With ventilation equipment manufacturer Halton being 1 year away from its 50th anniversary, the end of May was an appropriate time to inaugurate its latest Innovation Hub facility, this time in its base in Béthune, northern France.
Joining seven other similar resources globally, the hub comprises a state of the art show kitchen, an acoustic lab, a kitchen and ventilation lab and a system monitoring station. The €1m investment brought Halton research and development facilities and a demonstration kitchen environment that are said to be unique. The project is a part of the more than €4m investment into the manufacturer’s operations in France since 2016.
Benoit de Rycker, foodservice product marketing manager, told visitors to the launch event that it is the first time all of Halton’s ventilation technologies have been available to view under one roof, comprising: air diffusion, emissions capture, human-centric lighting, fire suppression, mechanical filtration, automatic cleaning, specialist filtration, airflow optimisation, intuitive controls, duct monitoring, pollution control, air quality control and energy recovery.
These are demonstrated through the ventilated ceiling with integrated Halton Skyline lighting as well as the Halton Marvel system, which automatically adjusts exhaust airflow rates depending on kitchen appliance usage, and Capture Jet technology that is designed to prevent emissions from spreading. Halton believes it can prove that its systems are working through the on-site Schlieren technology. Via a live camera feed, this makes heat loads, particle and steam emissions visible in real-time onscreen so that facility visitors can actively see the difference the ventilation is making.
Georges Gaspar, director of Halton’s foodservice business operations, commented: “France operates in the area of strong food traditions and high-level culinary culture as a trendsetter for the European market, which means it generates higher demands for building technology in the restaurant business. The location in the middle of Europe increases the significance of the area as a logistical centre.”
He added: “With the help of our renewed product development and show kitchen environment, we can further develop and mould our expertise in cooperation with our demanding clientele and top-level cooperation partners. In this way, we best guarantee the wellbeing of both our kitchen staff and restaurant customers in these special and usually very individual environments. The key to our growth is related to top-level customer-based expertise.”
The manufacturer’s seven other product development centres are located in Kausala, Crépy in France, Rochester in the UK, Scottsville in the USA, Mississauga in Canada, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Shanghai in China.
“Each year, 5,000 professional kitchens around the world are equipped with Halton’s solutions. In this manner, we significantly influence the wellbeing of those working and doing business in the restaurants, which can also be seen in the restaurant’s success,” Gaspar said.
The new complex in Béthune is part of a 7,000metre2 factory with office premises and product development centres which was originally constructed in 1991, after purchasing French company Anemotherm in 1989.
Foodservice business operations in France include also Diffus’Air, purchased by Halton in 2017, which still operates under its own name. The Bethune factory exports solutions to Europe as well as the Middle East and North Africa.
With the latest Halton Innovation Hub only 45 minutes’ drive from a Channel crossing, the firm’s UK office in Rochester, Kent, can benefit from the state of the art facility in Béthune, France.
UK MD Steve Mason detailed: “From Rochester, it is very easy to get across to support the events going on. The pollution control units we manufacture in the UK are set up within the Innovation Hub’s system, so we’ll be able to bring guests across and help any other European guests who want to talk about pollution control.”
The UK and France offices already have a high degree of co-operation with each other and the other 33 global Halton bases. Mason explained: “There is a lot of collaboration between all the Halton units for manufacturing, technology, and research and development. It’s an intrinsic part of the company and it’s imperative that we act, support, help and develop each unit.”
Rochester manufactures over 90% of Halton’s UK orders, including bespoke hoods, with all pollution control units for global markets (aside from America) coming from there too. According to Mason: “Pollution control is our key business in the UK, supporting the customer relation units across Europe, along with the offerings from Béthune.
“We ensure we manufacture to the same standards, levels and principles as Béthune so that the end client gets what they want.”
One product which is already in the market on the continent is the Halton Culinary Light (HCL), manufactured at the German factory in Reit im Winkl. This will soon join the UK’s offerings following testing, with Mason detailing: “HCL is a hygienic lighting solution which reduces glare and offers brighter light and a better colour rendering. It’s more aesthetic within the set-up and it’s also more beneficial to the staff operating in a kitchen environment.”
Historically, a large proportion of Halton’s business has been consultant-led, with Mason reporting that this is still important to the company as: “We can help at an early design stage, coming up with solutions for them that we are confident will work and will be beneficial to end clients.” However, he underlined that the UK branch also has a key base of distributors that aren’t necessarily linked intrinsically with consultants.
He concluded: “We are finding that the market is buoyant in the UK. We find that a lot more people are realising that to keep and retain staff, kitchens can’t be as they were 10 or 20 years ago. More effort, more design and more though has got to be put into catering areas. They need to be ventilated properly as if they’re not, it will cause problems.”