'Death of the Drum' on hold, with UK firms slow on electrostatic uptake

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Electric charge

SAS claims its 'Death of the Drum' electrostatic unit significantly reduces product breakage associated with the traditional 'tumbling drum' method
SAS claims its 'Death of the Drum' electrostatic unit significantly reduces product breakage associated with the traditional 'tumbling drum' method
Pioneering Oxford technology firm Spice Application Systems (SAS) has grown overall sales by 20% so far this year, but admits the UK market is lagging behind Europe in uptake terms.

SAS is one of the leading exponents of electrostatic technology to apply flavourings to foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. Major UK customers include Seabrook Crisps and Intersnack.

By applying a static charge to powdered seasonings oils or starch powders while they are being sprayed onto foods, SAS claims that firms using electrostatic technology can gain superior, uniform coverage as the ‘charged’ flavouring/powder is attracted to the products.

Return on investment

Peter King, SAS founder, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that SAS estimated that electrostatics would deliver raw material (powder) savings of 17.5% depending on the product manufactured, with a return on investment expected within three to four months.

“It’s not just the saving on powder wastage, electrostatics also delivers greater overall efficiency because production lines are much cleaner, so the downtime for cleaning is greatly reduced,”​ he said.

“Plus, because of its ‘wraparound’ effect, the end product has a much more consistent coating, which is a big plus in product quality terms,”​ King added.

The company provides solutions for everything from frozen meats and snacks to vegetables and confectionery, but King said UK food firms were yet to embrace the technology to the same extent as European counterparts

“It’s fair to say that UK manufacturers haven’t yet embraced electrostatics in the way the European market has, so there’s plenty of room to grow the technology here, although the market is still reasonably flat, also due in part to the state of the economy.”

Nonetheless, King said SAS had attended three trade shows in the first half of 2011, which had boosted sales figures by at least 20% to date.

“Manufacturers are realising the true benefits of electrostatics and understanding that it not only gives them a better product, but saves them money too,”​ King said.

Cautiously optimistic

He added: “Most of the growth has come from the European market, where we are especially well established, but there’s also been progress in the UK market.

“Worldwide, our units are now on more than 2,000 food production lines and there’s no doubt electrostatics is now firmly established in the food industry.”

Nonetheless, King said that SAS had made progress in the UK, with recent trials conducted, “although I’m not at liberty to name names”.

“These have been successful and led to some orders and I am cautiously optimistic that there will be more to come,"​ he added.

One bright spot for SAS is faster payment of invoices by UK firms, aften King complained last August that the firm was owed money by some after conducting trials. “Cash flow seems to have improved, which is positive,”​ he said.

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