As a former product developer, I'm obviously intrigued by new and interesting food industry-related products. While trying to keep up with all of the information I'm constantly bombarded with, I couldn't help but notice an article published in Information Week on a new Coca-Cola Freestyle dispenser that uses radio frequency ID (RFID) technology to collect data on the types of beverages consumers are drinking and how much.
The Freestyle dispenser contains 30 cartridges of highly concentrated flavorings that can be “microdosed” into Coke, tea or water. Once Coke collects its data, it will be able to track whether consumers in the South prefer peach-flavored cola, or some other flavor variation, for example.
How does this information translate to savings? Once data is collected, Coca Cola can determine whether or not to bottle a particular flavor without incurring the expense of conducting traditional focus groups or test marketing. In addition, production quantities of specific flavor cartridges for Coca Cola's customers can be determined based on real-time data, which helps minimize inventory.
Coca Cola found an innovative way to use existing computer technology that will not only save the company money, but also shape the future of the beverage industry. But the baking industry and its allieds have a few tricks up their own sleeves.
In the Production Solutions feature on energy savings in this issue of Baking Management, there are several examples of technological advances in capital equipment for the wholesale baking industry. Greg Balnoschan, director of engineering, The Peerless Group, Sidney Ohio, describes how variable frequency drive (VFD) motors in mixers have eliminated in-rush current, which reduces peak demand, and in turn, energy costs. And, the company recently introduced a new mixing bowl with cooling time reduced by 50 percent, which eliminates the need for ice.
Jim Diver, director of operations, Dunbar Systems Inc., Lemont, Ill., describes Auto Bake's oven technology that uses thermal oil as a heat source. With this oven technology, the boiler is only required to reheat the oil that is reduced by 15°F to 20°F during each production run, saving energy that is normally exhausted into the atmosphere.
Both of these equipment suppliers' examples represent the tip of the iceberg of the newer baking technologies that exist.
While the primary purpose of developing new technology isn't necessarily cost savings, from my experience, it's nearly always a consideration. Whether its a Freestyle Coca-cola dispenser with RFID chips or a thermal oil oven, these technologies are benefiting the bottom line.