Specialized Equipment in a Chocolate Factory

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 | Blackbird TV

David is joined by Jim Greenberg from Union Confectionery Machinery to discuss some of the specialized equipment found at chocolate factories. In this segment, we take a look at a cocoa bean winnower and a chocolate liquor ball mill grinder.

About this segment of Blackbird TV

Guest: Jim Greenberg, Co-President / Owner, Union Confectionery Machinery. To learn more about our guest, visit UnionMachinery.com, or call 718-585-0200.

Recorded: March 23, 2021

Published: September 14, 2021

Segment transcript

Welcome, Jim Greenberg from Union Confectionery Machinery Company, co-president of Union. Hi, Jim. Hi, David. How are you? I’m great. Jim, you and I worked on a project a long time ago in upstate New York, and I wanted to drag out some old pictures and. And have you share your knowledge a little bit with some equipment? Most people don’t ever get into a chocolate factory. Yes. Some people get behind the counter and a chocolatier in in town, but very few people get to see something like this. Take a look at this, winnower. This is a piece of equipment that we had at a sale that you and I did many, many years ago. Tell our viewers about this. What does this thing do and how does it work? Okay, so this piece of equipment actually came from the Nestle Chocolate Factory in Fulton, New York, outside of Syracuse, and is used to remove the shell from cocoa beans that are very, very high rate of output, upwards of 10000 pounds per hour. Ten thousand pounds per hour. Correct. So somebody is making batches of this at home. How long will it take them to do 10000 pounds? By the time they actually got the product into the machine, it wouldn’t be worth their time to wait for what was coming out. So this is huge. This this piece of equipment is certainly industrial. And how many companies in the world could use this piece of equipment right now around the world? Easily. Hundreds in this country, maybe a dozen. We have seen very little growth as far as the number of large cocoa processors in this country. What we have seen, though, is an uptick of the number of small batch craft chocolate makers who numbered only a few 15 years ago and now number almost 300 in in the United States. What do you liken that to, Jim? So what we saw in the 2008 financial crisis was people either being relieved of their jobs or leaving their job because they felt unsatisfied and decided they wanted to do something more creative. And we saw this very same thing happen during Covid, where the number of startup companies in this country, especially food businesses, are at record highs. So people started making chocolate and confectionary as a hobby or as small craft business, not unlike a craft brewery? Well, they started off as hobbyists and some of them remained as hobbyists and others have commercialized their business and are now making a living at it. So those are those high end expensive, 98% cocoa, chocolate bars that you see at the checkout counter? Correct. Interesting. Has that impacted the sales of the big companies very much? Well, the math that I like to provide to people is that less than 1% of all the chocolate companies in this country produce 99.5% of all of the chocolate. And the remainder of these small craft makers, medium and small sized companies that actually represent such a small segment of what is about a 15 billion dollar market. So we can compare it to the craft brew industry just a little bit, because the craft brew industry really had an impact, although not on a grand grand scale. It had an impact and it made a dent on the big brewers. And they they changed the way they did it and came out with their own craft brew to try and compete. But you’re not seeing that in the chocolate industry? No, they don’t have the ability to impact the marketplace because they don’t have the scale in which to be able to enter the market at that type of capacity. Good point. Let’s go back to this piece of equipment, though How long does something like this last? Oh, equipment like this has a usable life if it’s well maintained, well over 60 years, 60 years, has the computer numerical control wave that hit machine tools impacted the chocolate industry very much? Not so much on the processing side, more so on the packaging side of the industry because that’s where speed is important. It starts with machines like flow wrappers and pick and place robotic systems. But as far as process equipment, grinders, refiners and machinery like that, they’re all motor-driven machines, and they really don’t have the need to be servo or CNC. Let’s talk about this grinder, because there’s a ball mill here. This was from the same factory. Tell us about that piece. Okay, so that piece of equipment was used to actually grind chocolate liquor which is a byproduct of taking cocoa beans and roasting them after they come through the winnower the byproduct of the winnower is what they call the cocoa nib is where the heart of all the mass is, the butter and the liquor. And this machine is responsible for liquefying that material. Is there anything between the winnower and the mill? Oh, sure. There’s lots of different machines that are use pre grinding equipment and then final machinery that’s used for particle reduction. So not unlike a food processing plant where they might be producing sugar or anything else. There’s a variety of equipment that’s used to get from point A to point B. And it’s very, very specialized. I’ve only been in a few of these plants. And, you know, for the big name companies, I’ve done some some projects over the course of the years. But you are really the source of information for this kind of equipment. And I do appreciate you counseling me when the time comes up. And I do appreciate your help here and sharing your knowledge with us on Blackbird TV. Thanks, Jim. My pleasure.