During a conversation with Mr. Curtis Strahm, the Regional Sales Director at Wenger, overseeing Companion Animal and Aqua Food Division in East Europe, Middle East, Asia, and Africa, we explored the significance of Wenger’s Thermal Twin Extrusion technology. We delved into how this technology facilitates the inclusion of high-quality fresh meat in pet kibble food, discussed the various advantages of utilizing the thermal twin system, explored the positive effects of Convection Roasting (CVR) in enhancing the quality of kibble food, and highlighted Wenger’s unwavering commitment to consumer satisfaction.

How does Wenger’s Thermal Twin Extrusion technology allow for high fresh meat content in pet food kibble?

Fresh emulsified meat is pumped, heated and either metered or gravimetrically fed into the high-intensity preconditioner (HIP) to be mixed with the dry recipe and super-heated steam. The HIP is a speciality designed conditioner that provides optimized mixing and retention for high meat-content pet foods & treats.  For ultra-high levels of meat, we also inject some of the meat into the Thermal Twin extruder barrel.

The unique screw profile and set of steam injectors properly cook and convey the product. While at the same time, a back pressure valve (BPV) controls restriction and allows precise control of barrel fill and energy input into the product. The mass is then formed, shaped, and cut at the discharge of the extruder through a die plate.

At this point, a specially designed enclosed hood assembly at the die area allows the gentle distribution of the soft, tender high meat content kibble onto a conveyor which in turn delivers the product to the Convection Roasting (CVR) stage of the process.

Can you explain the benefits of using the Thermal Twin system over traditional extruders for pet food production?

The Thermal Twin Technology has allowed the growing pet food and treat market greater variety and availability of products with high meat content and with a wider selection of healthy ingredients. It allows the ability to choose from a full range of products including economy, conventional, high meat, semi-moist and treats all from one operating platform.

Having the ability to choose fresh meat sources that are environmentally friendly and without pretreatment like dewatering, hydrolyzation and rendering is a big differentiator in the marketplace and one which drives value and profit for a business.  Not to mention the superior palatability and digestibility it offers to our companion animal friends.

Other aspects of the technology include the ability to shift to the most favourable energy cost input given the yearly season, political and or economic situation. The thermal twin screws offer lower energy and wear costs, produce fewer sticky products due to low mechanical shear input, can process recipes with high meat and other slurry levels, offers a more natural cooking method, Preserves more vitamin and mineral properties compared to a standard single screw extruders and improves the appearance of standard pet foods.

What is the role of the Convection Roaster (CVR) in the Wenger process, and how does it contribute to the quality of the kibble?

The Convection Roaster (CVR) is a unique post-extrusion pre-drying process which utilizes high thermal convection followed by a gentle final drying stage.  The wide operating parameter of the CVR are exceptional at controlling key attributes such as texture, density, and uniformity when processing high-meat kibble or conventional products.

Thru testing and pet feeding trials, the CVR technology has proven its positive effect on palatability and reduced product hardness in high meat content kibble.  This is due to precise control of process conditions like time, temperature, and airflow within the CVR.  A bread-like puffing effect can occur during this process and is a desirable characteristic related to texture and density. Other key characteristics of the process include caramelization and Maillard reactions which lead to increased flavour development and again improved palatability.  

How does Auto Density Control work, and what are its advantages in pet food production?

The Auto Density Control (ADC) system retrieves a sample of product from the process then weighs the sample and calculates the density.  The density value is then relayed to the extruder control management system, which compares this value to the setpoint; the system automatically adjusts a back pressure valve (BPV) which is located just before the die and cutting assembly. This BPV is the main component used to adjust & maintain the density setpoint of the product. The control system continues to monitor the density set point and BPV position while logging those values into the trend screen and or a database if desired.

When considering consumer perception and the actual costs of varied product density there are obvious and hidden impacts which influence:

  • Uniformity of coatings on the kibble
  • Kibble size and or colour
  • Closure and sealing of the bags.
  • Pellet transportation and storage.
  • Consumers’ perceptions if a bag is overfilled or looks empty.
  • Feeding guidelines when volumetric measurements is the basis for feeding the companion animal.
  • Costs associated with increased product waste, operational downtime, and lost production.

How does Wenger’s extrusion system and process knowledge support the creation of various types of pet food and treats?

At Wenger, we take a different approach.  We would typically focus on products in the market and our client’s value and want to be created.  Once we understand and have defined the products our technology process experts would draw from extensive know-how and a toolbox of advanced process equipment to start the R&D phase of the project.  If we or the equipment fails to produce (and we do fail) or we do not have the correct process equipment or controls required, we will consider innovating new equipment or processes.  This has been our forefather’s mentality since 1935 and we plan to continue this philosophy going forward. 

How has the navigation of the Pet Food Industry been like for Wenger and what does the company aim to explore in the future in this realm?

Our primary destination is to always provide clients with an exceptional customer experience.  We can achieve this target with our team of process technology experts who are backed up by engineering, manufacturing, service, superior equipment, and all-around excellence.  Our goal is to continue innovation efforts that leverage our expertise to differentiate us from our competitors.  We want every client experience to exceed their expectation when partnering with the Wenger Group. We strive to be the best partner our clients can have in this fast-growing and highly competitive industry.

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