through to evaporation, spray drying and packaging. We also offer centrifugal separation solutions and microfiltration technologies based on long-life ceramic and/or cost-effective polymeric membranes that offer different approaches to recovering and optimizing micellar casein.

Hidden champions for safety

Long time ago, at the dawn of the food processing age, it was unsanitary containers and vessels that casually sparked yeast fermentation and gave us staple delights such as beer, wine and sourdough bread. Ever since, however, it has been an imperative to keep tanks and containers as clean as possible to ensure reliable product quality. In the case of goods for human consumption, this means hygienically and/or aseptically clean!

Hygienic tank cleaning technology does an almost invisible job that’s vital for the safety, sustainability and shelf-life of food, beverages and pharmaceutical products, among many others. And although, industrial tank cleaners rank among the most aesthetically pleasing components in processing systems, their real worth lies in what they do in the darkness of hermetically sealed tanks, containers and fermentation vessels. GEA is constantly working to make them more efficient and operationally sustainable to achieve ever-increasing benefits for manufacturers, plant workers, consumers and the environment.

Water security for every generation

Water is essential to all life on Earth. And although many of us don’t think twice about turning on a tap to access fresh, safe water for drinking, cooking, washing and to flush our toilets, billions of people around the world are not so fortunate. As such, GEA works with governments and global partners to provide energy efficient wastewater treatment solutions, such as our decanter centrifuges. These separating technologies dewater the sludge that settles out of suspension during the sewage treatment process and also recovers extra water from downstream treatment facilities.

Globally, more than 80% of wastewater is dumped without adequate treatment. This water may contain toxic heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, drug residues and other pollutants, as well as human sewage and animal waste products. With a limited supply of fresh water on the planet, it’s critical that we clean up as much of our wastewater as possible. By reducing the sludge volume in sewage treatment plant, we can help companies to save money, improves their operational efficiencies and, of course, preserve more of this precious liquid.

Blood plasma: a promising weapon in the fight against Covid-19

At the end of 2019 a previously unknown strain of coronavirus was reported to be causing pneumonia-like disease in human patients in China. Within months, this deadly species-jumping virus (SARS-CoV-2) had spread into a pandemic that has now killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

In the fight against coronavirus, the administration of antibodies to counter Sars-CoV-2 is a promising treatment option. Once someone has been infected with a virus and recovers, their blood is rich with antibodies. Like a vaccine, giving antibody infused blood plasma to a sick patient could speed up their recovery. The advantage, especially for immunocompromised patients, is that the antibodies have already been produced.

The downside, however, is the absolute requirement for a sufficient number of willing donors. However, whether antibody production is induced by a vaccine or they’re obtained from blood plasma, both approaches ultimately have one thing in common. Once the laboratory work and clinical tests have been completed, full-scale production must be expedited to manufacture the largest possible quantities. GEA, with a long history of vaccine and blood fractionation expertise, is and has been playing an instrumental role by quickly transforming developments made by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies into marketable processes and systems.

Technologies for global vaccine production

GEA is also a world leader in the design and configuration of microbial and cell fermentation systems for the vaccine industry. Supplying standalone modular technologies that can be combined to form an entire production plant, these GEA solutions are based on extensive expertise in cell culture systems, cell separators, homogenization plant and filtration units. Furthermore, GEA's spray- and freeze-drying technologies help innovative technology companies to develop temperature-stable blood products and vaccine preparations that have a long shelf-life and do not require refrigeration, making them easier to transport to hard-to-reach and remote areas.

Ensuring that Covid-19 vaccines are viable upon arrival

Now that several different vaccine candidates have been approved and authorized for use, the global supply chain will have to accommodate a number of logistical solutions to ensure that a viable drug reaches the intended recipient in a quick and efficient way. With some manufacturers stating requirements for –20 °C or even –80 °C temperatures to ensure drug stability, that’s not easy to achieve.

Ultra-low cold transport systems may not, however, be the only option. By utilizing the process of freeze drying, for example, delicate, unstable or heat-sensitive drugs and biologicals can be dried at low temperatures without damaging their physical structure. This overcomes many of the common issues associated with cold-chain distribution; and, although not every molecule or end product is lyophilization compatible, freeze drying may present a versatile, efficient and cost-effective solution to ensuring the shelf-life of expensive sterile drugs such as vaccines and enabling them to be transported anywhere in the world.

GEA is engineering for a better world – every day

Embedded in our commitment to “engineering for a better world” is our drive to continually improve the efficiency and sustainability of our own business and solutions. Population growth, urbanization, the rise of the middle class and the increasing demand for high-quality foods, beverages and pharmaceutical products call for production methods that are highly efficient and use fewer valuable resources. As an engineering company that primarily serves the food and pharmaceutical industries, we are harnessing our innovative strength to meet these challenges.

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