Labor costs, ingredient costs, operational costs — put almost any word in front of “costs,” and you’ll notice a trend: they’re going up.

As a result, companies that make depositors for foods marketed in instore delis, bakeries and prepared food departments are trying to make their machines as efficient as possible — and to lower costs for their customers.

Delta, British Columbia-based Unifiller Systems Inc. is continually developing new depositor technology to meet the changing needs of its customer base, says Stewart Macpherson, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.

In September, Unifiller introduced a new batter depositing machine at the IBA expo in Munich. The RP depositor relies on a multi-port depositing system that uses rotary piston technology. That means product is on both sides of the pistons, which Macpherson says eliminates the possibility of air entering the portioning chambers. The RP also can be configured by the user, allowing the machine to be set up from single fill to as many as 18 deposit portioning chambers.

With the RP depositor completed, Unifiller can now get to work on its next design.  

“We continue to introduce new depositing, pumping and finishing technology and systems every year and plan to continue adding further new products from here forwards,” Macpherson says. “What our customers repeatedly say about our machines is the performance, accuracy but mostly the simplicity of the Unifiller designs is why they keep returning to us.”

Commissaries and central kitchens have always been a good market for Unifiller, Macpherson says — in particular, for the company’s cake batter depositing and automated finishing products.

Bothell, Washington-based Hinds-Bock Corp. also has seen a steady increase in demand for its depositors from commissaries and central kitchens, says Lance Aasness, the company’s executive vice president.

For Hinds-Bock, commissary/central kitchen is far from a new market. “We’ve been designing and providing production equipment to this industry since the early 70’s,” Aasness says. “Hinds-Bock has become a trusted name that production facilities can rely upon to be hassle free, last forever and has the best in class after sales support. What people like best is that the equipment is robust, super reliable, easy to clean and maintain and very accurate.”

New at Hinds-Bock is a financing option for customers. Businesses that don’t want to tie up their operating capital in equipment can instead finance it at an affordable rate that provides quick ROI, Aasness says.

Hinds-Bock equipment used to make products sold in instore bakeries and delis includes table-top multi-piston and single-piston depositors for batters, fruit fillings, pastry creams deli dips, sauces, condiments and deli salads like macaroni or potato; transfer pumps for gently and quickly transferring all types of flowable products; and single piston depositors that can be easily moved around the production floor from job to job.

Another top piece of Hinds-Bock equipment marketed to the instore category is a hand depositing spout that can be easily attached to a single piston SP-64 depositor. The spout provides an easy-to-use, ergonomically designed option for depositing and filling all types of flowable products, Aasness says.

Better designs, more savings

When it comes to industry trends, the need for precise, quick and gentle portioning, Aasness says, has never been more important.

“Ingredient costs, operational costs, labor costs and repetitive injury claims are at their highest points,” he says. “The difference in your bottom line can greatly be affected by having the latest engineered equipment that addresses all of these concerns.”

Drip-free nozzles, a large port opening and highly accurate portioning with the fewest parts to clean and maintain are among the features of Hind-Bock depositors that help address these issues, Aasness says.

Other trends Hind-Bock is keeping an eye on are single-serve, smaller portions, gluten-free and grab-and-go —Aasness calls them the “movers on the shelves and in the coolers.” Anticipating these trends years ago, Hind-Bock engineered equipment that is specifically designed to meet and exceed the needs they created, he says. 

Industry trends that Unifiller is capitalizing on include demand for products that taste better, have better ingredients, are more consistent and boast new, innovative designs, Macpherson says. Only one thing, he says, guarantees that the company can keep up with those and other trends. “We are in constant communication with our customers, who are usually aware of the next trends as they develop.”

Another trend Unifiller is keeping a close eye on is club stores ramping up instore production of baked goods to the point where they are operating essentially like a wholesale bakery within the store itself, Macpherson says. That has led to a significant increase in demand for Unifiller depositors to serve that market, he says, creating the biggest shift in the company’s focus in recent years.  

Unifiller developed the Deco-iSpot, a depositor specifically for products sold in instore bakeries that Macpherson says successfully resolves “three big issues.” The depositor automatically draws ready-made frostings or fillings directly from the pail  in which the product was delivered; eliminates the need to pre-mix frosting to make it smooth and deposit a precise measured amount of frosting directly onto cupcakes; and eliminates the need to fill or squeeze  pastry bags.

“It has a built-in twisting mechanism that allows a completely inexperienced bakery to quickly decorate cupcakes, or it can be used as a stand-alone batter depositor,” Macpherson says.