With 23 recent innovations to product designs and 11 new patents, Wenger Manufacturing, Sabetha, Kan., is living up to its marketing slogan, “Inventing the new original since 1935.”

Innovations include a high-intensity preconditioner for improved pasteurization and sanitation; a new series of screw extruders that permit up to four times greater steam injection; and a sanitary dryer that reduces the risk of contamination.

“There are a number of trends, which are currently impacting the food industry, that affected the design process behind each of these new innovations,” says Galen Rokey, process technology manager for Wenger. “Among them are higher energy costs, concerns about water availability and the current economic recession, which is impacting consumer buying habits.”

“At the same time, the FDA has told the industry that it is the manufacturers’ responsibility to produce salmonella-free food, and that even pet food is considered ‘adulterated’ if it contains salmonella,” Rokey adds. “So food safety was at the forefront of product design in every case.”

As an example, Wenger’s design criteria for the sanitary dryer stated that internal horizontal surfaces could not be larger than five by five millimeters unless absolutely necessary. The design also called for a minimum 30° slope on all internal ledges, as well as the elimination of cracks and crevices in which fines and material could collect.