The Game Of Chicken—April 2017, Canadian Packaging
By Andrew Joseph, Features Editor; Photos by Naomi HiltzAutomation Food Safety Film ADP Direct Poultry Ltd. Bizerba Canada Inc. Cascades Inc. Fortress Technology Inc. Gertex Distribution Inc. Reiser Canada slideshow WestRock Company
Toronto chicken processor gets into the faster flow of things with five new stretchfilm wrapping machines from Reiser
In Canada, like in many other societies, chicken is the most widely-consumed everyday meat staple across most major consumer demographics.
As a healthy and affordable source of animal protein and other nutrients, it is always in high demand by grocers of all shapes and sizes striving to meet constant demand for poultry from Canadian consumers on a daily basis.
Based in Toronto, chicken meat processor ADP Direct Poultry Ltd. plays its part with exceptional quick-to-market competencies that enable it to supply its customers with any type of short- or long-run packaged raw chicken product to ensure the retail shelves are always stocked quickly and reliably.
In addition to offering raw poultry products of turkey and chicken at its 22,000-square-foot headquarter facility in west Toronto facility, the company also operates a fully-cooked poultry products division that specializes in processed chicken and turkey, and it is also licensed to process beef, pork and lamb products at a second location in the city’s northwest end.
Owned and operated by Augo Pinho (see image above), Direct Poultry is a 100-percent Canadian enterprise that successfully leverages its speed-to-market capabilities to service its growing retail, foodservice and industrial customer base across North America with some 250 different SKUs (stock-keeping units) produced and packed at its main facility.
“Approximately 95 per cent of our business revolves around poultry—85 per cent for chicken processing and 10 per cent for turkey, with the remaining five per cent geared towards the other types of meat that we recently became involved with,” Pinho told Canadian Packaging during a recent visit to the busy central processing plant.
With a combined staff of 130 people at the two facilities, about 80 working at its headquarters—Direct Poultry runs a single eight- to 10-hour shift, five days-per-week, to process some 450,000 kilograms of meat every work week.
While Pinho acknowledges this volume positions the company firmly within the so-called ‘small-business’ ranks, compared to the output of some well-known meat processing giants out there, “What separates us from the competition is our speed,” Pinho asserts.
This ‘speedy’ business model can be traced back to 1989, when Pinho was still a Toronto high-school senior working in the industry part-time.
As he relates, Pinho noticed that the larger chicken processors were often unable, or unwilling, to supply the needs of the smaller mom-and-pop grocers, which often promoted many local stores would band together to create an order large enough for the large processors to take notice.
“It didn’t seem fair,” recalls Pinho, “so acting on my own, I decided to place a call to Maple Lodge, somehow getting a direct line to someone in charge.
“They provided me with product with a great margin, so I took the order and sold and delivered the product myself to all the local corner supermarkets,” Pinho recounts.
Despite already making more money than many adults in the industry, Pinho was encouraged to graduate from an institute of higher learning to ensure he also understood all the financial aspects of running his own business.
“After graduating, I wanted to get back into the business—still seeing that the larger chicken processors did not have the time or ability to adequately look after the smaller customer request,” says Pinho.
“My niche market was still there waiting for me to get back into.”
While Pinho no longer needs to drive around himself in a rented truck dropping off orders to the mom-and-pop grocers, saying modern economics has more or less killed off that form of reselling activity, Direct Poultry still plays a highly viable role within the niche market segment.
“Yes, a large part of our business now revolves around working with the larger grocer chains,” explains Pinho, “but we still maintain our own small size advantage that allows us to perform quick changeovers to meet any customer’s emergency meat needs.
“Others can’t do what we do,” he says. “We’ve found our niche.”
Pinho says he takes great pride in the fact that both Direct Poultry facilities are Canadian federally-inspected, HAACP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)-compliant, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)– and BRC (British Retail Council)-approved, as well as being Organic– and Halal-certified.
“Because we only recently expanded our reach with the purchase of the second facility in the northwest part of the city, 85 per cent of our Direct Poultry business is currently dedicated for our fresh products,” explains Pinho.
“We currently produce 15 per cent of our output for the full-cooked and seasoned and frozen meat segments,” says Pinto, noting that the grocery segment takes up about 85 per cent of Direct Poultry’s business, with the remainder coming from the foodservice industry.
“We acquired the other facility as a means to expand the type of items we can offer our customer base,” Pinho says, explaining that a large segment of Direct Poultry’s customer base comprises many leading, well-known Canadian national grocery retailers.
“We didn’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket,” he quips, “but we really did want to expand our product base.”
By any measure, it’s a mission well-accomplished.
Today, the company offers a varied and diverse portfolio of both IQF (individually quick-frozen) and fresh fully-cooked products such as wings, breasts, breast strips, diced chicken, quarter and half chicken, burgers, turkey burgers, chicken pizza crumble, sausage patties (turkey, chicken or pork) and meatballs.
