KANSAS CITY - In 2021, Torrance, Calif.-based Bakon Food Equipment is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The company has created a large roster of equipment for different corners of the food industry over those three decades. But when it comes to cold technology, Bakon focuses on a single brand, Koma.

“Koma is a world leader in developing, producing, installing and maintaining cooling, freezing and conditioning systems since 1938,” said Luc Imberechts, Bakon’s owner.

Bakon offers a large range of Koma solutions, ranging from blast freezers to storage freezers; refrigeration units with or without humidity control to combined rooms with various environments and possibly automated rack transportation systems; and recovering units to retarder proofers popular with quality bread bakeries.

“Koma systems not only manage the temperature, but also the relative humidity, as well as the air circulation and the air flow within the units,” Imberechts said. “By doing so, we create the ideal environment for bakery, patisserie and chocolate products. We offer solutions for operators who like a tray approach, a rack approach or an in-line approach.”

The Koma brand, he added, is built on its reliability and durability. Recent market developments are mainly driven by changes in refrigerant regulations, and higher awareness and interest in energy efficiency and environment protection.

Years ago, for instance, Koma started developing CO2 solutions as an alternative to popular refrigerants. Interestingly enough, Imberechts said, CO2 systems generate more heat when producing cold. It then makes a lot of sense to reuse this heat in other places in the bakery.

More automation, flexibility

The pandemic, Imberechts said, has shown the need for the food industry to invest in more automation and build more flexibility in the production while reinforcing strict sanitation standards.

Production flexibility can only be achieved with skillful implementation of cold technology to maintain or even improve in delivering fresh products.

“A few years ago, one would position fresh versus frozen,” Imberechts said. “Today, freezing/cooling/”retarding” is all an active part of producing fresher products.”

Blast freezing, for instance, is becoming very popular as operators can easily see the positive impact of the blast freezing process on the final quality of the products, he added. By using cold temperature and a high air flow, it’s possible to decrease faster the core temperature of the fresh products.

“This allows for the formation of smaller crystals than a slower process,” Imberechts said. “The texture of the products isn’t damaged, and all the flavor of the fresh products is entrapped in this active freezing phase.”

Another huge benefit of Koma systems, he added, is its remote monitoring capabilities. The brand’s monitoring team is currently monitoring more than 10,000 installations worldwide on a 24/7/365 basis.

Imberechts said it’s easier to understand why.

“With more and more products in the freezer in our industry, we’re talking about substantial investment being protected from damage,” he said. “Defective fan, door left open, low refrigerant level, door heater not working can be the source of expensive repairs or product losses.”

Commissary business picks up  

Blast freezing is becoming more and more popular for commissaries, central kitchens and other offsite facilities that provide value-added and other foods for grocery retailers.

“Consumers are better educated and have been exposed to fresh products,” Imberechts said.

It makes a lot of sense to have a total approach of the cold technology both in the commissary — inline solutions like a tunnel freezer — and in the instore bakery where cabinets like the H-cabinets (blast freezer and storage freezer combo) or the Variotherm cabinets (modular sectional freezer and/or refrigerator based on the daily needs) create a real flexibility in the offering, he said.  

In terms of sanitation and hygiene, Koma now offers an optional proprietary “KAM unit” — a blue light ionizer that cleans the air in the retarder proofers.

“Proofers operate at temperature and humidity levels that are ideal for the growth of bacteria and mold,” Imberechts said. “So this optional feature is a welcome addition.”