Solmaz Foods is one of the largest halal meat processors in Canada, supplying more than 75 different products to Canadian retail outlets and restaurants, as well as distributors like Sysco and Gordon Food Service. The company specializes in Turkish-style meats like sujuk sausage, but also manufactures top-selling items such as halal pepperoni, deli cuts, and Montreal-style turkey breast, processing about 135,000 lb of meat each month.
While the scope of Solmaz’s operation is broad, the company started small as a butcher shop east of downtown Toronto in 2001, run by Tahsin Solmaz, and his son, Mehmet. As that storefront business grew, Mehmet branched the company out into wholesale supply, and learned there was a strong demand for processed halal meats in the Canadian market. The company eventually opened a 4,000-sq-ft processing facility to increase production and help satisfy that demand. The company expanded again in 2016, moving to a 20,000-sq-ft plant west of downtown Toronto in suburban Etobicoke, currently equipped with two processing lines and four packaging lines.
When Solmaz Foods opened the plant, it had metal detectors from Fortress Technology on the packaging line. But by 2021, the ever-increasing volume of production by 2021 necessitated adding a Fortress Stealth Pipeline metal detector inline before meat is stuffed into casing, cooked, smoked, sliced, and eventually packaged.
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“Now we have a control where we can identify if a product has any metal pieces or other materials inside earlier in our production,” says Mehmet Solmaz, president of Solmaz Foods. “That gives us better control and peace of mind that our products are safe.”
Aside from improved food safety upstream, adding the Stealth Pipeline has reduced costs across the board by 50%, according to Solmaz. “That 50% is basically combined time and labor savings, plus risk reduction,” he says. “Before, we would be slicing our products and might find some material in the meat, which meant we had to throw the whole batch out. Our inline detector eliminates a lot of waste because the moment this system detects any material in the meat, it automatically discharges that part of the batch, and we can still process the rest of it. So, this gives us two control systems in place where before we only had one on the packaging line.”
The market for metal detection systems is extremely competitive, so Solmaz Foods had many options when looking to add that equipment to its operation. It chose Toronto-based Fortress not just for the inline detector, but also the three detectors located on the packaging lines too.
“Fortress has a lot of experience in the food business with many global brands as well as local players in Canada like us,” Solmaz explains. “That gives us a comfort zone. We know they have the experience and experts in place that have faced similar situations that we face in our operation.” The learning curve to use the machines was made easier by Fortress technicians not only showing Solmaz Foods staff how to operate the equipment, but explaining how the machines can best be used in specific detection scenarios during production, he adds.
There might be a need to add more Fortress detectors in the future. Solmaz Foods is in the process of completing the regulatory steps to be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which would allow the company to expand its distribution into the U.S., growing Solmaz Foods further. The company expects that to happen later this year.
For now, Solmaz Foods has laid a food safety foundation in its plant with four Fortress detectors, which the halal meat processor considers essential equipment.
“If we didn’t have these machines, it wouldn’t really matter what our production schedule is,” Solmaz says. “We would be getting tons of food safety questions from our regulatory control inspectors about whether we have the right safeguards in place. We now have peace of mind that we can make a certain amount of product, and whatever wasn’t discharged by the detectors is safe.”