In 2002, YoFarm decided that its packaging process needed to be upgraded, both to keep up with growing production demands and to improve efficiency at the plant.

The crunchy toppings in YoCrunch are packaged in secondary dome packaging on top of each cup. Until recently they were filled by hand.
YoFarm, based in Naugatuck, Conn., the makers of the unique yogurt and crunchy treats combo snacks, YoCrunch, have been producing smooth, healthy treats for decades. In 2002, YoFarm decided that its packaging process needed to be upgraded, both to keep up with growing production demands and to improve efficiency at the plant. YoFarm decided that it needed to automate the transfer of the crunchy ingredients in its YoCrunch snack with a new vacuum conveyor system from Hingham, Mass.-based PIAB Inc.

Founded in 1984, YoFarm is an innovator in the food industry, both in terms of its product and its product processing and packaging. In 1985, YoFarm pioneered the ready-to-eat dessert/snack category with its single-serving Jelly Cup.

The company created a new yogurt category in 1991 with the introduction of the first yogurt/granola topping combo pack. This exciting new treat, called YoCrunch, combined the company's mild yogurt in a low-fat form with an accompanying packet of granola as a single-serve offering. Extremely well received by both the public and the industry, YoCrunch earned "Best New Products - Dairy" and "Best Packaging - Dairy" awards at the Eastern Dairy, Deli and Bakery Taste Show in 1992. The company has since added variations to the YoCrunch line, with a chocolate crunch topping in 1994, a Cookie n' Cream product with Oreo® cookies in 1998, and a Strawberry YoCrunch with Nestle® Crunch pieces in 2003.

To improve operations and productivity, YoFarm decided to specifically automate the process of transferring the dry YoCrunch ingredients from 2000 lb. totes into the "domes," or the plastic containers that sit atop the yogurt cup.

For years, this had been a time-consuming, labor-intensive manual operation. The operator would be responsible for monitoring the right quantities using the cup as a guide.

In its quest to find a safer and more efficient transfer system, YoFarm turned to PIAB, a world leader in industrial vacuum conveying technology, to purchase a USDA and FDA-approved vacuum conveyor system.

According to YoFarm Plant Engineer, Peter Riebe, "Production capacity has increased by more than 40% over the last few years. We needed a transfer system that could keep up with increased productivity and make us more competitive and profitable, while reducing the physical strain on our employees. PIAB's C-33 conveyors had everything we were looking for in terms of functionality, hygienic safety, and quality."

PIAB's C-series of conveyors are designed to safely and quietly transport up to15 tons per hour of powders, granules and food in virtually any manufacturing environment. Made of stainless steel, these conveyors meet all the standards for hygienic safety and are corrosion-resistant and easy to clean.

Riebe comments, "Another benefit we received by choosing to work with PIAB was the ability to test the flow of the products under real conditions at PIAB's testing lab."

PIAB offers the use of its test facility in Hingham to all potential customers, running a variety of materials to determine conveying characteristics as well as identifying any possible issues.

He adds, "Testing PIAB's product was instrumental to us because we knew that the vacuum conveyor would work with our products before actually purchasing the system."

With two PIAB C-33 vacuum conveyors in place, the packaging process is now entirely hands-free. Measured amounts of dry food are pneumatically transferred to the filler machine, dropped in the "domes", thermally sealed and then mated with a container of yogurt. The machines run around the clock seven days a week, and by reducing the risk of human error, portion control is much more exact.

"The PIAB conveyors have taken the manual labor out of the process," Riebe said. "There is now no risk of employee back strain, as the operators just have to run the machines and monitor the process. They are much happier in their work."

Modular in design, the C-33 vacuum conveyor facilitates fast installation and requires one simple connection to compressed air. It has minimal components, small dimensions and is lightweight.

Riebe concluded, "The C-33 is a very reliable, well-designed and extremely clean system. Our inspectors like the fact that it eliminates almost all risk of contamination."

PIAB Vacuum Conveyors is a global leader in vacuum technology for use in automated material handling and factory automation processes. For more information about PIAB's complete line of conveyors, call 800/321-7422 or visit