Water filters are now being incorporated into commercial kitchen appliances from coffee machines to dishwashers and ovens, in order to combat limescale build up and prolong the life of the equipment.
As Miles Dawson, sales director of Brita Professional, explained: “Proper water filtration protects equipment from scale, minimises downtime and produces a better quality end product. But it’s not just the filtration that’s important – the set up and ongoing maintenance are just as key.
“We work with our customers to ensure that the initial set up is completed correctly, including scientifically setting the bypass. And, once the filter is set up and in use, its cartridge must be exchanged regularly – and included in the regular housekeeping of the kitchen. If this is done, operators will avoid unexpected downtime, loss of revenue or loss of quality in the product caused by untreated water. Prevention is better than cure.”
The manufacturer reports it has close relationships with many distributors, which it works with to specify its products into commercial kitchens. “We also work with key trade associations including CESA, CEDA and FCSI, which enables us to build our network and share insight and news accordingly,” added Dawson.
He believes that manufacturers and suppliers are innovating across the market. “In order to remain competitive, you have to keep up with the current needs and demands of your customers and the wider market,” he said.
“Our water filtration technology has been in the market for almost 50 years but in that time we’ve invested heavily in insight and research, meaning our technology has remained relevant as needs have evolved.
“One example of this was the introduction of a bypass function on our filters. The bypass allows the operator to identify and set the filter to a specific blend of water, achieving the correct water for both protecting equipment and ensuring consistent quality of food and beverages. The bypass is also unaffected by changes to the mains water pressure which ensures a consistent water blend.” [[page-break]]
Another water filter manufacturer, Aqua Cure, says that next generation scale reduction and pH control filters have become some of its best sellers.
The firm’s marketing manager, Richard Stephenson, detailed: “The increasing popularity of this kind of filter is a result of our customers’ increasing understanding of the limitations of old fashioned filtration. As our customers have opted for more advanced products such as the Everpure Claris Ultra they have seen significant savings, as reduced scale build up inside their equipment means fewer breakdowns and reduced machine downtime.”
He feels that water specifications and analysis issued by many machine manufacturers are key in understanding the parameters for each machine to maintain the equipment’s efficiency. “Better education regarding water testing apparatus and its usage and availability means that customers are now taking advantage of ‘do it yourself’ test kits. This, in turn, allows customers to make informed decisions with regard to their water filtration,” he remarked.
There have also been recent developments in the area of volumetric metering. In applications with variable volume demands, such as sports venues, exhibition centres or concert venues, optional metres allow caterers to monitor their water usage, helping them ensure that filters are only replaced once the maximum capacity has been reached.
Stephenson continued: “Aqua Cure has been working hard to understand how factors such as usage, local water quality, available space and ongoing maintenance preferences affect customers’ preferences with regard to filtration options and/or ranges.
“By involving customers from the outset and educating them as to what is available, we are then in a better position to work effectively with them, using our technical expertise to provide a solution. Rather than simply associating a particular product with a machine and insisting that is the right option, we tailor our approach to suit usage, on site conditions etc.”
He believes that the potential lost revenues associated with a machine that isn’t working or functioning correctly can be significant. “Cost reductions as a result of proactive maintenance can save a catering establishment thousands in servicing and replacement of machine parts.
“In addition to this, if caterers are potentially spending big money on expensive equipment, they should consider whether it is being used at its optimal capacity in order to make the best of their investment.
"Water is an often forgotten raw ingredient and if it is not optimised by reducing the chemicals and/or minerals that can damage equipment and impair flavour then both the quality of the end product and the longevity of equipment can suffer as a result of internal scale build-up.” [[page-break]]
Warewashing manufacturers are leading the charge for incorporating water treatment systems into their appliances. According to Meiko, for instance, for front loading and pass through machines, the dealer and consultant sector’s preference is for integral water treatment such as salt exchange softening or its GiO reverse osmosis (RO) technology.
For the larger rack and flight type machines, traditional cabinet water softeners are the most popular. “Some specialist operators such as flight caterers, equipment hire users, and railway catering operators also prefer integral RO on the larger machines for guaranteed high quality end results,” reported Bill Downie, MD of Meiko UK.
“Meiko UK is focused very clearly on the enormous benefits that GiO RO water treatment delivers, not only on the end results, but in reduced service and maintenance costs normally associated with poor management of water softening products.
