ELSA Group testimonial


March 2024

Dairy Industry

Innovative analytical solutions for the dairy industry

Elsa Group, a leading company in the Swiss dairy industry, uses Bentley Instruments analytical solutions for milk quality control!

Elsa Group, a subsidiary of the Migros Industrie Group, is one of the leading industrial companies in the Swiss dairy industry. With expertise in the manufacture and packaging of dairy products, cheese maturing and processing, as well as the development of sauces and plant-based protein products, the company stands out for its particularly dynamic R&D and solid technological skills. A taste for innovation and strengths in terms of analytical performance that Elsa Group also employs in quality control.

Milk reception, in particular, is subject to systematic, extremely reliable, precise and rapid analysis, under the responsibility of the GPL laboratory (Gestion des Producteurs de Lait). At the heart of its instrumental park are three key instruments: the BactoCount IBC 3.0, BactoCount IBCm 3.0 and DairySpec FT from Bentley Instruments…

Jacques BONFILS, head of the Elsa Group GPL laboratory, together with Alexandre VAN DEN BERGHE and Adrien CAHOT, Sales Manager and Technical Support Manager at Bentley Instruments, share their experience with us.

LGdL : “Good morning. First of all, a few words about Elsa Group and its parent company, Migros Industrie: their core business, their workforce and flagship products?”

Jacques BONFILS (J. B.) : “Migros Industrie, of which Elsa Group is a subsidiary, employs around 14,000 people worldwide. More than 20,000 products, including meat, poultry, confectionery, coffee, dairy products, bread, beverages, personal care and nutrition, are manufactured at its 64 production sites: 55 in Switzerland and 9 abroad.

Close to consumers and Migros cooperatives, the Group’s growth is driven by powerful R&D, combined with a close watch on new market trends and technologies. It occupies a leading and pioneering position with its innovative, sustainable and healthy solutions, such as the first hard-boiled egg substitute based on soya proteins, developed a few months ago by its teams in conjunction with external partners.

Elsa Group employs nearly 1,400 people and offers over 2,000 product references in four Business Units: Dairy, expert in the manufacture and packaging of dairy products; Cheese, specialist in the maturing and processing of cheeses; Plant-based for the development of plant-based protein products, and finally the Sauces Business Unit. Every day, we are committed to satisfying consumer expectations, while respecting the ambitious objectives we have set ourselves in terms of sustainable development. Based in Estavayer-le-Lac (canton of Fribourg), Switzerland, and backed by a network of six specialized companies, Elsa Group has 12 sites, 10 of which are in Switzerland and 2 abroad.”

LGdL : “How does Elsa Group carry out quality control on its products, from receipt of raw materials to finished products?”

J. B. : “The Group’s main site is located in Estavayer-le-Lac, and receives some 240 million kg of milk a year. The GPL laboratory is responsible for all analysis and quality control on milk and cream at the milk and merchandise reception (RLM).

Each truck – whose tank is subdivided into six compartments – is tested on arrival, using a milk sample representative of the entire load. The pH of the milk and its degree of acidity (SH), its organoleptic qualities and the detection of inhibiting substances, germs and somatic cells […] are checked upon entry to the site. Depending on the results received in real time, and in line with defined standards, the truck may or may not unload its contents.

It should also be noted that if the results of these initial analysis are outside tolerances, a second check is carried out, this time using samples taken from each compartment of the tank, enabling the origin of the problem to be pinpointed more precisely, and only the offending milk to be eliminated without losing the rest of the load. When each truck is unloaded, an automatic sample is also taken for quality payment. This sample is analyzed at the GPL laboratory, accredited to the international standard ISO/CEI 17025:2017.

Elsa Group has several other laboratories on its site, including one dedicated to the control of semi-finished products and a chemistry laboratory for finished products. All microbiological analysis of finished products are carried out externally.”

LGdL : “What analytical solutions do you use to monitor milk composition and quality? How do they fit into your organization?”

