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Development of a durable and energy-efficient baking plate

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Thermoback (Development of a durable and energy-efficient baking plate)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2017-01-01 al 2017-06-30

a) What is the problem/issue being addressed?

Bread making, as a century old tradition in the EU, is one of the most important business activities in the baking sector. In order to sustainably boost energy efficiency levels in ovens and achieve higher product quality and customer satisfaction, improving the heat transfer process during the baking is essential. Currently, a fast increasing number of industrial and small bakeries are using the “baked on stones” approach due to higher quality and consumer acceptance reasons. However, these “stone” baking plates have proofed to fail under energy and resource efficiency terms.
Nowadays, standard “stone” baking plates are made from concrete and supported by glass fiber reinforcement. They are widely used in the baking industry, despite presenting several disadvantages for the end-users: Standard “stone” baking plates offer poor heat transfer values and long heating up periods. Besides, due to their continuous use, structural weakening and destruction of the plates occur. Short after few baking operations and as they are exposed to temperatures of 300-350°C, “stone” plates begin to lose their stability, which results in cracks that lead to further deterioration of thermal conductivity, visible glass fibers and, therefore, reduced quality of the products. It is for this reason that the plates need to be changed, in average, every 4-5 years.

In short, the current baking plates made from concrete are energy inefficient, have a low life expectancy and reduce the quality of the end products. Consequently, in order to achieve higher energy efficiency during the baking process and higher product quality, it is crucial to improve the heat transfer process, and so, our SME has developed a durable and energy-efficient baking plate for eco-innovative and resource-efficient backing applications.

b) Why is it important for society?

As previously mentioned, the well-known “stone” baking plates have poor thermal performance (low heat transfer values and long heating up periods), soon become unstable and need to be replaced every 4-5 years. Besides, although the European bakery industry is one of the most important sectors in the food industry, generating a turnover of over 110 billion €, bakeries are currently experiencing an increasing financial pressure due to escalating prices for raw materials and, particularly, energy. Bakeries are one of the branches of the food industry with the highest energy consumption and the increasing prices for electricity, natural gas or oil increase the financial burden for the bakeries day by day. Thus, energy costs have long become a critical factor for the production costs, especially for smaller bakeries.

In response to the technological drawbacks of the baking process, and contributing to enhancing the competitiveness of the European bakeries, our company proposes a cutting-edge, eco-friendly and reliable baking equipment based on the newest research findings in material and energy science, technological advances and software applications. By combining modern approaches from these fields, Thermoback comprises a full package of societal, environmental and economic benefits from market stimulation and green growth to environmental sustainability, energy and resource efficiency, food security and climate change resilience. The concept poses a novelty to bakery practice. Due to their characteristic manufacturing process, the plates are unbreakable and boast indefinite life expectancy (eliminating the added cost of replacing the plates every 4-5 years). Additionally, Thermoback offers energy savings of up to 25% to European craft and industry bakeries and an unlimited life span of the product, due to a firm, unbreakable ceramic bonding, which also leads to a reduction of the rejection rate of the baked goods from 15% to under 3%, supporting the concept of reduced food waste in Europe.

Once commercialized and implemented by producers of ovens from all over Europe, the Lipahl plates will lead to millions € of cost savings increasing productivity and competitiveness of the European baking industry of all sizes. Such resource- and energy-efficient solutions are welcome in sectors still dominated by SMEs where energy costs are crucial.

All in all, some of the most important ambitions of Thermoback include:

• Providing European bakers with tailor-made, energy efficient and long-lasting baking plates.
• Securing and creating new jobs in bakeries and bakery equipment manufactures.
• Reducing discard in the bakery production and limit the production of food waste.
• Allowing bakeries to produce high quality bread products for consumers at affordable prices.
• Reducing the energy costs of the baking process and, thus, make bakeries more independent from increasing energy prices.

c) What are the overall objectives?

