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Linde Gases: 'We are pioneering innovators'

29 August 2012

Stephen McCormick, head of Food & Beverage, Linde Gases Division, tells FP Express about the company's work with the food industry

Can you define Linde Gases?
Linde Gases is a division of the Munich-based Linde Group (turnover EUR 13.787 billion) and is a leading international industrial gases and gas technology company. It provides gases, state-of-art equipment and gas technology applications to virtually all fields of industry globally, including a major focus on the food and beverage industry.

When, where and by whom was the company founded?
Linde was founded over 130 years ago by Carl von Linde, a gifted engineer, entrepreneur and professor from the Technical University of Munich who developed the world's first refrigeration machine.

What is the nature of the company's work with the food and beverage industry?
Linde pioneers technology innovation across the food supply chain. It helps increase food product yield at growers and producers through its natural fumigants to limit damage from pests (EDN) and its oxygenation solutions for on-land fish production (OxyStream). Its cryogenic technology protects against food spoilage during transportation (Frostcruise) and it provides extended food product shelflife through its modified air packaging system (MAPAX), and also through research and development into natural refrigerants. Its gas technology is employed to ensure food safety and authenticity through its role in food analysis (specialty gas mixtures). Most importantly, it has developed cryogenic food freezers to increase frozen food productivity, hygiene assurance and traceability (Cryoline).

Can you describe a case study in which you have provided a solution for one food company?
The Cryoline XF spiral freezer has the largest freezing capacity of any cryogenic unit and is suitable for high production capacities of food products including meat, seafood, poultry, ready meals and bakery products. A Cryoline XF freezer was recently installed at a US-based Omni Baking Company plant in New Jersey. Omni Baking Company is a contract bakery that supplies fresh, frozen baked and par-baked products to bakers who serve the retail and foodservice markets. In the baking industry, where ingredient and labour costs continue to increase, bakers constantly look for new technology that will lower their overall operating costs to improve competitiveness.

What are food processors looking for with respect to gas?
Food processors are looking for reliability, accuracy and innovation - in gases themselves and also in the equipment to maximise their effectiveness. For example, food analysis is standard procedure for food products entering the UK and the EU and many responsible UK food manufacturers also voluntarily send regular samples to independent laboratories to verify their own findings. Labs need be able to detect ever-lower levels of contaminants so gas mixtures used in analysis techniques must be increasingly innovative to detect existing and new contaminants occurring in just a few parts per million - or even at lower levels.

What role does nitrogen play in this?
Nitrogen in its liquid state (otherwise known as cryogen) has become a fundamental gas used in the quick freezing of food products. To maximise its effectiveness, food freezers, like Linde's Cryoline range, need to have leading edge design features and innovative functionality to freeze large quantities of food product literally within seconds, as well as the ability to deliver maximum hygiene and traceable data about the freezing operation and freezer performance under varying conditions. For transportation of chilled and frozen perishable food products, food processors and transportation companies are seeking innovative cryogenic technologies to deliver more rapid temperature pull-down in the truck compartment - and the ability to maintain accurate and consistent product temperature despite multiple delivery stops.

Where are food processors going wrong with respect to gas?
Some food processors view cryogenic gases as complex, but actually, cryogenic gases are simpler to employ and a more reliable technology than mechanical freezing and refrigeration methods.

How has the company coped with the continuing economic volatility?
The industrial gases sector has shown great resilience and buoyancy amid considerable socio-economic and geo-political changes in 2011. Specifically, Linde has continued to perform well with increases in sales and operating profit. Against this backdrop, we expect the robust trends identified as being critical to our business, including a sustained population growth and a growing need for healthy and convenient food, to remain key themes for Linde in the future.

What about your process sets you apart from your competitors?
Linde is a pioneering innovator in industrial gases technology. Our core competency is engineering. In the food and beverage sector our technology rarely consists of incremental improvements over existing technology, rather starting with a blank slate, Linde engineers really understand the requirements of food processors and develop leading edge equipment and gas applications specifically to meet their needs.

What is the hierarchy of the company in the UK?
BOC (www.boconline.co.uk) is the UK subsidiary of Linde and supplies the full range of gases and gas technologies to food processors in the UK. They operate a customer Food Technology Centre in Thame, Oxfordshire and have a dedicated team of food technology specialists.


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