PÄX Food AG in Magdeburg dries fruits and vegetables in a vacuum

The power technology is a joy for the taste buds at PÄX Food. More importantly, tasting is particularly encouraged – as a quality control so to speak. Each bite has to be crispy. The fruits achieve their unique PÄX touch by puffing during vacuum drying. PÄX Food – the name of the company in Saxony-Anhalt’s state capital Magdeburg says it all: "Product Expansion".

The start-up company, which was founded 2009 in Aalen in federal state of Baden-Württemberg, has settled in Magdeburg for good reason. The decision to relocate is linked to the history of the city. The multi-patented drying process of the PÄX production plant is based on the vacuum technology founded by Otto von Guericke (1602-1686).

The production facility of PÄX Food was constructed in 2011. The company has so far invested several million euros there. "We belong here – on the basis of both the history of vacuum technology as well as procedurally", say Konstantin Hauf, Lutz Habenicht and Georg Weisz, members of the PÄX Food management board. Jörg Schönefeld can only nod his head in agreement. He comes from B+B Engineering GmbH in Magdeburg. A brief meeting is scheduled this Monday. It concerns the construction of the new pre-drying facility.

PÄX crispy bags are handed around due to the eye-catching packaging. No one has anything against replenishing energy reserves with this snack since it is certain: The contents of the bags come exclusively from nature. Apple rings, pineapple chunks, strawberry slices and more can be nibbled on with a "pure" conscience. "Those with a problem with fructose can nibble on our tomatoes or courgettes", says Konstantin Hauf. His job is to open up the market for PÄX fruits. From its online store to catering suppliers and gastronomic establishments, they now have succeeded that their snacks are presented in hotel rooms as ‘bedtime sweets’. And most recently they made it on the snack shelves of a leading German retailer.

In fact, the crunchy fruits, such as apples, pineapple or strawberries, are a surprise for the taste buds. "After the gentle vacuum drying, they contain almost all of their vitamins and fibre as well as their characteristic natural flavour", explains Lutz Habenicht, confirming that this sweet temptation is also healthy. Habenicht set up the production facility together with the research and development division of the company. B+B Engineering GmbH, a specialist for plant engineering in the food industry and other industries, is also on-board. Project manager Jörg Schönefeld is responsible for maintenance and also currently responsible for integrating the new facility into the overall system.

Lutz Habenicht emphasises the global uniqueness of the facility. He mentions the name of the inventor: Michael Wefers. The West German engineer had led the need for the exchange of vacuum-based drying procedures to Magdeburg during the GDR era. His attachment to the descendants of Otto von Guericke remained after reunification. There the University of Magdeburg assumed the name of the famous scholar of the city. It supported Michael Wefers in the development of the PÄX technology, to the delight of PÄX Food AG. Through this, they could patent the technology developed for them by Wefers as "methods and apparatus for drying and puffing organic, water-moistened products".

In simple terms: A highly efficient process makes it possible for even slight temperatures to be sufficient in the vacuum vessel to bring the remaining water in the already pre-dried fruits to evaporate.

"The fruit comes to us with a low residual moisture", says food technologist Georg Weisz. The fruits are pre-dried by the suppliers and are mainly supplied by start-ups from Turkey. Under the southern sunshine, the fruits can develop their full flavour during the ripening process. "It makes sense from an economic and environmentally friendly perspective to pre-dry the fruits in the country of origin. Why transport unnecessarily large amounts of water through the area?", says Weisz. PÄX Food provides the expertise and has helped to develop and set up the equipment on the site.

The PÄX Food management board respects the compliance with EU standards in agriculture, good working conditions and appropriate salaries. Weisz is often on site as a contact person and supervisor.

Otto's heirs will soon celebrate another engineering excellence. A pre-drying facility will go into operation in a few weeks, in whose development the inventor of the PÄX method, Michael Wefers, once again played a part. The vacuum does not allow the inventor to rest, even though he is at retirement age. The operating mode of the new pre-drying facility also has the potential for a patent, according to the experts from PÄX Food and B+B Engineering. They want to fill a gap in the value chain at the site in Magdeburg and enhance their own competences in the manufacturing process of the vacuum-dried fruits to a degree of "ripeness".

Autorin: Kathrain Graubaum on behalf of IMG Saxony-Anhalt

Konstantin Hauf
Board of Management Päx Food
Marketing & Sales
Tel.: +49 (0)391/50450216
Email: kh.ignore@paexfood.de
Web: www.paexfood.de