“This technology has also enabled us to offer a unique 3 or 5 year “no-bills” guarantee on all of our premium front loading and pass through machines.
“Distributors have warmed to this as it not only adds value to the machine sale, but enables the distributor’s service engineers to be in close contact with the customer for the contracted period and assists in retaining that customer for their further equipment purchasing requirements.”
Downie believes: “GiO technology has virtually eliminated the need for trundling bags of salt from delivery transport to the COSHH store and then from the store to the wash-up area for topping-up of water softening apparatus. The distributor’s customer likes this benefit, not to mention the cost saving in reducing the volume of salt used.”
One recent project this technology was used within was Blackpool-based distributor Caterware’s outfit of a new central production unit for the Levant Group to service the Group’s expansion plans. Two Meiko FV130.2 model large capacity front loading utensils washers equipped with GiO technology were installed.
Mark Drazen, MD of Caterware commented, “The client needed to wash large quantities of pots, pans and trays and the FV130.2 utensil washers were seen as the perfect machines for the job within both the high risk and low risk utensil washing areas. The GiO RO water treatment system ensures that the customer does not have to concern themselves with water quality issues and all the hassles which evolve from traditional water softeners, topping up with salt or regeneration.” [[page-break]]
An RO system is also the best seller for fellow warewashing manufacturer, Winterhalter. However, marketing manager Paul Crowley cautioned: “It’s not for everyone because of the additional investment and the hidden cost of water usage.
“In the right circumstances it makes sense to use RO because of the superior wash results it can deliver. Fine dining restaurants love this type of water treatment because it is gentle on expensive glassware and means polishing is not required.”
Winterhalter is moving towards smaller RO systems and has developed a compact version, the RoMatik XS (eXtra Small), which is designed to work with undercounter glass and dishwashers, such as the firm’s own UC Series.
“It combines all the benefits of a full-size system with low running costs and long service intervals,” said Crowley. “Another bonus for this extra-small osmosis system is that it can be mounted either upright or on its side, making it even easier to fit in to the back bar or kitchen area, however limited the space.”
Manufacturers are also looking at alternatives to RO. Winterhalter’s latest undercounter warewasher, the DeMatik Pi240, has an integral water treatment system, which offers a solution for customers who require good wash results but not necessarily the absolute finish of RO. Its compact size makes it suitable for bars and kitchens looking to save space.
Winterhalter says the DeMatik uses between 40 and 60% less water than a conventional RO system and that its Eco mode will reduce energy consumption by up to 11%.
According to Crowley: “Integral water treatment takes less space as there are no exterior bolt-ons, and the machine will tell you when it needs replenishing. It will shut down if the required action is not taken – so staff can’t run it without water treatment, which could result in damage to the equipment.
“Distributors themselves seem to be ‘getting’ water treatment a bit more and are trying to incorporate it when suitable; especially into bigger projects. We’ve started taking distributors to visit sites where water treatment is being used so they can understand the benefits that might apply to a new customer.” [[page-break]]
Spare parts specialist Caterparts has noticed that end users are increasingly replacing equipment rather than repairing it, now that the economy has improved. Matt Titchener, technical development manager, reported: “A sales increase in water treatment items such as manual water softeners, inline filters, calcium filter units (CFU), auto water softeners and RO units as well as ancillaries such as salt and resin is evident.”
He believes that CFUs are a versatile water treatment device offering scale prevention and taste improvement. “With their ability to not only prevent scale but to remove trace elements such as lead, copper, mercury as well as chlorine, these units are well suited to providing water treatment for water boilers, coffee and vending machines, combi ovens and in fact any commercial catering equipment that uses water. But it is vital the correct size is used and maintained to supplier’s recommendations.”
On the subject of RO systems he said: “RO in essence is a very simple device that pushes water at high pressure through a very fine filter (membrane). This has the effect of stripping larger impurity particles leaving very pure water.
“Caterparts has conducted numerous field trials with many different RO products with the assistance of Crystaltech Services. RO provides the best solution for customers requiring the ultimate sparking clean glass with most field trials been conducted in partnership with major brewery chains. RO has many other applications but it is essential that the product is specified correctly, pre-installation site surveys being required, as well as installation by experienced personnel.”
Caterparts is now close to launching a new product onto the UK market and will continue to work exclusively with Crystaltech Services to provide a complete package.