Industry debate: Is the fryer market flying or dying?

Lincat fryers

Fryers have traditionally been a mainstay of the commercial kitchen and developments in the technology over recent years have led to some serious advances in the way they cook. But they face strong competition from other methods of cooking, as well as opposition from healthy food campaigners that frown upon fried food. So where is it all going to end up? To find the answer to this question, FEJ got in touch with some of the biggest names in the business.

What are the top fryer trends that you see shaping the UK market at this point in time?

Michael Eyre, product director, Jestic: One of the biggest trends we are seeing in the fryer market is the push for excellence across the board — a chef-led demand for a better quality fryer, which in turn produces food to a more consistent standard and, therefore, taste. This requirement for enhanced quality has resulted in the rapid development of new technology and features, including appliances with low oil volume and devices to extend oil life. It is well-known that frying in clean oil is healthier, therefore we have also seen more and more fryers launching into the market that feature automatic filtration as standard.

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Shaune Hall, product development chef, Falcon: Caterers are looking for equipment that maximises the space available. Whatever the size, the kitchen still needs to have the capacity to produce quality food in large quantities. This means they need the same features and performance that would be found in standard-sized appliances, but in a compact version. In terms of design, this trend has prompted manufacturers to think smarter by looking at ways to increase the efficiency of the products, within a smaller footprint. Other trends include a demand for features such as built-in filtration and re-fill facility, fast heat-up and rapid recovery, and twin tank, two-basket options to cope with allergens and dietary requirements.

Steve Hemsil, national sales manager, Manitowoc: It is about evolution rather than revolution. There have been many significant developments in recent years with conserving oil and improved filtration, which not only improves the flavour but also the quality of the products being fried. We are still seeing many customers invest in quality fryers and frying suites, with an increase in customers willing to invest in fryers that will produce higher quality fried products. For example, many of our casual dining customers, as well as customers in other sectors, are looking to provide their customers with products such as triple-cooked chips and, in order to achieve the premium quality required, establishments need to invest in a high quality fryer. This is certainly something that I can see continuing to develop in the coming years.

The exponential growth of flexible forms of cooking equipment, such as combi ovens and multifunctional cooking appliances, suggests that fryers could find their place within the kitchen equipment estate challenged. What are your views on this?

Steve Elliott, national sales manager, Valentine: We have not seen a sharp decrease in the demand for fryers; most of our multi-site operators do use flexible equipment like combi ovens but we find that most kitchens use a fryer in addition for certain cooking processes, such as cooking chips. Also, with other items, they can only be used optimally for one cooking process at a time and chefs need a variety of equipment to ensure that all components on a plate of food arrive there in their best condition and at the correct time for service. In summary, there’s a place for most equipment, including fryers, in the modern kitchen.

Helen Applewhite, marketing manager, Lincat: Although multifunctional equipment, such as combi ovens, can carry out multiple cooking tasks, the frying process and the subsequent crisp and taste cannot be replicated. So for now, fryers are certainly keeping their place in the kitchen.

Our local hotel replaced all their fryers with combi ovens. Within six months the ovens were removed and the fryers replaced as they halved their trade in food and lost 40% of their regular guests”

Kenny Smith, sales director, Middleby UK: We have never seen a fall away in sales of fryers but we have experienced combi ovens replacing fryers. This happened in our local hotel as the group replaced all their fryers. Within six months the ovens were removed and the fryers replaced as they halved their trade in food and lost 40% of their regular hotel guests. I believe the same experience happened at a major pub chain, which goes to show that people prefer fried food.

Stuart Flint, training and demonstration manager, Electrolux Professional: It’s true that modern combi ovens are multi-functional and can perform a variety of cooking processes, from roasting and steaming through to slow-cooking, poaching and of course, frying. However, I wouldn’t say that the new wave of versatile combis spells the end for fryers in the kitchen. Many establishments will use their fryer day-in day-out, and it just would not be feasible to replace them completely with a combi oven. A combi oven’s versatility is designed to offer some relief or extra flexibility to kitchens with limited footprints, or to save on buying the equipment if one of the functions is only used fleetingly. In short, if an outlet is frying regularly then it makes sense to make use of a designated fryer. If frying is only minimal, then a combi could be sufficient, as long as there is sufficient oven capacity elsewhere.

The opposition to fried food and the campaigns around this are well-documented. Where does this leave the fryer market if restaurants are becoming less inclined to fry food in the way that they used to?

Kenny Smith, Middleby: There is no doubt that there is an opposition to fried food, but in our experience it’s mainly in public sector. In the private sector, burger chains and high-class steak restaurants are growing and both accompany their products with chips or fries. Most people do not fry at home so they see buying a fried product as a treat when they are out.

