TROY, Ohio -- Hobart Corp. has partnered with Microban Products Co., the antibacterial technology company, to produce a new line of commercial food equipment incorporating antimicrobial product protection.
Microban's products, which work to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and fungi, is added to the external plastic components of Hobart's food equipment during the manufacturing process -- similar to the way color is added to plastic -- to keep the equipment more sanitary between cleanings, according to officials with both companies. The technology incorporates Microban into the empty spaces that are part of the molecular structure of every type of plastic or polymer. Such internal penetration helps protect against pathogens for the life of the product, they added.
While the addition of Microban protection doesn't eliminate the need for standard cleaning procedures, the technology does provide an added level of protection against food-borne illnesses and works to maintain a lower level of stain-causing microorganisms, one official told SN.
"This is not an alternative to cleaning, but a complementary component to retailers' cleaning efforts," said Kenn Vest, president of Microban Products Co., based in New York. "Microban adds another level of cleanliness by being an active participant in preventing bacteria instead of having equipment that's just apathetic to cleanliness."
Talks of the strategic partnership between Hobart and Microban began in 1999 after Microban had successfully incorporated its antimicrobial technology into a number of other products including Farberware cutting boards, Holmes humidifiers, Fruit of the Loom socks, Chicopee Chix wipes, and shopping carts from Rehrig International, to name a few.
"We've been incorporating our antimicrobial technology into different products and polymer applications for 10 years and we decided to continue our focus on several additional industries where we chose industry leaders like Hobart to apply the technology to their products," said Vest. "In working with Hobart, however, we're also working with Hobart's vendors to incorporate Microban protection into the individual parts that make up each piece of equipment."
Vest said that Microban and Hobart worked incessantly for nearly eight months, testing various methods of applying the antimicrobial technology to Hobart's products and gaining approval from various government regulations agencies and standard-setting industry organizations, including the National Sanitation Foundation.
"There was a lot of technical work to be done with different polymers, working with all of Hobart's vendors, adhering to regulatory and industry compliance requirements, working on commercial terms, conducting market research and dealing with other issues like advertising," said Vest. "But, we had already incorporated our technology into a lot of other products and Hobart is such a strong technical organization that the whole process was very smooth and efficient."
After extensive market research and strategic planning, Hobart chose to introduce the Microban technology to its retail customers through one of its most popular products -- the Hobart 2000-Series Slicer.
"We chose the 2000-Series Slicer because it is a signature item for us that is the most highly recognized among our customers," said Chris Baron, Hobart's general manager of food machines. "But, we are also currently poised to incorporate Microban protection into other products, too, based on the reactions we get from our customers to the new technology."
In preparing for the partnership, the commercial food-equipment manufacturer conducted a series of focus groups that indicated that the company's customers are definitely interested in the additional protection and that they are willing to pay slightly more for it.
"Cleanliness and the prevention of food-borne illness have always been at the forefront of our concerns at Hobart and now, more than just eliminating unnecessary cracks and crevices from our equipment, we can also offer our customers the latest in antimicrobial technology," Baron said.
He added that every additional preventative measure taken by retailers to prevent food-borne illness can also be seen as an enhanced level of quality they are providing to their own customers.
"Having Microban protection incorporated into food equipment should be an indication to health departments that [operators] are working hard to ensure cleanliness," he said.