One exhibit stood head and shoulders above the others at BIE - literally.
Stopping a few people, whose heads were craned upwards, I asked what it was.
"Never seen anything like it," came the reply.
After three such responses, it was time to get closer.
It was certainly striking, but its rather odd, chimney-like appearance didn’t give any clues to its function.
"Welcome to the Magnatech Cooler," boomed the friendly voice of Antoon Vanoutryve on the stand.
Magnatech is owned by Wyn Jones, former boss of Swansea-based Mono Equipment who is also on the stand demonstrating how the new cooler works. Says Wyn: "Only rarely does a piece of bakery equipment come along that can be described as ground-breaking, but the Magnacooler is one of the best innovations I’ve seen in over 30 years in the business. Like all great inventions it’s brilliant in its simplicity but it brings a bunch of benefits to the baker."
"Do any UK bakers have one?" I ask.
"David Powell of Rich Bakery Products has seven," replies Wyn. "What he particularly likes about the Magnacooler is that cooling time doesn’t take any longer than the baking time, while products have better flavour and extended shelf life."
And apparently, George McKay of SM Baynes, near Edinburgh, says its the best piece of bakery equipment he’s ever bought.
At this point two Irish ladies and their family joined in the conversation from the aisle. "We’ve got one," they said. So with no disrespect to Antoon and Wyn, I decided I would like to hear from bakers who actually have a Magnacooler about what it does, then they could explain how it works.
Siobhan and Maura Kearney run Kearney’s Home Baking in Ballyhahill, Co Limerick. They formed their scratch bakery in 1992, after achieving diplomas in bakery production and management at the National Bakery School in Dublin.
Now they supply many of the leading convenience stores and foodservice providers. They were among the first customers to buy a Magnatech Cooler.
Siobhan explains: "We first saw the Magnacooler at IBA in Germany six years ago, then again at the last IBA bakery show. Before we bought one, we used to cool the bakery products down with fans, transferring them from baking trays to cooling racks, like most bakers do. But now the racks go straight from the oven to the Magnacooler, where filtered cool air is brought in from outside the bakery and mixed with the air in the cooler. As the cool air mixes with the warm moist air coming from the products, it prevents any more moisture migrating from the products, giving better and more moist goods with a naturally longer shelf life of approximately 20%.
"We don’t use preservatives, mould inhibitors or artificial colours," says Siobhan. "If our breads, tarts, scones and porter cake lasted 5-8 days before we had the Magnacooler, we now gain an extra day or two."
Another advantage pointed out by the Kearneys is that, as moisture is not released from the product, it can be scaled at a lower weight at least 2% lower. There are also fewer bacteria, and cooling complies with HACCP standards.
Other benefits, according to Siobhan’s sister Maura, are a better flavour and texture, while using the Magnacooler also saves on labour, space and cleaning and you can slice and pack the goods faster. So an item that might usually be ready in 16 minutes is actually ready in six when you have a cooler. If the baker is using a deck oven, then the trays should be placed on a cooling rack and wheeled into the Magnacooler.
Antoon adds that the Magnacooler works as well in Seville, Spain where the ambient temperature can be +47°C, as it does in Helsinki, Finland, where it might be -42°C.
Says Wyn: "The Magnacooler is a mighty piece of equipment and comes in different sizes for different bakeries. It doesn’t come cheap, but it pays its way, it boosts competitiveness and profits and, like all the best equipment, will last a lifetime."
More information: [http://www.magnatech.be]
Tel: +32 59 30 30 09
Or call: Wyn Jones on 07970 002342
=== How it all works ===
Air is taken from outside (blue arrows), goes through inlet filters and is then compressed. This forced air is blown over the product, taking the heat, humidity and aroma from the product (red arrows). This air is filtered again in the outlet filters (cleaned discharge to HACCP) and goes outside. A part of the heated air is reused (orange arrows) by opening valves and a bypass section. By reusing this air, the incoming air has a perfect mixture of temperature and humidity. This air also brings the aroma back to the product.