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Prepare to feast on Appetite

05 May 2011

With speakers ranging from companies as illustrious as Coca-Cola to Unilever, Arla Foods, Heinz and Westaway Sausages, Appetite for Engineering will be more exciting than ever

It's seldom so many companies from such disparate parts of the food manufacturing sector can make it to one place all on one memorable day - 23 June at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire to be exact.

But come the big day, the likes of the Engineering Project Manager of Unilever and Arla Foods, an Automation Engineer at Coca-Cola, the Technical Manager of The Hygiene Group, the Operations Manager and Marketing Manager of Ardo, the Environmental Control Manager of Heinz, the MDs of INCPEN, Westaway Sausages, Mr Singh's Sauce, Muddy Boots, and a Lead Specialist with the Technology Strategy Board, will be on hand to speak, partake in panel debates and talk to delegates.

But surely the biggest draw will be our opening speaker, Rupert Redesdale, the chairman of the Anaerobic & Biogas Digestion Association. He's a former energy spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, and will deliver a crucial address about the food sector.

As always, the trusty Chris Buxton, CEO of the Packaging & Processing Machinery Association, will chair the event. He'll be followed by David Alvis, lead specialist at the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), then Melanie Leech, director-general of the Food & Drink Federation. Melanie will talk about the future of food manufacturing in the UK (her talk will be published as our cover story in the June edition of Food Processing magazine). She will be followed by Barry Aspey, environmental control manager of Heinz, who will talk about sustainability through engineering in practice.

The first SME - Miranda and Roland Ballard of Muddy Boots will talk next - their presentation is designed to show that with some ingenuity and skill, anything is possible. Their environmentally friendly burgers are sold exclusively at Waitrose. But just like other SMEs they've faced their share of challenges with respect to automating and the amount of money they should invest in their factory.

The Skills section of the conference programme will encompass Unilever's Hazel Elderkin, Arla Foods' Soeren Vonsild, and Domino's Fiona White. Each has a fascinating story to tell about how important skills and training are in food manufacturing. A morning panel debate follows: this year, these are due to be more important than ever, with speakers taking part in a longer debate than in previous years.

Packaging is the next session. Taking the lead in this respect is Jane Bickerstaffe, director of INCPEN - The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment. As we wrote a while back when we profiled her, she's clearly a woman who means business. In fact, she's just the person you'd want fighting your corner. INCPEN is a non-profit, research-based organisation established in 1974 dedicated to analysing the environmental and social effects of packaging, creating a better understanding of the role of packaging and minimising the environmental impact of packaging.

It draws together an influential group of companies which share a vision of the future where all production, distribution and consumption are sustainable. Its members are international and British companies involved in aspects of the packaging chain - from raw material suppliers to packaging manufacturers, branded goods producers and retailers.

Jane knows the packaging industry inside out and talks with authority on the subject: ``To make good decisions, you need the manufacturers and big brands. The thing about packaging is that at different stages of the supply chain, everyone wants something different. It's only by working together that we can understand the constraints and the conflicts. INCPEN is a voluntary organisation, set up in 1974 by a group of big brands who said look we need packaging because we can't get the food out the fields and onto people's plates without packaging.''

Her talk is likely to be lively and informative. It will be followed by Mr Singh's Sauce, whose original MD Hardev Sahota, and his son, will talk about packaging nightmares. Like Muddy Boots, Mr Singh's Sauce is an SME, which has grown phenomenally in size over the past few years. Following Mr Singh's Sauce will be Ardo, a Kent-based frozen vegetable manufacturer.

Its Operations Manager, Jim Everest, and Simon Baxter, Marketing Manager, will deliver a talk about how they brought all Ardo's operations to one site. This was a massive undertaking but owing to the unique partnership between marketing and operations, Ardo succeeded in overhauling its plant and managing future market requirements. Honeytop Speciality Foods will talk next - its robotics system from ABB was installed by RG Luma. But that's not where the innovation ends.

VION Group follows - its Group Environmental Manager, Bob Carss will talk with Stephen Woodgate, CEO of FABRA - about how these two most progressive of Europe's meat industry organisations, joined forces to explore how food processors can capitalise on the environmental credentials of animal by-products.

Jos van Limberghen, Automation Engineer of Coca-Cola Enterprises, is based in Belgium. For a company as important and prolific as Coca-Cola, downtime could be costly and is best avoided. An automation engineer explains how he worked with two major Appetite sponsors to reduce downtime. Next up will be Neil Brown, Technical Manager of The Hygiene Group, who will speak with Randall Parker Foods about factory hygiene.

The Randall Parker Food Group is an impressive group of companies with an exceptional reputation for quality, experience and choice within meat supply throughout the world. It says it's committed to providing the finest meat products to customers and its experience enables it to understand its requirements. Its companies offer a large portfolio of meat and meat products.

Finally, back by popular demand, is Charles Baughan, MD of Westaway Sausages. Charles spoke last year with a barnstorming speech which set the conference alight; so many were impressed by his talk that the support for him returning this year has been overwhelming. He will this year talk about the real benefits of taking your business outside the UK - the advantages of 'going global'.

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