What should bean soup taste like in China? And how would Americans like their hummus? Or Spaniards their ratatouille? For the answers to these and many other questions, we turn to the team working with the Tetra Recart test factory in Lund. This is where increasingly more customers are coming to develop their products in terms of both taste and packaging.
Sweetcorn, cheese, stock, fresh herbs and a hefty sirloin steak are just a few of the things laid out on the table in the test factory on this particular day. The sweetcorn is sweet and crispy, the cheese is white and creamy and chef Peter Brunkestam is mixing and stirring things in different bowls to get an idea of which ingredients work well together.
He’s joined by food technologists Fanny Cedergårdh and Berliana Sinianjuntak. They play an important role in product development, with their knowledge of cooking times, quantities, temperatures and shelf lives.
Test factory for all types of food
The test factory is home to products such as mixed vegetables, beans and tomatoes, reﬁned soups, sauces and ready-to-eat meals. The food technologists tweak the recipes to ensure the right texture, taste and heating process.
“Customers come here to test recipes and new seasoning alternatives together with us. They’re free to stir the pots and can use their own ingredients,” Peter explains. They can do test runs, for a day or a week, without impacting their production line. The test factory is a simpler and more cost-effective option.”
150 brands and 50 markets
The customers who visit represent more than 150 brands and 50 markets. Everyone from owners and technicians to imaginative chefs and sales people come to test their ideas in ‘real life’. In the test factory customers can produce up to a thousand packages for use in, for example, consumer trials and shelf life tests. Peter welcomes the visits, even if they can prove challenging at times.
He slices the sirloin steak and explains that an important aspect of their technical support is a mobile test unit that can be sent to customers across the world. A production line that packs, seals and sterilises. “The advantage is that we can quickly answer customers’ questions, such as if paper packages are a new concept for them.”
The test team also examines how well the product can handle temperature variations as it is important to know what happens while the product is making its way to the end customer. With this machine, we can subject the packages to different temperatures,” Berliana explains.
Image: Food technologists Fanny Cedergårdh, Berliana Sinianjuntak and chef Peter Brunkestam