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By: Danilo Potocnik, Head of Sales, Stoecklin Logistics 

When it comes to supply chain management, advanced technologies are playing a pivotal role in optimizing operational efficiency and ensuring regulatory compliance. In the food industry, recalls can cost food manufacturers millions of dollars and, sometimes, their entire consumer base. And, with government regulations like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), manufacturers and distributors are required to track and trace products from the moment it arrives in the warehouse, to the moment it’s purchased by a consumer. Additionally, in the pharmaceutical industry, distribution centers (DCs) play a major role in ensuring the safe storage of materials and supplies. 

Fortunately, technologies like Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are offering a better way for retailers to gain real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movements. An effective WMS will help warehouses and DCs manage inventory in a fast, easy, and efficient way and will harness the ability to track: 

1. Batches 

In the supply chain, everything is fast moving. Products are continuously being created and put on store shelves for consumers to purchase repeatedly. As these products move throughout the supply chain, keeping track of the inventory is critical, and an integral part of this is batch tracking. Batch tracking refers to the process of tracking a group, or batch, of similar items that were produced at the same time, by the same manufacturer, in the same facility. Typically marked with an identification number or date, batch tracking allows companies to easily identify and isolate any defective items, before the entire batch is sold and consumers are put at risk. This level of traceability is crucial for compliance and gives retailers the agility to act fast. And, because each batch can be precisely identified and monitored throughout its lifecycle, a WMS helps distributors reduce errors in picking, packing, and shipping. 

Further, the ability to track batches within the warehouse optimizes order fulfillment by helping distributors understand the characteristics of each batch to prioritize the allocation of stock based on factors such as production dates or specific customer requirements. The level of visibility a WMS provides into batch data gives retailers the insights needed to make strategic business decisions, including inventory reordering, storage allocation, and production planning. 

2. Expiration Dates 

The consumer demand for freshness is higher than ever, largely driven by fitness trends and a result of the pandemic. In response to these demands, grocers are having to put more products on the shelf, while still prioritizing safety and ensuring products are sold before expiring. And, in industries like pharmaceuticals, tracking expiration dates could be a matter of life and death. Luckily, a robust WMS system can help warehouses keep track of all the item expiration dates and helps keep expired products from being picked and packed. 

Additionally tracking expiration dates helps prevent excess inventory and helps DCs free up valuable warehouse space by avoiding overstock citations. A WMS system can help optimize stock levels and ensure there’s enough stock on hand to meet upcoming projected sales demand. And, in the case of understocks, a WMS can tell manufacturers where to ramp up production. By leveraging a WMS, manufacturers and distributors can benefit from timely alerts for products nearing expiration, allowing for timely actions such as discounting, repositioning, or even disposal. Efficient shelf rotation is critical to maintaining product quality and ensuring that older stock is sold before newer batches. A WMS facilitates this by providing visibility into expiration dates and automating stock rotation procedures. 

3. Serial Numbers 

While batch tracking uses lot numbers to identify groups of products, serial numbers provide a unique identity to each individual item within the batch–giving every single product its own distinct serial number for precise tracking. Serial numbers are stored and tracked within a WMS to help warehouse managers achieve a clearer, and more organized system for tracking and tracing to eliminate bottlenecks, maintain accurate record keeping, and meet consumer standards. By assigning serial numbers to individual inventory items, businesses can keep track of products throughout the entire inventory lifecycle and beyond. 

Further, serial number tracking helps businesses in fraud prevention by enabling them to quickly identify and address instances of theft or unauthorized distribution. And, in the event of fraud, serial numbers help brands assure customers that products are authentic and is a helpful tool in combating counterfeits, which is a rising concern for retailers. 

Implementing a robust WMS 

Track and trace capabilities are essential for businesses and a robust WMS plays a powerful role in optimizing this process. With the ability to track serial numbers, distributors can ensure regulatory compliance, optimize order fulfillment, and improve customer satisfaction. By integrating a smart WMS into warehousing operations, 

businesses benefit from more strategic decision-making along with operational efficiency, risk mitigation, and sustained growth.

