Equipment

Ishida weighers help Hotel Chocolat meet surging demand for Velvetiser

As a brand synonymous with quality and innovation, Hotel Chocolat uses only the best ingredients – a factor that extends to the production equipment at its manufacturing base in Huntingdon. So, when the company invested in a dedicated plant for its Velvetiser drinking chocolate brand, two Ishida CCW-RV multihead weighers have become an integral part of the packing line solution.

The Velvetiser brand, launched in 2018, is one of Hotel Chocolat’s greatest successes, enabling the creation of drinking chocolate using sachets of pure chocolate flakes. In order to meet huge consumer demand, Hotel Chocolat took the decision to convert existing warehouse space into a dedicated production line for the flakes, enabling a four-fold increase in capacity.

Offering a diverse range of sizes, from retail packs to larger variants aimed at cafés and businesses, and over a dozen distinct flavours, weighing accuracy was a critical requirement for the success of the new packing lines.

Simon Wood, Head of UK Manufacturing Projects at Hotel Chocolat, had used Ishida in a previous food production role and knew its multihead weighers had the hygienic design, reliability, performance and precision to deliver.

“Chocolate is understandably temperature-sensitive, the flakes used in the Velvetiser are small but non-uniform in size, and there’s always a residue of cocoa dust created during production,” Simon explained. “Our choice of weigher had to cope with these factors, as well as delivering the required speed, accuracy and ease of changeovers during 24-hour operation.”

The two Ishida 28-head CCW-RV range multihead weighers with 500 cc hoppers are ideal for Hotel Chocolat’s requirements to handle smaller target weights at high speeds. This is made possible thanks to improved feeder technology, using pulse width modulation and an integrated AFD (Automatic Feeder Drive) system that  ensures precise control of product flow through the weigher.

The weigher’s unique triple combination calculation software is able to calculate three optimal weight combinations, double check them and then select the one nearest to the target weight – all in a single cycle. This delivers highly accurate weighing for Hotel Chocolat at speeds of up to 210 weighments per minute.

The Ishida CCW-RVs are part of a multi-level system for Velvetiser flakes, installed and commissioned during 2021 against the backdrop of the COVID-19.  For Hotel Chocolat, Ishida’s advice, service and support during this challenging project was just as important as the quality of the weighing machines.

“The Ishida weighers sit at the centre of a three-level facility, created from scratch in what used to be a warehouse,” explained Sylwia Zmuda, Manufacturing Site Manager, Velvetiser. “On the top floor, the chocolate is mixed, extruded and chilled, before being broken into flakes by rollers.

“The flaked chocolate is conveyed to the middle level, where the Ishida CCW-RVs weigh them into the required portion sizes, before they drop down to ground level to be bagged and inspected,” she said.

Given the high production volume, the conveying system is able to transfer the chocolate flakes to two Ishida weighers in order to provide additional capacity, as well as uninterrupted production in the event of machine maintenance.

“It’s a highly efficient system and Ishida provided exceptional training to help our team get the best out of the weighers,” commented Snieguole Kaikaryte, Operations Shift Manager.

“This has been a major investment by Hotel Chocolat, and one that is paying off in terms of the high standards of throughput and quality achieved by the flaked chocolate production line.  Ishida’s involvement in the project has been an integral part of this success, allowing us to treat our global customers to high-quality drinking chocolate,” confirmed Simon Wood.

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