Consumer Foods: starting the recovery

Step by step the recovery of our Consumer Foods segment began, resulting in an increase in order intake of 6.5% to CHF 584 million. The main driver for this upward trend was the baked goods business (Wafer and Biscuit), where customers appreciated our ability to integrate solutions along complete value chains. Due to the time lag between orders and commissioning, turnover went down by 11.3% to CHF 509 million. The integration of the Consumer Foods units itself and the former Haas entities into the Bühler organization progressed further and will be concluded shortly. 

The Chocolate & Coffee, and Confectionery business units of Consumer Foods reported stable orders, while Wafer and Biscuit experienced accelerating demand, starting from Europe, and now expanding since the second half of the year to other key regions such as Asia and North America. 

An important differentiator in the markets is our capability to test and develop innovative ideas for consumer products together with our customers in our network of Application & Training Centers– and afterwards to engineer and implement the respective integrated solutions. This not only within the Consumer Foods segment, but also in combination with technologies of our Grains & Food business, starting from grain handling and logistics to milling, sorting and protein processing. Our application centers for joint product development have been sold out during 2021. Our extended service offerings with service level agreements and retrofit packages to update lines with energy efficient ovens, and our Bühler Insights cloud applications have been perceived positively in the markets and added to the value creation of our portfolio. 

A highlight of 2021, which showcases the unique broadness of our abilities, was the inauguration of a food park for our Egyptian customer NSPO – one of the largest food parks worldwide. Irrespective of the adverse conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have built this food park in only two years and started operations in July. The huge complex in the desert between Cairo and Alexandria with a size of 567,000 m2 contains six silos, two mills, plants for bakery, wafers, biscuits, crackers, Halawa, tahina, pasta, and noodles. A TotalCare service level agreement contract with a Bühler services team on site ensures safe operations at high productivity level. The order origins from the ambition of the Egyptian government to improve the nutritional system with healthy and affordable food, especially for schools and universities. Up to 4.5 million meals are delivered to pupils and students on a daily base. 

The efforts of our customers to increase the sustainability of their processes have been another important reason to engage with Bühler and to benefit from the technologies we bring to life. One solution is for the packaging industry, and it enjoys growing interest, allowing producers to switch from plastics to compostable materials. We are offering – among others – lines for edible cups which can safely hold hot drinks for around an hour. Based on the same idea, we developed an application for making cutlery sustainable out of a special dough.  

The bulk of requests from customers to improve their ecological footprint, however, is about how to reduce the energy consumption of lines with new ovens, retrofits, and energy recovery systems. What we can achieve today with state-of-the-art technologies, can be observed at our customer Joh. Johannson Kaffe in Vestby, Norway. The Norwegian coffee manufacturer Joh. Johannson and Bühler built the world’s first 85% CO₂-neutral coffee processing plant, which opened in 2021. Joh. Johannson is the largest coffee manufacturer in Norway with a market share of more than 40%. Bühler supplied all the processing equipment except packaging at the green field plant. Two InfinityRoast-2000 roasters powered by biogas, along with green bean preheating units are at the heart of the factory. Sophisticated energy recovery systems and emission control technologies further reduce energy consumption and cut the emission of detrimental greenhouse gas. The remaining energy consumption and CO₂ emissions of the factory are compensated by hundreds of photovoltaic solar panels. The entire plant is digitally connected with Bühler automation systems, enabling more oversight over the final products. Here too, a Total Care service level agreement contract with a Bühler services team on site ensures high productivity levels.

Inspired by this competence, customers are seeking increasingly close partnerships not only for consumer product development but also for collaborative attempts to improve processes and equipment. An example which illustrates this approach is ChocoX, which we have developed together with an international partner and launched to the market beginning of the year. ChocoX is a new machine concept which enables rapid product changes and unlimited process configurations for new products with the shortest possible changeover times and improved energy consumption.

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