 
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Lab-grown’ animal-free dairy protein receives approval, paving the way for sustainable alternatives in the dairy industry

By Sylvain Charlebois

The term “lab-grown” often has a negative connotation for most consumers, and it’s not hard to understand why. However, the landscape is changing.

Canada has reached a historic moment in the dairy industry, thanks to Health Canada’s recent approval of Remilk’s “lab-grown” animal-free BLG protein. This approval represents a significant shift in protein production, with Remilk becoming the first company to gain regulatory approval for its animal-free dairy protein in Canada.

While this groundbreaking decision highlights the evolution of food science, it also presents new opportunities and challenges for Canada, some of which may not be met with enthusiasm.

To better grasp this technology, let’s explain what precision fermentation, the technology approved by Ottawa, is. The key difference between regular dairy products and Remilk’s technology lies in precision fermentation’s use of biotechnology to manipulate microbes to produce substances, such as proteins, that are virtually indistinguishable from those found in traditional dairy.

Fermentation not only alters the taste and texture of food but also enhances its qualities, including digestibility. For example, individuals with lactose intolerance often tolerate yogurt and kefir better than conventional dairy products because fermentation aids in breaking down lactose. Millions of Canadians who are lactose intolerant are always looking for more affordable options.

The process may not sound particularly appealing, but it essentially involves working with microbes to generate proteins. It isn’t about creating ultra-processed foods; instead, it’s about catering to consumer preferences while working with nature, but at a different level.

It introduces a new technology that provides an ingredient for manufacturers seeking dietary and nutritional solutions they often struggle to find with conventional dairy-based proteins. Importantly, consumers won’t be able to discern any difference in taste and texture compared to traditional milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cream cheese, all while benefiting from lactose-free, cholesterol-free, and hormone-free options that offer significant nutritional and environmental advantages.

This development is poised to disrupt the dairy industry in multiple ways as consumers increasingly seek sustainable alternatives that don’t compromise on taste or texture, with animal welfare considerations also playing a significant role.

Consumers may not directly purchase Remilk products in stores but can expect to encounter these proteins in various food products they regularly buy, without them being explicitly labelled as such. This trend isn’t entirely new, as the rising cost of milk and dairy proteins in Canada has already led manufacturers to substitute real dairy with alternative ingredients. Remilk now offers a different, more flexible option with numerous benefits, both nutritionally and environmentally.

While Health Canada has given its approval, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada might hold differing views. Supply management is a cherished concept in the Canadian dairy industry, with a highly protected market worth over $24 billion in quotas, supporting approximately 9,000 farmers. This system is unlikely to change anytime soon, as any potential threats or challenges to supply management are typically addressed swiftly.

However, concerns among consumers about moving away from dairy are growing. These concerns encompass environmental issues, product quality, animal welfare, and pricing. As some Canadians notice declining quality in certain dairy products, particularly butter, they face increased prices. At some point, adjustments may become necessary.

The implications of this milestone are profound. It underscores the shifting landscape of food production and the rising demand for sustainable, dairy alternatives.

Health Canada’s decision is indeed positive news for consumers and food science, but it poses challenges for the traditional dairy sector. Supply management is, well, focused on precisely that – supply management. Dairy boards prioritize ensuring dairy farmers receive compensation for their work over concerns about declining product demand in Canada, and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Nevertheless, it’s worth considering that, over time, this approach could significantly reduce the number of dairy farmers, which may not be a wise strategy.

 
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Whether it is a plant-based lactose-free alternative to milk, vegan ice cream or a meatless steak: The offer of non-animal food is continuously growing. The most important ingredients of these “new food” products are proteins, which have so far usually been plant-based. However, processing of these protein powders poses a challenge: In order to ensure optimum product quality, the proteins must be fully unlocked, starches must be degraded to the required degree, and agglomerates and foam must be avoided during production. All of this is achieved when processing protein powders in the vacuum expansion process.

The following professional article by Dr.-Ing. Hans-Joachim Jacob, Senior Expert Process and Applications is attached below.

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