Agribusiness & Food, Dust Control & Environment, Powder Handling

Process overview: GEA powder plant in New Zealand

Yashili’s new plant in Pokeno, New Zealand.

Processing equipment manufacturer GEA has completed a processing plant for infant formula producer Yashili in Pokeno, 50km south of Auckland.

Yashili’s Pokeno plant has a production capacity of 50,000 tons a year, putting it among the largest infant formula plants in the world.

GEA says the plant was built with a special focus on innovation, and on the hygienic design of the process plant and buildings.

Construction began in September 2013. GEA, based in Dusseldorf, Germany, says it was chosen as the main process contractor because of its reputation in New Zealand for building dairy processing plants to the highest international standards.

GEA provided equipment from milk and ingredients reception, to powder production, and to final packing into 25kg bags.

Process overview:

  • Milk is received at the Pokeno site and pre-treated
  • Ingredients are added using high shear mixing under vacuum
  • Vegetable oils, dry dairy powders, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals can then be added directly to fresh milk
  • The resulting formulations are cooled in batches
  • The batches are then further concentrated by gentle removal of water under vacuum, using GEA tubular falling film evaporators
  • The milk concentrate from the evaporators is spray-dried in a GEA MSD dryer to produce a dry powder with high functionality
  • GEA’s ‘Avapac’ technology is used to pack the powder into 25-kg bags


GEA told ABHR the plant includes a number of highly innovative technologies designed to enhance product quality and consistency, reduce noise pollution, and minimize the use of water and energy:

  • The plant is designed with multiple feed lines and duplicate up-stream systems (such as for evaporation) to allow continuous, 24-hour operations of the dryer. “This facility increases output, helps ensure product consistency, and avoids product quality problems associated with start-up and shut-down procedures,” the processing manufacturer said.
  • As well as making infant formula from liquid milk, the plant boasts the flexibility to reconstitute milk powders for introduction as ingredients. GEA said: “This allows greater product flexibility and more accurate management of the milk supply.”
  • The GEA dryer uses dehumidified air, and is one of the first spray dryers in New Zealand to benefit from this feature, according to the German firm. “By dehumidifying the inlet air it is possible to compensate for changes in humidity throughout the day or year, thereby optimizing dryer efficiency and avoiding upsets in the drying process,” GEA said. “It also ensures a greater consistency in the properties of the final powder.”
  • A water recovery and treatment system uses reverse osmosis to process water evaporated from the milk, with the design to convert it into high-quality water for reuse within the plant. GEA said this scheme reduces water consumption and minimizes disposal costs.
  • Exhaust heat recovery techniques are used at the plant to recover waste heat and return it to the process. “The high dryer-exhaust temperatures associated with the production of infant formula makes heat recovery both practical and cost-effective,” GEA said.
  • GEA took special care to reduce noise from the plant, due to its location near residential areas and planned 24-hour operations. It designed the building to contain noise, with the attenuation of noise at ventilation and process exhaust openings, and the special selection of low-noise equipment across the site.
  • To respond to increasingly stringent demands from legislators, retailers and insurers – esepecially in the food products industry – GEA designed the plant with advanced process control, designed for higher-level supervisory control of the Yashili plant. GEA’s software modules are aimed at ensuring transparency in the production sequence, effective use of resources, and high product quality. “The GEA OTAS Track & Trace module especially allows Yashili full and transparent traceability of raw material and ingredient inputs, throughout the process and into the final product,” the company said.


GEA worked with Ebert Construction and Silvester Clark Ltd. as part of delivering the site’s process buildings.

GEA New Zealand engineering manager Chris Burt said the Pokeno plant had been a challenging project, but that the company had been able to draw on its long experience of building similar facilities elsewhere in the country and around the world.

“We have succeeded in including interesting innovations for Yashili,” he explained. “These have combined to optimize the plant in terms of its productivity, flexibility, and sustainability. It is really a world class facility.”

Yashili New Zealand operations manager Terry Norwood, who saw the project through from conception until operations, said: “We have a plant here that represents the best in class in many aspects and that produces an excellent product.”

The Pokeno plant is producing products and will move into full production in accordance with Yashili’s commercial needs.



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