The main objective of the innovative project is the market validation of the novel and energy-efficient Lipahl baking plate. Consequently, the following technical objectives have been set:

• Development of suitable and tailor-made baking plates for specific products.
• High stability of the plates (firm, unbreakable plates), indefinite life expectancy (no replacement needed, contrary to the current baking plates that must be changed every 4 to 5 years).
• Energy savings: at least 20% of the power consumption during the baking process can be saved compared with the use of conventional concrete baking plates.
• Time saving: the new plates reduce 25% of the time in the baking sequence compared to the conventional concrete baking plates, achieved by:
o Faster heat up of the plate (twice as fast).
o Reduced baking time (by 20%).
• Achievement of significant cost savings and strengthening of the competitiveness of the European baking industry due to the energy savings the use of Lipahl plates entails and by reducing plates´ maintenance costs, as one plate´s life span outruns that of an oven.
• Achievement of market leadership of our company in the field with significantly increased turnover, profit and employment opportunities.
• Obtaining of higher product quality of baked goods (no impurities with glass fibers).
Before Stage 1 of the project was conducted, the underlying production technology had already been verified in several trials, in the relevant environment, with local bakeries and RTDs in Germany. Results from several pilot plates made at pre-industrial scale, demonstrated reduced energy consumption, higher product quality and faster baking time, proofs of its proper functioning and its innovative potential. Nevertheless, some minor technological adjustments still need to be made according to the context of production (e.g. max. size of plates, adapted mixtures for different baking applications, etc.), for its subsequent commercialization.

During Stage 1 of the project, the plates were further developed. All activities necessary for the development of a marketable product and subsequent market introduction were investigated and plans for the implementation of the activities in Stage 2 of the project were made. Moreover, the market potential was recalculated and the financial planning was further specified. A market research was conducted, in order to thoroughly characterise the European bakery industry and identify the most suitable target countries for the plates´ market introduction. For the commercialization concept, contacts with potential stakeholders and bakeware distributors were made and a database was compiled with all the information related to potential customers, end-users and competitors. Additionally, the compliance with legal aspects and safety regulations (e.g. CE, ETV & DIN EN certificates) was assessed.

During the period covered by this report, Thermoback´s technical and economic feasibility was confirmed and the results obtained in Stage 1 are promising: There is an enormous market potential for Lipahl baking plates in Europe (see Figure 1) and it offers unique advantages compared to competing solutions, thus, being superior to them. The implementation of the adjustments that have been identified are feasible and the finalization of a marketable product is possible.
Compared to the state of the art, Thermoback will provide advantages to European bakeries of all types and sizes, as the successful realization of Thermoback will offer a new generation of innovative and eco-efficient baking plates to the market. Being high energy-efficient and guaranteeing a constant high baking quality, Thermoback addresses the current financial pressure issues over the rising prices of raw material and energy and provides a useful and everlasting alternative to current materials and systems.

On the one hand, bakers will strongly benefit from the use of the Lipahl plates, as they see how greatly their energy bills reduce, due to the improved heat transfer of the plates, entailing shorter warm up and baking periods. On the other hand, the market introduction of the Lipahl plates will bring important societal benefits, as the food waste rate will lower from the current 15% to 3%. This will be possible due to the innovative raw material mix with which the plates will be manufactured, as thanks to their thermal properties, a more even baking will be provided to the doughs, thus, obtaining a higher product quality.

The European baking industry plays a major role within the European food industry, as it is the fifth sub-sector, with an annual revenue of 98,4 billion Euros, and the first sub-sector in terms of value added (20%). Regarding the number of industrial and craft baking ovens currently used in Europe, in 2011, 160.600 ovens were sold in Europe (representing 529 m€ of sales) (Eurostat, 2012) . Concerning the stock numbers of bakery ovens, a study from BIO Intelligence Service made some estimations on the EU bakery ovens sales forecast. The results showed an increasing trend in all types of ovens, expecting more than 300,000 ovens by 2025 (BIO Intelligence Service, 2011).

Concerning home bakers, another targeted end-user group of the Lipahl plates, it was concluded that the number of household baking ovens sold sum up to 7 million per year, on average (BIO Intelligence Service, 2011). Bearing these figures in mind, our SME aims at covering a minimum of 30% of the industrial and craft bakery ovens and 4% of the growing home-baking market on the long term (10 years). Therefore, based on the research results from the feasibility study, our company would be introducing the Lipahl plates into 90.000 industrial ovens and over 1,5 million household ovens. Estimations on the total turnover would yield up to 82 m€ in a 10-year period.

So far, the project has played an important role in the baking industry, as it has shed light on the poor quality of the existing baking plates. The development of the Lipahl plates has sharpened the recognition of customer protection and product quality as crucial factors for both bakers and consumers, tackling such important societal concerns as food waste, raw material scarcity and energy consumption.

The here presented knowledge and collected facts clearly show the currently used plates´ deficiencies and highlights the needed advantages, offering the baking sector the key solution to boost energy and resource efficiency in the baking sector.