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Flavourtech provides solutions for specific problems

From the February 2018 issue.

Flavourtech’s process allows RTD coffee producers to retain unique flavour, aroma, and active ingredients.

As the market for ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee continues to grow globally, the vast range of options on the shelf creates a need for producers to differentiate their offerings to capture market share.

The early RTD coffees that provided a quick and inexpensive energy hit are being joined by higher quality premium products that take advantage of consumers’ growing interest in origin as well as superior taste.

Australian-based global technology manufacturer Flavourtech, which specialises in aroma recovery, extraction, and evaporation solutions, has developed a range of equipment to improve the production of instant coffee, and RTD coffee and tea, allowing producers to retain the taste, aroma and volatile compounds usually lost in other processing methods.

Flavourtech Sales and Marketing Director Leon Skaliotis says the brand has become a gold standard within the coffee industry in terms of capturing coffee aromas and helping producers to identify the country of origin.

Focus on flavour

Flavourtech’s origins trace back 30 years to the wine industry, a trade where the focus on aroma, taste, and origin invites many comparisons with the coffee industry.

One of the company’s owners was a winemaker who worked with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to further develop one of its disused designs – the Spinning Cone Column (SCC) – a machine to remove sulphur from grape juice in the wine making process.

“One day he was standing next to a part of the system where all the condensate comes out and smelt these beautiful grape aromas and said, ‘perhaps that’s what we should be doing, capturing these delicate flavours that must be of value to somebody’,” Skaliotis says.

The SCC became Flavourtech’s flagship product, with its recovery of aromas proving ideal for the coffee industry.

Response to a need

Skaliotis said Flavourtech’s solution for RTD producers started in the mid to late ’90s when a company already in the market asked for help with a factory that had “tanks boiling over here, people running there, shutting off valves here, shutting off valves there, forklifts going this way and that”.

The client wanted a coordinated process that would produce a better product, Skaliotis says, so Flavourtech developed its Integrated Extraction System (IES) in response, built around the SCC.

“That allowed them, in a much smaller space, to produce a higher quality product with the capability that the Spinning Cone Column has, to capture the natural aroma, but to do it consistently and quickly with less labour, lower energy costs, a smaller footprint, and really have an impact on their final product.”

Built as a modular system, the IES can be inserted into existing process lines as required to make gradual improvements, or installed in its entirety to form a continuous process line, allowing aroma recovery, extraction, and concentration in one simple-to-operate system.

That first IES client, Skaliotis says, was at the time in sixth or seventh position in its country for market share of RTD products. In the past 10 years, it has become an equal leader in the market.

“They tell us openly that is due to the strength of the products they can produce with the IES. They have since bought more systems from us to produce more product because their volumes kept going up and up and up,” he says.

Other customers have reported that not only are they getting higher better aroma profiles or more natural aroma profiles, but they’re also getting more of the active ingredients in the product, Skaliotis says. He credits a short residence time – the SCC only has 25 seconds of contact time with the product, compared to boiling it for five to 30 minutes in other techniques – and low temperatures that minimise damage and thus create a high-quality product.

That added quality benefits the producer who can either charge a higher price for the beverage or obtain more market share by charging the same as competitors for a better product, Skaliotis says.

Small players in the RTD market are also becoming more specialised in what they produce.

“They’re looking at niche areas that they want to produce a certain product for, and quite often their products are extremely well-regarded because they tend to experiment more with the types of coffee they’re using,” Skaliotis says.

Using Flavourtech’s SCC allows those clients to select a single origin coffee rather than a blend as in a standard RTD coffee, and capture the distinctive top notes that make that coffee recognisable, he says.

“We have some customers that put that on their cans – they’ll say that it’s a Guatemalan Arabica ready-to-drink coffee – and it allows them to corner those aficionados that are getting more into understanding their coffee better,” Skaliotis says.

Growing with the market

Skaliotis has been with Flavourtech for 13 years and watched the evolution and growth of the RTD market, not only across Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, but also in Europe.

One of the company’s initiatives in the past few years has been to set up pilot plants for its customers, in the US and UK as well as in Australia, to see how the process works on their own products.

“They can bring their own coffee, which they know well, and we can run a demonstration to show them the aroma and extract that’s being produced through our technology.”

Skaliotis says the RTD market continues to grow, and Flavourtech plans to support producers to fuel and funnel that growth.

Currently, its smallest system can still produce up to 400,000 units a day but Flavourtech is working on even smaller systems that will allow start-up companies to get into the market more easily.

That is in keeping with the development of the IES to meet a specific need, and Flavourtech’s ongoing concern with identifying and answering such needs.

“The IES is a solution which we develop depending on what the customer wants to produce, he says.

“The Spinning Cone Column and the slurry preparation really is the core of that and then we put in the clarification requirements depending on how the final product is going to be packaged.”

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