The premium and recently awarded ‘feel good’ brand COOK has expanded its kitchens and increased capacity of its luxury hand-prepared meals by 50%.
COOK’s founding statement is to “cook using the same ingredients and techniques as you would at home, so everything looks and tastes homemade”, a philosophy that has enabled COOK to bring innovation to the UK frozen ready meal sector. Supplying the rapidly increasing consumer demand for quality ready to cook food, COOK have seen record annual revenues year on year.
The ‘hands on’ approach within its production kitchens include chefs stirring dishes with large paddles, and manually ladling and garnishing each dish by hand, just home cooking on a much larger scale.
An existing production kitchen at full capacity and a plan to double sales within 5 years led to COOK to acquire a new site in Sittingbourne, Kent, to enable an increase in volume of its ready to cook meals. As part of the expansion project, the recently awarded ‘feel good’ brand invested in freezing technology that would improve efficiency and the quality of its best-selling gourmet recipes.
Ben Walker, Head of Pioneer at COOK, discusses the project and the investment of freezing equipment in a Q&A below:
Can you briefly outline the details of the freezing project?
We wanted to upgrade from static blast freezing to a continuous freezing method within our ready to cook meal production.
Why did COOK require a new freezing solution?
Due to increased demand of our products and our business expansion plans, we needed to increase the volume of our frozen ready meal range and wanted to invest in the latest freezing technology within our production kitchens.
Were there any key requirements for the project?
Fundamental to the project was finding a freezing system and process that maintained the quality of our ingredients and meals.
Can you describe your selection process and what criteria you were looking for in a supplier?
Our chosen supplier of freezing equipment had to deliver a solution that matched our expectations and requirements for quality. We selected Starfrost to help us achieve this, we felt confident the team could provide us with a bespoke solution that would fit within our business. They understood the complexities of the project and most importantly our company focus on product quality. We were pleased to partner with Starfrost and are currently working on an additional project for another spiral freezer.
Which freezing method was implemented and how has it met your project requirements?
Working with our team and specification for our products, Starfrost designed and installed a Helix spiral freezer. It’s an automated freezing system which means our products are consistently frozen and at a reduced time in comparison to blast freezing. We’ve seen a significant boost in terms of output, we have now increased production capacity by 50%. With the addition of the second spiral freezer this summer we plan a further 30% increase, bringing our total expected throughput up by 80%.
Are there any additional benefits of the freezing system, if so what difference has that made to your production kitchen?
The Helix spiral freezer gives us operational flexibility which matches our home style cooking processes at COOK. We’ve been able to reduce contact handling of the product and now have an end to end line solution. The combined benefits of the new freezing system deliver a higher quality end product that keep our production to more stringent timelines – which for any chef, is a must!
“The spiral freezer has delivered a 50% increase in production capacity, improved product quality and created a better working environment within our production kitchens.” – Ben Walker of COOK.
Following extensive product trials at their laboratory test facility in Suffolk, Starfrost designed and manufactured a bespoke Helix spiral freezer system, that would effectively freeze the ready to cook meals whilst locking in the freshness and quality of the ingredients.
Since the installation of the Helix spiral freezer, COOK has reduced manual labour and improved production efficiency as well seeing a range of operational benefits, including increased factory space and significantly reduced processing times.
The compact automated freezer designed for COOK has removed the need for large rack trolleys within the production kitchens, an operational requirement for blast freezers. The new freezer also features an energy efficient design that operates with CO2 refrigeration, a long term refrigeration solution that is not subject to phase out regulations.
Samuel Welch, UK Sales Manager at Starfrost:
“COOK are food specialists of hand prepared ready meals. We understood immediately that the company and its products are focused on quality. Partnering with a firm such as COOK is something we value at Starfrost and our key focus was to find a cooling solution that would seamlessly fit within the business and processing line.
The next spiral freezer project for COOK, currently being manufactured, is a duplicate model of the recently installed Helix, designed to freeze 3,600 meals per hour, and will deliver the same energy efficient and maximised capacity benefits.”