Chocotech GmbH of Wernigerode, Germany, designs, manufactures, installs and commissions kitchens for hard and chewy candy, jellies, caramel, nougat, fondant, foam, jellies and fruit snacks, as well as specialty equipment for chocolate, chocolate shells and chocolate lentils. The company was founded in 1920. In 1991, it became part of the Sollich Group.
"It's all about colour, taste and texture," says Martin McDermott, Director of Sales & Marketing at Chocotech, holding up a clear-coloured wine gum. "All of these pieces basically start neutral in flavour as cooked sugar. What we're doing is making goodies out of them."
To get personality – say, a sour-orange gumdrop – a candy-maker needs to add three things to the sugar mass before processing: colour, flavour and acid. "A lot of confectionaries on the market were originally developed by the old candy makers for a small batch process. These have now been adapted to large productions, with equipment that can produce 1,000-2,000 kilos an hour," Martin McDermott says. "In order to do this, there are many changing parameters around the colour-flavour-acid additives. You must meter them consistently and accurately into the mass. You can’t manually add them." The dosing pumps at Chocotech deliver oil or water based flavouring agents, citric acid, CFA (food colouring), vitamin dissolution and sugar syrup.
Formerly, Chocotech's equipment for dosing additives featured separate tanks, each with its own piston pump: one for colour, one for flavour and one for acid. One motor drove all three pumps. "The tolerances and throughput were pretty limited," says Jens Fleisch, Technical Director at Chocotech, adding that using the same pump three times was possible, but it needed an additional collateral flow meter, and it was difficult to hit the accuracy and cost required in the marketplace. In addition, the previous piston pumps had been adapted from an application in power plants, able to pump up to 800 l/h and 700 bar – many times the capacity needed for dosing for candy. Not only were they cumbersome but Chocotech needed to have on hand 20 different sizes of pump heads and their spare parts to cover all its needs.
"A piston dosing pump itself is very accurate, but not so flexible, because the diameter of the piston must match the amount of liquid you are feeding, and the stroke must be set to values between 3.0 mm to 15.0 mm, or a range from 1:5," says Jens Fleisch. A frequency drive runs between 20 and 80 Hz, giving the motor four speeds, or a range of 1:4. Therefore, in the old system, the possible variations were (1:4) x (1:5), or 1:20 for each pump size.
The Grundfos solution
The DDA-FCM model installed at Chocotech can be adjusted steplessly from 12 to 12,000 ml/h –a range of 1:1,000, providing 1,000 variations in dosing volume. Thus, one pump size fits all – or at least 95% of the applications in Chocotech's machinery. "You can have so many recipes without physically changing the pumps," Jens Fleisch says. "One recipe might have a tiny amount of menthol, whereas another recipe on the same pump can call for a big amount of liquid flavour. This makes it easier for us to design, layout and standardize our kitchens."
Add to that the accompanying stepping motor technology, flow control monitor, user-friendly design, "E-box" electronic control system and Profibus connection, and for Chocotech, the package is complete. "Grundfos made life much easier," adds Martin McDermott.
Chocotech was the first confectionary company in the world to use the Grundfos DDA for processing. The pumps are typically used in other industrial applications, such as water treatment, washing and cleaning or clean-in-place (CIP) systems. But Chocotech's customers have responded well to the new type of dosing pump, McDermott says. "We have had at least two cases where we've secured substantial orders due to the new Grundfos pumps. We could not have done this due to the older way, which was so much more expensive," he says. "If you have 20-30 pumps in your kitchen and you need to upgrade them all – including all their variants and spares and drives and flow meters, the price is very high. But we're getting feedback like 'Wow, this is good you're offering something new.' It allows us to innovate. And we can only be innovative if we have innovative suppliers."