“With raw meat, we offer a full line of both fresh and frozen chicken and turkey products, all of which can be packed fresh as tray-pack, in MAP (modified atmosphere packaging), and in bulk or IQF formats,” Pinho states.
Pinho says that Direct Poultry can also duplicate existing customer recipes or create a specific product to meet a need for anything from a LTO (limited-time offer), as a protein ingredient in a prepared meal, or as a regular menu item.
“We have a very experienced team of professionals who can help tailor a product to exactly what the customer wants,” says Pinho.
“We also have the ability to ship across Canada or the U.S., with the flexibility to handle small or large production runs.”
With food safety a top-level priority for any legitimate food processor, Direct Poultry is highly dedicated to the cause.
Along with a metal detection unit placed on each of the processor’s five fresh packing lines at the central facility, Pinho says the company utilizes an O3 (ozone) system that constantly exhales small quantities of ozone throughout the plant to kill, not retard, all bacterial growth.
Another reason for utilizing the ozone system, he says, is that it helps to extend the shelf-life of the chicken product being packaged.
“We have even added this ozonized water to our washdown areas to ensure that all the possible bacterial proliferation is eliminated,” Pinho mentions.
Also helping the company with its ability to pack safe food within a short turnaround are the five Fabbri Model 55 Plus stretchfilm packaging machines recently purchased via Reiser Canada.
As a machine builder, the Fabbri brand is known as a market leader in automatic stretch wrapping machines, and is often found in food processing plants and supermarkets worldwide to apply a stretched plastic film around preformed trays of fresh food products.
Pinho says he bought two of the Model 55 Plus two years ago, and liked them so much he bought three more seven months ago.
“Prior to purchasing a Fabbri Model 55 Plus stretchfilm packaging machine, we had older tray flowwrapping equipment that had servicing issues,” says Pinho. “The company who was providing the service was no longer able to get parts, so we needed an alternative—and found one in Reiser.”
The new Fabbri Model 55 Plus is essentially an overwrap machine that wraps plastic film over a product sitting on a tray—a machine that was created to satisfy a need within the food packing industry.
The preferred trays used by Direct Poultry are the PZ40 Evok polystyrene trays manufactured by Cascades Inc.
By utilizes 25 per cent recycled material, the Evok trays—designed for packaging fresh meats, fish, poultry and fresh produce—add up to a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions according to the manufacturing location and compared with Cascades’ previous polystyrene foam packaging.
“We have a great relationship with Reiser,” acknowledges Pinho.
“Not only do we also have a great relationship with the Reiser technician, but the fact that the company is very easy to get a hold of when we require help to solve an issue helps put my mind at ease.”
However, Pinho was adamant that he simply didn’t go with Reiser because he likes the people, saying the machinery impressed him greatly.
“The Fabbri Model 55 Plus possess both efficiency and speed,” relates Pinho, adding that he admires its compact size and robustness as well.
“It’s built for speed and versatility and provides us with a very high level of productivity, able to handle a wide range of tray sizes without having to perform any changeover functions,” he says.
According to Reiser, the stretchfilm packaging machines are capable of producing between 35 to 55 packs per minute dependent on tray size—something Direct Poultry is very much in favor of, given its relatively short production runs that need to be on grocery shelves as quickly as possible.
The smooth speed and robust attitude of the Fabbri Model 55 Plus is aided by its use of stepper-drive efficiency and its lack of cams or chains.
All models feature a user-friendly, programmable full-size control panel that includes self-diagnostic software to allow for easy operation and maintenance.
“Of great importance, however, is just how easy it is to perform a hygienic clean-up,” Pinho relates. “The Fabbri has an open design that allows our cleaning equipment impeccable access to ensure we not only have a quick clean, but a highly efficient cleaning process.”
After packaging by the Fabbri, the trays move along a conveyor past a Bizerba labeler/weigher/coder that weighs the product and applies product data and lotcode information to the applied label.
On each of the five production lines, the now packed poultry product passes through an inline metal detection unit to ensure food safety compliance.
Direct Poultry uses Stealth metal detection units manufactured by Fortress Technology, a globally-renowned designer and manufacturer of high-quality metal detection equipment headquartered in Toronto.
The Stealth uses digital signal processing technology and provides very sensitive levels to ensure it can detect even the smallest ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel inclusions.
For companies who require it, included data collection software with a USB transfer provides effective compliance with various safety programs such as HACCP-certification.
Having passed inspection, the finished product trays are then hand-packed into corrugated poultry boxes purchased by Direct Poultry via the Toronto-based Gertex Distributing Inc. but converted by WestRock.
WestRock produces 100 percent recycled paperboard, laminated paperboard products, folding cartons, corrugated boxes, displays, plastic packaging, and more.
“Although it’s true that things started out as a small business I could run by myself, I love the growth Direct Poultry has experienced,” sums up Pinho.
“The Fabbri Model 55 Plus stretchfilm packaging machines from Reiser have certainly helped us increase our production line efficiency, which enables us to not only keep our current roster of clients happy, but also to accept new customers.”