A food trend with a process engineering challenge

Highly viscous date paste

Health awareness among consumers has been growing, and not just since the COVID-19 pandemic. Natural and plant-based foods that have particularly high nutritional value or health-related benefits are very popular. One ingredient that accompanies this trend is date paste. It is really healthy, but not entirely easy to manage for food processing companies. In addition to the strict legal regulations governing market establishment, the processing and production process in particular poses a real challenge.

Interesting facts about dates

Dates and derived processed products, such as date syrup or date paste, can have a positive effect on the human body. In addition to sucrose, dates contain above all the reducing sugars glucose and fructose. These can be absorbed into the bloodstream quicker than regular sugar. In addition, fructose has twice the sweetening power of glucose. Both of these factors promote a feeling of fullness, which can reduce calorie intake.

In addition to macronutrients, dates contain essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, copper, and selenium. In 100g of dates, these minerals provide about 15% of the recommended daily requirement and an additional 32% of the recommended amount of dietary fiber. Furthermore, they contain the secondary plant compounds polyphenols, which, due to their anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic effect, help to lower blood pressure and can therefore help to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Together with the fiber they contain, the natural phenols have an anti-inflammatory effect and contribute to the modulation of the immune system.

Cross section of a Visco-MT barrel emptying system

Date paste is used as a nutraceutical or functional food. For example, to sweeten fruit yogurts or drinkable meals. The natural sweetness is not only healthier, but also prevents syneresis. Date paste is also often found as the main ingredient in fruit bars. The dense and sticky date paste helps complementary ingredients, such as nuts or oatmeal, to mix and combine better.

However, it is precisely these properties that also make processing difficult: The sticky, viscous and partly fiber-laden structure of date paste presents a major challenge in terms of processing technology. Often, date syrup or date paste is delivered to the food processing plant in buckets or barrels. At the next stage, the date paste is mixed with other ingredients and is then processed further or filled into smaller containers, such as cups. Both the removal from the delivery container and the further filling for viscous and solids-laden material require technically suitable equipment that are especially suited for the food sector.

Solutions for date paste processing

ViscoTec offers a solution for this technical challenge. The ViscoMT barrel emptying system with integrated progressive cavity pump is particularly suitable for emptying medium to high-viscosity material. The emptying system consists of a base frame with barrel loading ramp, as well as a pneumatic lowering device for moving up and down. In addition, the barrel emptying system has a follower plate with a wiper lip. During emptying, the progressive cavity pump conveys the material from the suction to the discharge side in a pressure-stable manner. As emptying progresses, the follower plate moves down to the bottom. The wiping lip is used to wipe off product residue from the edge of the barrel. In this way, an emptying rate of over 99% is achieved. After emptying, the operator opens the vent valve on the follower plate and starts the lowering device. The follower plate and progressive cavity pump are then moved upwards again. To cover different barrel sizes and emptying times, the barrel emptying system is available in three sizes. The ViscoMT-XS can empty barrels from 10 to 50 l with a volume flow of approx. 1 l/min. The ViscoMT-XM covers a barrel range of up to 200 l. The integrated progressive cavity pump delivers up to 30 l/min. The largest version, the ViscoMT-XL barrel emptying system, empties barrels, as well as tank containers, up to 1500 l with a volume flow of approx. 50 l/min.

The complete series is hygienically designed in compliance with the EHEDG guidelines. The barrel emptying system is therefore ideally suited for use in the food industry.

Based on the same principle of progressive cavity technology, ViscoTec offers dosing and filling pumps with which even highly viscous and lumpy material can be gently, pressure-stably, and uniformly fed to the downstream process or portioned into filling containers. In this way, the technological challenge in processing can be solved.