Mixing technology for meat-free products

Mixing meat-free products

While eating less meat and choosing alternatives to animal products is becoming increasingly popular, whether for health, environmental, or ethical reasons, the obstacles to producing well-textured, palatable end-products remain. However, one solution could be found in how the materials are combined.

The majority of meat-free production methods are similar to meat-based manufacturing processes. The most noticeable contrast is that meat is frequently the primary component that defines the product’s handling and formulation qualities in most formed meat products.

Meat-free Sausages

Meat-free Sausages

There is a natural propensity for beef and other animal products heavy in fats and proteins to be more durable and remain together. A vegetable combination has more moisture than meat, resulting in substantial differences in handling. Many analogue products contain various base components, most of which are dry, such as pea or soy powder and vegetable fibres. These may be mixed with water, oils and gelling agents.

Industrial mixers, meatless to say, are an important piece of equipment in the production of plant-based foods, assisting manufacturers in developing new product formulations, ensuring hygiene, scaling their processes and achieving the right taste, texture and appearance to achieve peak efficiency and profitability. This process is not only difficult but also time-consuming, labour-intensive and expensive. This is where a Winkworth mixer and early use of our Customer Test Centre in the UK would be most useful in moving your projects forward. Perhaps employing a mixer to further expand the process within your factory. Our mixers are specifically developed to meet the issues that plant-based meat firms face.

Meat alternatives are getting more complex, moving from simple meat substitute ingredients to ready-to-cook meat substitute items like vegetarian sausages, chicken dippers and bacon. A growing market – Actually, it’s more of an evolving market. This market is seeing a great deal of new product development, with much of the process development taking place at our very own test centre in Hampshire. This is achievable due to the presence of process, design and manufacturing skills all under one roof. We can take it from concept to the finished equipment.

Finding a solution

The majority of meat substitute production methods begin with an emulsion before extruding a dry protein mixture that frequently contains more than 30 different ingredients. These include flavouring, colouring and preservatives. Each of these elements has a specific role to play in assisting the plant-based meat product to reach the desired results.
It is difficult to achieve consistency since the various ingredients used in plant-based food manufacturing have very varying physical qualities. Too much shear when mixing can break the fragile structures of the particles that are needed for the product to solidify and have a dense, meaty texture.

RT Mixer -Winkworth-Machinery

RT Mixer

The Winkworth PV and RT ranges have thus far provided the most suitable frameworks for meat-substitute mixing. Chamber and mixer blade designs will vary according to the needs of the mix. For example, a plough share mixer uses a cylindrical chamber with a high-speed rotational shaft and blade arms; at the end of each arm will be a plough-shaped shovel or similar (e.g., paddle) blade normally mounted on a horizontal axis. The rotational speeds will achieve high turbulence of product inside the chamber and the mixing is deemed fluidised since the mixing action is performed in a centralised ‘cloud’ in mid-chamber, thus achieving high-speed rapid randomised dispersion of particles. Winkworth Machinery’s RT industrial mixer is ideal for mixing powders, granules, pastes, slurries and doughs, considerably reducing process cycle times. Versatility and flexibility are key qualities, enabling customers to precisely specify the machine to meet their needs. Intense high- or low-shear mixing is also possible.

With sizes ranging from 14 litres to 4,200 litres, Winkworth Mixers are suitable for manufacturers of all sizes. The RT mixers are designed so that they can discharge quickly, have easy maintenance, be hygienic and mix at a high speed.

Common Production Issues

Mixing and heating liquids and slurries, adding powders, fibres, wet agglomerates, or oil. There are many problems that can arise with these recipe steps. Common ones include:

  1. Water, oils, and agglomerates can all work against you in your effort for a perfectly homogeneous mixture. Poor downstream product, batch rejection, lost product/time and even reputational damage are all possible outcomes of a failure here.

    It’s not just about designing mixer heads with the appropriate shear, it’s about getting materials to those mixers and making sure unmixed material can’t sit. Winkworth has machinery for most mixing duties. Our low-shear liquid process vessels (PV) and powerful rapid-turbulent (RT) machines can handle thin liquids to heavy slurries with agglomerates. Both machines can be augmented with high-shear mixers to suit the process. On fully scraped surfaces with flush-fitting designs, there are no dead areas for unmixed material to hide.



  2. Products can get caught in hard-to-reach areas. Lost production time due to cleaning can be significant. Not to mention an operator’s elbow grease may be lacking at the end of their shift.

    Automation is always preferred where the process will allow. Cleaning in place, or CIP, is quicker and easier than manual washdowns. When that’s not possible, other solutions can be employed, such as increased access or easy-clean parts.



  3. Transferring between vessels slows productivity, as do long heating times. Not to mention extra equipment costs and cleaning.

    Mixing and cooking are done simultaneously using Winkworth machines. Additional benefits may come from our recipe control system, automated cooling and heating, as well as ingredient additions.



  4. Like most food products, meat substitutes are highly regulated and vulnerable to microbial growth.

    Fully compliant EHEDG designs. Additionally, customers have different preferences. One end may be crevice-welded, scalloped, and polished. Others prefer maximum access and easy removal of heavy pieces without lifting equipment. It’s fantastic when one of our standard machines fits the bill, but even if it doesn’t, developing a machine for a new process isn’t impossible.



  5. It must be the same every time. The inconsistent texture will result in the wrong taste.

    Texture is crucial for meat substitutes. It may need to be smooth or chunky. Product trials, pre-construction testing and proven designs ensure that your machinery has the right level of shear in the right places.



  6. When done manually, it can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Additionally, there are health and safety considerations.

    Bin tippers, vacuum conveyors and pumped additions can be fully integrated with Winkworth Machines.



  7. Foam can result from any amount of air. If that’s not what you want, this could cause issues later.

    Winkworth’s vacuum de-aeration and low-air options fully eliminate these issues.



  8. Meat substitute production often uses powder ingredients, which might cause temporary explosive atmospheres during ingredient loading.

    Winkworth delivers ATEX-rated equipment and reliable dust extraction solutions to eliminate or reduce explosion and fire hazards.