COVID-19 forces pioneering approach to Meadow Foods factory

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

The factory will make The Collective's Plant range of dairy free, Greek style yoghurts
The factory will make The Collective's Plant range of dairy free, Greek style yoghurts

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Meadow Foods has commissioned the £4m plant-based dairy alternatives factory it announced last year, which will make products under The Collective's Plant brand and was fitted using a groundbreaking technique.

The Collective launched Plant yoghurts last month, billing them as the UK’s first dairy free, Greek style yoghurts made from a unique blend of oats, coconut and rice. In addition to these products, the new production building can make plant-based drinks, cream, sour cream, soft cheese, milk, custard and variety of other alternative products and ingredients.

The project, which was first revealed in June 2020​, was achieved in partnership with Gemak, which designed, manufactured, installed and commissioned the facility for Meadow Foods.

Features of the new factory include a dry and wet automatic multi-recipe blend, process and preparation unit, pasteurisation plant, storage and fermentation unit and packing capability. The plant also incorporates an intermediate bulk container filling station and a Filltech double indexing, linear, layered yogurt pot filling line able to fill two different diameter of pots with automatic change over. Raw and pasteurised clean in place clean-in-place sets were also supplied. 

'Range of new plant-based products'

“We are excited to manufacture a range of new plant-based products that extend the strength and depth of our product portfolio,"​ said Paul Jackson, strategic projects director from Meadow Foods, which was established in 1992 and has traditionally operated as a dairy ingredients business. "Gemak has been a crucial part of the project allowing us to finish the project on time and on budget by coming up with solutions to eliminate the disruption caused to all by the pandemic and lockdowns.”

Ciaran Adam, product manager at The Collective said: “After two years of tinkering, building and designing we are very proud to finally reveal the first plant-based Greek-style yogurt in the UK made from a blend of oats, coconut and rice in a fully segregated facility. The products come in a PET​ [polyethylene terephthalate] tub made from 100% recycled plastic and are available nationwide at Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.

"We have been in contact with Gemak for nearly two years and having seen their high quality work on other plants and because of their experience with yogurt processing, they were our preferred supplier. The team at Gemak have worked closely with us throughout the project and have been a great asset in delivering the project on time during unprecedented times.”

The floor plan for the factory, plus Gemak's process equipment and pipework installation were drawn in 3D and replicated within Gemak's installation plant, which Gemak claimed was a first in the industry. The project included full pipe works with ring mains, electrical installation not just for each skid unit but as a whole production plant within the factory floor prior to numbering, dismantling and reassembling on the Meadow Foods site. Pandemic-related lockdowns had forced Gemak and Filltech to take this approach, they said.

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