Just as its corn-bran-based product replaces the fat in processed foods, automation eliminated the 'fat' from one ingredient maker's processing.

FiberGel installed two Miura boilers on its processing lines. One is used to heat more than 25,000 gal of water per day to near the boiling point, which requires 100 hp. The other boiler is used to heat drum dryers that dry the fat substitute gel.

Because everyone wants a painless way to be trim, a new specialty food ingredient called Z-Trim, from FiberGel Technologies Inc., Mundelein, Ill., has found a ready market. Z-Trim is a corn-bran-derived, self-emulsifying gel that is a pleasing-to-the-palate, calorie-free fat substitute. Unlike other fat substitutes that had unpleasant side effects, Z-Trim promotes healthful digestion as all food fiber does.

But any ingredient offered to food processors for incorporation into their mass-market products has to be digestibly priced. Bringing Z-Trim to market at the right price meant manufacturing it in the most cost-effective, energy-efficient manner possible. A fully automated, state-of-the-art production facility was the best way to keep Z-Trim's price appealing. Just as Z-Trim replaces the fat in processed foods, automation eliminated the “fat” from FiberGel Technologies' processing.

FiberGel has two productions lines that include equipment such as a centrifuge, drum dryer and milling, sifting, bagging and sealing machines.

Making Corn Bran Act Like Fat

While working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. George E. Inglett devised the Z-Trim method, patented in 1998, of thermo-mechanical shear to degrade corn bran into a cellulosic gel. Then, FiberGel Technologies, a Circle Group company, acquired the exclusive worldwide rights to the product, adding process and application patents along the way. It was Dr. Triveni P. Shukla, vice president of technology development at FiberGel Technologies, who developed the processes that made Z-Trim commercially viable.

FiberGel Technologies buys corn bran that is currently only used as a food ingredient for making high-bran cereals such as corn flakes. Corn bran is the skin of the corn kernel. The corn kernel is dry milled to bust it and take the flour out, leaving the skin, which becomes the raw material for the fat substitute.

Dr. Shukla explains, “We use refined corn bran as our raw material. We take the good dietary fiber in the corn bran and make it very white. Then, through our proprietary process, we render that bran into a material that becomes a gel when you drop it into water. This gel, which can be used in place of gelatin, mimics the behavior of fat in almost any high fat food other than fried foods.”

A steam-heated drum dryer is used to make fat substitute powder from the gel.

Efficient Steam Production

FiberGel has two productions lines that include equipment such as a centrifuge, drum dryer and milling, sifting, bagging and sealing machines. It sells its products in several forms, but each starts as either a wet gel or a dry powder. The processes use 50,000 gal of water per day to both make the gel and dry the powder. To provide the heating needed for both processes, FiberGel chose boilers from Miura Boilers, Wheeling, Ill.

“We chose Miura Boilers because they are very efficient. You can click the button and the boiler gets to 135 psi in no more than six minutes. This was unheard of in the many processing operations I've been called upon to advise,” Dr. Shukla said. “In addition, the boilers are compact. I'm looking at our boiler room, and it is not more than twenty-five by fourteen feet. Yet, I have two boilers and all the accessories in it - a compressor, the two boilers and a water tank.”

FiberGel Technologies installed two Miura LX 100 BHP boilers. One boiler is dedicated to hot processing. It is used for heating the water close to the boiling point, which requires 100 hp. The other is dedicated to the drying process and drum dryers.

In addition to gel and powder forms, FiberGel is developing other forms of the fat substitute, including shortening and liquid shortening.

Online Data

“The efficiency of the boilers is clearly why we selected the Miuras - in terms of space for installation and in terms of converting water into steam. We are using less cubic feet of gas to produce a pound of steam at 125 psi,” Dr. Shukla said. He cites a third value as well: automation.

The Miura boiler monitor enables users to do basic boiler troubleshooting. A cable is hard-wired in a daisy chain from boiler to boiler and connected to a PC. Using Miura software, the user can format and display boiler performance data. To ensure immediate comprehension of the boiler data it presents, the boiler monitor uses an intuitive approach to data organization. Because an operator always wants a reminder of what a boiler's settings are, the settings are grouped on one screen. Another screen shows in diagram form the current boiler status in real time. At a glance, the operator can see whether values are on or off, or the current temperature, pressure or conductivity.

In addition, once the current situation has been checked, the operator can monitor three aspects of boiler feedback: alarms, cautions and combustion. This historical data is shown on separate screens. The alarms history includes flame, water level, power, temperature, and pressure alarm totals. The cautions history includes the number of times an operator has been reminded about filters, blowdowns, softeners, batteries and sensors. The combustion history records the time period's cycles, low and high firing, blowdowns, blower and pump cycles.

A scrolling screen shows the various signal, pressure, temperature, conductivity and SCF monitors and is listed, day-by-day, for the prior 31 days. Finally, a monthly report screen provides a recap of the month with comparative data from the prior month. PH

Sidebar: The Invisible Diet

If you eliminate 9,612 calories per year from your diet, you are, unquestionably, going to lose weight. By substituting the corn-based fat substitute for half of the 6 gm of fat in an average cookie the typical American eats per day, calorie intake is reduced by 27 calories. Multiply that by 365 and you're talking about a real calorie reduction. You don't taste it and you don't feel it, but you're painlessly losing weight. FiberGel wants its fat substitute, Z-Trim, to replace half the fat in comfort foods such as cookies, cakes, salad dressings, gravies, cheese sauces, dips, cream cheese, ice creams, yogurts and other high-fat foods.

Miura Boiler Inc., Wheeling, Ill., manufactures industrial process boilers and control systems for hot water and steam generation. For more information from Miura Boiler Inc., call (847) 465-0001; e-mail chicago@miuraboiler.com; or visit www.miuraboiler.com.