Jewel Fine Foods strives to provide Australia with the freshest and highest quality ready meals. This commitment to excellence extends to production, where the food manufacturer is turning to ammonia to improve sustainability.
Kishore Matta, Managing Director, Jewel Fine Foods
For more than twenty years, Jewel Fine Foods has strived to offer Australians fresh ready meals of the highest standard. This passion for excellence also extends to sustainability, with the leading Australian chilled food manufacturer keen to show leadership on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“At the core of Jewel Fine Foods is the desire to feed people really good food,” said Managing Director Kishore Matta upon receiving the national Telstra Australian Medium Business Award in 2016. The Telstra Business Awards recognise Australia’s most remarkable small and medium-sized businesses.
“Jewel currently produces a range of meals, soups and salads in the Thai, Indian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican and European cuisines, to name a few,” Matta told Accelerate Australia & NZ.
Jewel Fine Foods’ new 16,200 m2 production facility in Banksmeadow, Sydney – where production capacity is expected to double – is demonstrating how using natural refrigerants helps growth and sustainability to go hand-in-hand.
Jewel’s customers include all of Australia's largest supermarket chains – including Coles, Woolworths, IGA, Costco, Metcash and Aldi. The firm also has partnerships with large global organisations and airlines.
“Years ago, we made it a priority to simplify the work of chefs in large kitchens,” Matta told Accelerate Australia & NZ.
“Today, we continue to simplify the lives of families – providing high quality, affordable, freshly prepared, convenient and ready-to-eat meals,” Matta says. “All you have to do is add heat.”
The heat addition process is an easy one for many people to imagine, reminding them of preparing food at home. It is the heat removal process – which takes place in food manufacturing facilities worldwide – that is harder to understand.
Yet it is here that Jewel Fine Foods deserves recognition for taking its place among the industry leaders whose use of natural refrigerants is contributing to advancing energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable refrigeration technology around the world.
“As a natural and highly-efficient refrigerant, ammonia is key to Jewel being environmentally sustainable,” - Kishore Matta, Managing Director, Jewel Fine Foods
Naturally powered growth
Today, the company has grown to more than 250 employees, producing 30 million meals per year and boasting annual revenue of A$100 million.
Underscoring this growth is an ambitious target of increasing current production to 40 million meals by 2019.
To achieve this, in January 2017 the company opened a new 16,200 m2 ready meal production facility in Banksmeadow, Sydney, where an ammonia-based refrigeration system serves all the site’s cooling, freezing, and air conditioning needs.
The ammonia system plays a key role in achieving the company's operational growth and sustainability goals, which Matta sees as going hand-in-hand.
“As a natural and highly-efficient refrigerant, ammonia is key to Jewel being environmentally sustainable,” he says.
The new site is capable of producing over 50 million ready meals per year.
The ammonia pumped recirculation system is fitted with propylene glycol and water chillers, as well as evaporative condensers. The total operating ammonia charge is 5,000 kg.
It was commissioned in two stages, firstly in January 2017 with the second stage beginning operations in July.
“Within the [project] tender, ammonia refrigeration was non-negotiable due to its high efficiency as well as it being natural,” - Peter Sayer, Head of Engineering, Jewel Fine Foods
Efficiency through design
Prior to opening the new factory, JFF had already decided that its refrigeration system would operate on ammonia.
“Within the [project] tender, ammonia refrigeration was non-negotiable due to its high efficiency as well as it being natural,” says Peter Sayer, head of engineering at Jewel Fine Foods.
Sayer says the decision to use ammonia stems directly from the company's philosophy of actively reducing its environmental impact wherever possible.
“We are working towards this by utilising ammonia as our refrigerant together with other initiatives,” Sayer explains.
JFF selected local industrial refrigeration contractor Tri Tech Refrigeration Australia (TTRA) to support the company during this major installation. TTRA’s previous work with natural refrigerants, as well as with JFF itself, made itself the right fit.
“Jewel had a smaller ammonia system installed at our old site on Gardeners Road, Mascot […] by TTRA in 2012/13 and its capacity was upgraded in 2016,” says Sayer.
“Due to this relationship TTRA was asked to quote on the system for the new factory.”
At the new factory in Banksmeadow, ammonia serves as the primary refrigerant in a traditional centralised, pumped configuration that recirculates the refrigerant while secondary heat transfer fluids – propylene glycol and water – are also used for other cooling processes.
The factory's soup spiral freezer and impingement freezer are cooled directly by the pumped recirculated liquid ammonia.
The propylene glycol, chilled by the primary ammonia system, is used to cool the storage rooms as well as several types of 'critical process equipment'.
The company employs a ‘Cook, Quench, Chill’ machine (used to cook and cool rice, pasta and vegetables) and a tumble chiller, which is used to quickly chill batches of food wrapped in flexible plastic wrapping.
Chilled water is used for air conditioning in the facility's cooking area, as well as in the 'rice cooker vacuum heat exchange system'.
The ammonia system was commissioned in late January 2017 and was expanded in July that year, to add production capacity.
“Start-up and commissioning went very well,” says Sayer. “Tri Tech Refrigeration Australia supported us all the way through, and continues to do so. The system is reliable and performs as per specification.”
For complete coverage of Jewel Fine Foods' recent ammonia refrigeration system installation in Sydney, see the cover story in the spring 2018 issue of Accelerate Australia & NZ.