Frozen in time

Cuddon Freeze Dry are celebrating 70 years in business this year. Having commenced as general engineers specialising in manufacturing, irrigation and refrigeration, the company has grown into a leading player in the field of vacuum freeze drying equipment.

Cuddon began to design and manufacture vacuum freeze drying equipment in the early 1960s and has been actively exporting across the world since then.

The Cuddon logo can be found on large and small dryers in research centres in Korea, camel farms in Dubai, saffron houses in Iran and dairy factories worldwide.

The face of NZ’s food and beverage manufacturing has changed significantly in the last 70 years, according to the company’s sales manager, John Cuddon.

“We started off with making boilers for local tomato growers in the early days and by the sixties we were making freezers for whale meat, and a whole variety of different things. Soon after that, in 1962, we started with freeze drying for a local frozen food company that got a contract for instant food.

“Since then, there’s been a huge advance in the variety of product that is being processed, the types of processes, and in the number of procedures and world trends.

“In the past, in the initial stages of food production, it was always the developer that had the most say, because the developer was the one from whom the clients bought their product. Now, however, it’s the client, or the end user that demands what the product is going to be, and the manufacturer has to comply with that.

“Development is very much customer led. Whether it’s baby food, or convenient food for backpackers, or nutraceutical health food – so the amount of choice that is available, and the quality that the people are asking for and expecting, has changed the industry immensely,” said John.

While Cuddon’s machines were originally used in the manufacture of instant meals for army rations, modern uses are much more varied, being applicable to pharmaceutical, high value dairy products, nutraceuticals, and any other product containing water. Specialising in the commercial type freeze drier, Cuddon’s equipment can take up to 1500kg of frozen product at a time, whether it be meat or peas, corn, beans, or liver for pet foods.

The company has also developed a continuous spray freeze drier, in conjunction with New Zealand Agresearch, for the continuous spray freeze drying of fluids, which freeze when going into the vacuum and then come out as a freeze dry product with about 2-4% moisture.

According to John, Cuddon’s freeze driers “dry at very low temperatures – between -18 and -30ºC and, in doing that, we ensure that the products keep their shape, colour, and flavour, and especially keep their nutrient content.”

Of course there are limitations when using the freeze drying technology, and certain applications that the technology is not suited for. “Anything with a very high sugar content is quite challenging,” said John.

“Also anything very high in salts, or oily fish, like salmon. On the other hand, meat is fine. Basically, freeze drying suits most products with water in them.”

Before implementing the technology into their applications, manufacturers need to give the matter a great deal of thought. “It normally takes about three years from the first expression of interest to an order going in for a freeze drier. It takes a lot of money and it’s important to give a lot of consideration to the development of any new product,” concluded John.

Lena Zak is the editor of FOOD Magazine.

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