J. B. : “Today we mainly use three Bentley Instruments analyzers:
→ two flow cytometers – the BactoCount IBC 3.0 and the BactoCount IBCm 3.0. These two analyzers respectively replaced older generations of instruments we had, the BactoCount IBC 2.0 acquired in 2006 and the BactoCount IBCm 2.0 acquired in 2015 ;
→ a medium infrared Fourier transform spectrometer (MIR-FTIR): the DairySpec FT, which we acquired in 2014 – replacing another brand’s equipment – for laboratory analysis of milk composition: fat and protein determination.”

Adrien CAHOT (A. C.) : “Flow cytometry is used to rapidly characterize and enumerate populations of bacteria, somatic cells and other particles contained in a liquid matrix. Bentley Instruments was the first, back in 1991, to use this advanced technique to enumerate bacteria and somatic cells in raw milk. Since then, we have continued to innovate and improve our know-how, to provide solutions capable of measuring the hygienic quality of raw milk in even greater detail. Our new BactoCount IBC 3.0 and IBCm 3.0 multiplex platforms, which have been completely redesigned, significantly broaden their fields of application for highly precise control of the bacteriological and cellular composition of raw milk, while offering unique, fully open and scalable tools…”

J. B. : “The BactoCount IBCm 3.0 flow cytometer is used at Elsa Group as soon as the milk is received on the average truck sample. The results of the germ and somatic cell analysis are indicative; they enable us to authorize the entry of milk or, on the contrary, to block it if a non-conformity with standards is observed. In the latter case, the analysis is duplicated at the GPL laboratory, in order to characterize the germs concerned with the utmost precision. The BactoCount IBC 3.0 provides official results that establish the quality of the milk received. Based on these elements and according to predefined conditions, financial deductions are applied to third-party suppliers and direct producers of Elsa Group”.

Alexandre VAN DEN BERGHE (A. V.d.B.) : “Fourier Transform Medium Infrared Spectroscopy (FTMIR) is used to analyze the chemical composition of materials. Bentley Instruments applies it to the measurement of components in milk and dairy products. Our new DairySpec FT spectrometer is used by a wide range of dairy laboratories and processing plants to measure all types of liquid dairy products of varying viscosity (milk, cream, ice cream, yoghurt, whey, permeate, retentate, flavored milk, colostrum, etc.). Up to 64 parameters, such as fat, protein, DM, lactose, urea, casein, fatty acid profile (FAP), blood BHB… can be analyzed simultaneously by the DairySpec FT at a maximum throughput of 300 samples/hour, depending on the model. The instrument is also ICAR-certified and evaluated by CECALAIT on milk, cream and retentate.”

J. B. : “At Elsa Group, its use is particularly strategic, since the DairySpec FT enables us to precisely define the fat/protein content for milk payment purposes”.

LGdL : “Why did you turn to these Bentley Instruments solutions? What are the benefits?”

J. B. : “We chose Bentley Instruments because they are reliable and accurate. Our various European interlaboratory tests and results, as well as SN EN ISO/IEC 17025:2018 accreditation, attest to this. The purchase price of the three instruments was also a decisive factor.”

A. V.d.B. : “Bentley Instruments offers many advantages over alternative solutions. For flow cytometry analysis, our BactoCount IBCm 3.0 and IBC 3.0 solutions are ISO 16140-2:2016 certified, and are therefore validated as alternative methods to the ISO 4833-2:2013 reference method (Microbiology of the food chain – Horizontal method for the enumeration of microorganisms – Part 2: Colony counting at 30°C by the surface plating technique).

The BactoCount IBCm 3.0 is also the world’s fastest bacteria counter for real-time determination of the hygienic quality of raw milk. It offers analysis in 2 minutes, much faster than other alternative methods (> 9 minutes), and therefore offers productivity gains as well as a reduction in operational and truck immobilization costs. The ISO 4833-2:2013 reference method, on the other hand, requires over 72 hours of incubation before obtaining a result.

In terms of analytical throughput and process standardization, the benefits are equally impressive. The BactoCount IBCm, whose first versions were manual, is now semi-automatic; the only manual handling required is to place the sample under the pipette. What’s more, the BactoCount IBCm 3.0 can be fitted with a sample conveyor, enabling it to process up to 50 samples per hour.”