Helen Applewhite, Lincat: We have seen the demise of fryers in schools, but this hasn’t followed into the wider foodservice industry. The majority of restaurants still offer some fried food, and there’s a greater understanding that it can be eaten as part of a healthy diet, which is why people are beginning to adopt healthier frying methods. The traditional way to cook chips, for example, would be to blanch them in the fryer at the relatively low temperature of 160°C, before chilling them down and storing them until needed. Then the chips would be fried again at a higher temperature prior to service. Many chefs are now choosing to steam their chips prior to frying. This allows the chips to be fried just once, in hotter oil. This reduces the quantity of oil which is absorbed by the potato and therefore produces a healthier, less fatty chip. The evidence that we see from the operators suggests that their customers demand a balanced menu with some non-fried options. If people want a fried food choice, it needs to be of the best quality and cooked so that the ingress of oil into the food is minimised.

Stuart Flint, Electrolux Professional: Fried food doesn’t necessarily have to be unhealthy, and we’re seeing many chefs make the switch to healthier oils as outlets become increasingly conscious of what their customers are eating. Rapeseed oil, for example, contains omegas 3, 6 and 9, essential fatty acids known to reduce cholesterol and maintain heart health, joint mobility and brain function. It is also one of the few unblended oils that can be heated to deep-frying temperature without its antioxidants, character, colour and flavour spoiling — making it a viable alternative for caterers looking to keep up with an increasingly health-conscious society. Whichever oil is chosen, however, I think the main point is for quick service outlets to offer a number of different options which will see them cater for a variety of needs.


Are there any significant generational shifts in fryer technology, design or operation ahead?

Steve Elliott, Valentine: With regard to temperature accuracy and recovery we see the increased use of sophisticated electronics to control recovery, temperature and optimise energy efficiency.

Steve Hemsil, Manitowoc: The fryer market will continue to evolve with even greater filtration and oil conservation, but one of the areas in which fryers lag behind other prime cooking equipment is in their operation. I think that this is potentially one of the areas that will see the greatest change over the next five years.

Michael Eyre, Jestic: The fryer market is huge and we are predicting continued growth in the sector for many years to come. Having recently visited the Henny Penny factory in the USA, I can honestly say that R&D into open fryer technology is staggering and top of the company’s agenda. We’re expecting to see development in controllers, built-in oil testers, improved tank washing during filter cycles and improved fryer tank design to mention just a few. We strongly believe that the fryer doesn’t have to be the dirty, smelly thing in the corner of a kitchen that nobody wants to clean, and thanks to the evolution of safer and easier to operate low oil volume self-filtering fryers this is far from the case.

Shaune Hall, Falcon: Manufacturers are continuing to improve the energy efficiency, speed, size, aesthetics and running costs of fryers. There is always room for improvement, innovation and economical benefit to meet the demands of the end-user. Perhaps in future we will see models delivering the same benefits as induction cooking, but in deep-fryer format. In-built filtration systems have become more popular. These maintain the integrity and quality of the oil for longer — saving money and staff time, while ensuring the fried food tastes its best.

Improved oil quality delivers business benefits

Oil quality is an intrinsic part of commercial fryer operation and one company playing a starring role in this is Vito, the oil filtration specialist that recently enhanced its portfolio with the first ever launch of the XS compact system.
It has been a big year for Vito in the UK, with hotel giants Marriott and Radisson both calling on its expertise to improve their frying capabilities. Both deals were initiated at Vito’s HQ in Germany, with roll-outs taking place locally.

Kim Addison, director of Vito UK, says that in the case of Marriott, the system was purchased based on its hotels seeing an improvement in the quality of fried food and a reduction in carbon footprint as a result of needing less storage for oil and the lower maintenance of fryers.

“Of course, there is the bolt-on money savings, but it was more the quality and green credentials that Marriott Hotels were keen to implement,” she says. A bulk roll-out of 40 machines has gone into Marriott properties this year, complementing the existing 10 it purchased initially.

The agreement with Marriott comes as Vito continues to increase its offering with the revolutionary XS system. Managing director, Rob Frank, a design engineer for much of his life, was heavily involved in its design and he explains: “We set out to have a machine that could filter the oil or fat in no longer than four to eight minutes (depending on size of tank) by vacuuming the oil out of the fryers through a top-mounted, 100% biodegradable filter paper and pumping back into the fryer in the same timeframe set out. Cleaning the unit only involves wiping down the outside and washing the filter frame.”

The net result is a machine that is safer to use as no hot parts have to be removed or repositioned before filtering the next frying tank, insists Frank.

Tags : catering equipmentElectroluxFalconFryersJesticLincatManitowocMiddlebyValentineVito
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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