A. C. : “The speed of the BactoCount IBC 3.0 for testing bacteria and somatic cells in milk is up to 200 tests/hour, the fastest rate currently available on the market! IBC 3.0 multiplex tests are fully automated, and the highly standardized and reproducible method guarantees worldwide equivalence of results between laboratories and countries.

What’s more, two applications can be run simultaneously on the same sample. The new BactoCount IBC 3.0 platform, which integrates up to two lasers (16 wavelengths available) and four detectors (fluorescence and scattering), has been specifically designed to enable the potential integration of future applications such as the counting of specific strains… Revolutionary and scalable, it meets the current and future needs of laboratories for optimal determination and enhancement of the hygienic quality of milk.”

A. V.d.B. : “With regard to our DairySpec FT spectrometer, its performance is also fully compliant with the normative requirements for milk component analysis: ISO 9622|IDF 141:2013, AOAC and ICAR. With the 64 parameters it can analyze simultaneously, its patented technology for high spectral standardization and the numerous calibrations available, the DairySpec FT offers all the versatility and analytical performance that make it an ideal tool for the dairy industry. The productivity and profitability gains are considerable compared with alternative methods.

Other advantages: no obsolescence policy and tailor-made software that can be configured according to the needs of each laboratory, each application… Spectral data from each sample analyzed are permanently stored and fully available for retroactive analysis or the development of new calibrations on specific parameters, independently by the user or in collaboration with Bentley Instruments.

The DairySpec FT can also be equipped with a sample identification system using a barcode reader, QR code and/or RFID chip, as well as a conveyor to automate and maximize sample analysis up to 300 samples/hour.

Finally, Bentley Instruments analyzers benefit from a powerful software package, Nexgen, with a highly intuitive user interface and numerous diagnostic functions, combined with extensive remote control capabilities, including if required by Bentley Instruments service engineers.”

LGdL : “Are you satisfied with Bentley Instruments’ support?”

J. B. : “We are very satisfied with the support, availability and responsiveness of the Bentley Instruments team. We have benefited from their services on several occasions, in particular to adapt the BactoCount IBC 3.0 and DairySpec FT functionalities precisely to our process configuration: installation of the rack to increase throughput, customization of the barcode identification system on our bottles, and data export via our LIMS. All print reports are now dematerialized and can be imported in PDF format, in line with our paperless policy.”

A. V.d.B. : “Bentley Instruments’ priority has always been to deliver fast, top-quality customer service. Our experienced teams provide installation, training and on-site services, as well as telephone and internet support, to help you maintain the highest level of productivity.”

J. B. : “The Bentley Instruments R&D support team also worked with us a few years ago to develop a new calibration model for the DairySpec FT. A model targeting fatty acid quality analysis (saturated / unsaturated) that we used for around three years.”

LGdL : “Do your quality approaches also enable you to respond to certain current issues such as product sustainability, environmental/economic impact…?”

J. B. : “Yes, all these points are very important to Elsa Group. For example, we are actively working to develop new, more environmentally-friendly packaging and have equipped the company’s roofs with photovoltaic panels. For several years now, all our waste has been methanized, and a large proportion of our finished products are distributed by railway.

Bentley Instruments, specializing in the development, production and distribution of high-performance analytical and automation solutions for the dairy industry, boasts over 40 years’ experience and a worldwide presence, backed up by a solid network of distributors, in more than 60 countries. Founded in 1982 by Bent LYDER, the Group is headquartered in Chaska, Minnesota (USA). Its European subsidiary, BENTLEY INSTRUMENTS SARL, founded in 2001 by Pierre BROUTIN, is based in the Hauts-de-France region of France, in Lille and Maroeuil.

ISO 9001 certified, the company now has over 2000 instruments installed worldwide, fully compliant with ICAR/IDF/ISO standards. A major player in analytical instrumentation for the dairy industry, Bentley Instruments has built its reputation on innovation and the foundations of a high-quality support service, focused on improving the operational efficiency of each of its customers and partners. Robust, easy-to-use and reliable instruments, excellent technical support and the establishment of a day-to-day partnership to accompany you in your developments… the Bentley Instruments team is at your service!

Article written by Solenne DENIS – journalist at La Gazette du Laboratoire

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