Markus Bartels of WALTER speaks to Kennedy’s Confection Editor Kiran Grewal, of the new product development being made at the company and even further advancements in digitalisation.

WALTER’s history began in 1935 when its founder, Hellmuth Walter, created the company. He was a passionate inventor and developed the thermodynamic drive which was named after him. In the early 1950s WALTER started to construct and build wafer cone machines which turned out to be a very successful market and the company decided to specialise in this field and put their primary focus into the development of speed and capacities of sugar cone machinery. For example, in 1988 the JUPITER 121 had a capacity of 7,240 wafers per hour and it was considered as the fastest wafer baking machine in the world. Today, WALTER’s JUPITER machines have a capacity up to 20,000 wafers per hour.  

‘The WALTER philosophy of today originated in this long history and the inventive talent of our founder. Technological leadership is our standard and as a family-owned business we attach great importance to distinctly flat hierarchies and a team-oriented, collaborative work atmosphere allow a high level of innovation and flexibility,” says Markus Bartels, General Manager for Sales and Marketing at WALTER. 
 
Wafer products are extremely popular in the global snacking market, and WALTER has seen how the pandemic has made treats and indulgence more important than ever and the snacks category can capitalise on this. As a result, continued diversification and premiumisation of products and flavours is anticipated.  
With that in mind, WALTER has developed its first machine to produce deep cups with a sugar wafer recipe. “A machine to fold sugar wafers into a cup shape has not been possible up until now, so this is one really outstanding development we have made and we are excited to introduce this to the market,” said Markus. 

Folded Wafer Cup by WALTER


Digitalisation 

WALTER also places great prominence on digitalisation as well as machinery and has made some notable advancements in this area too. Markus says: “Digital machine management and digital services solutions are clearly on the way to becoming the new standard in the machine industry. As part of this revolution WALTER developed a range of digital services since they value a close cooperation with customers highly.” The goal being to offer an overarching support to their customers worldwide. 

The new WALTER Smart Services App (available for both Android and iOS) with voice translation and other features has “already proved its worth,” Markus nods. Due to the difficulties for travelling during the pandemic, machine installations could not be carried out on site, but with the help of the new app and very dedicated staff both at WALTER and the customers’, the company managed to successfully install machines remotely. 

WALTER is now also offering an OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) solution for improved and digitalised overview of the effectiveness of the machinery, helping managers optimise their processes and productivity. An OPC UA interface transfers process data and helps to evaluate it. On top of this WALTER’s new electronic spare part catalogue will ease part identification and inquiries. Customers can easily search spare parts on a graphic model where they get a 360° view of every detail.  

And as if that wasn’t enough, WALTER has even opened a client portal named MyWALTER for 24/7 access to documents like manuals and project files as well as to troubleshooting tutorials. “Even years after the installation of a machine customers will be able to find the whole documentation all in one place,” explains Markus. 

Meeting global trends 

Wafer products are so popular because of the combination of the crispy wafer with a sweet cream. The fresh crunchy bite in the beginning, the fusion of textures and the delicious taste of the cream. So, what new trends are there in this field, and how is WALTER meeting them? 

“Lately we have noticed a huge interest in wafer products combined with chocolate. Of course, there are many products with flat wafers inside of chocolate bars being enrobed with chocolate. But the new trend is the other way around: wafer outside and chocolate or cream inside. This is interesting for us since our MARS series is perfect for chocolate bars with moulded wafers outside as they bake the wafer shells in individual cavities instead of being punched out of a big hollow wafer sheet,” says Markus. 

In the last few years, the company has used its specialised knowledge of wafer baking and technology in this field to enter new markets for snack machines and moulded Monaka wafers. A traditional product in Japan, Korea and China, Monaka wafers are normally filled with a sweet paste but new fillings like cream, aerated chocolate and ice cream helped the product to become even more popular. 

“The idea to design a MARS machine was a result of the increasing demand of Monaka products in the Asian markets. Therefore, we designed and built high speed MARS machines with capacities of up to 20,000 baked moulded wafers per hour,” explains Markus.  
The benefit of using the MARS machine is customers are able to develop their own unique product from the customisation it offers. “The shape of Monaka wafers can be very individual,” Markus affirms. “Flowers, panda bears, fish, nut shells or other highly decorated patterns are possible,” he laughs. 

Monaka fish wafer by WALTER


 
Of course, this type of product might not be so popular in all regions, so how does WALTER deal with regional trends? “Yes, there are different products in different regions. We observe the markets and if we spot a certain product trend or need of equipment, we start to find a solution,” Markus says. 
The WALTER machine portfolio reflects this. Besides ice cream cone machines and Monaka wafers, the company also offer machines for folded cups which is popular in Russian markets or machines for wafer cups, which they say is very popular in the US. 

However even WALTER has seen a crossover lately, which proves the fact consumers across the globe are looking for new experiences. “It is very interesting to see that some customers successfully introduce the products from other regions to their own markets. We were surprised ourselves about the popularity of the Asian Monaka products now in countries like Iraq. Regarding the equipment, we can provide individual solutions due to our modular system. It allows us to easily create customised solutions without having to redesign everything. As a result, nearly every machine is unique and there are many options for customers to choose.” 

He adds: “Technology is very important for our machinery since we deliver high speed baking machines which require highest demands to the used material. Our fastest machines produce more than five wafer sheets per second, which leave the oven and wait to get their conic shape. All components have to work perfectly together – very fast and precisely. At the end, the wafer products have to be perfect.”  
 
Flexibility of machinery has become a huge factor for customers too, and Markus says they are looking to produce several wafer products with one machine. “Thanks to our technology and our customised approach we can offer these solutions,” he says. 

A personalised service at WALTER HQ 

WALTER prefer close contact with their customers and endeavour to meet the individual needs of every single one of them, big or small. “For us it is very important to accompany a project right from the beginning, starting with product ideas. Our batter technologist supports our customers with the development of new recipes and testing new ideas,” Markus says.  
“We have a technology centre here in Kiel where they can use testing ovens and equipment for batter mixing and wafer quality control. When it comes to designing of the machine, we work together very closely with our customers to tailor them the perfect machine configuration. Depending on their factory premises there are many different configurations possible. For example, can they choose between a tower for cooling the wafers or a cooling belt.” 

All machines are constructed and tested in their headquarters, which is also in Kiel. “For us it is a huge advantage to have all divisions here in Kiel since we can react very quickly. WALTER can concentrate all know-how in one place. The technicians know the machine right from the beginning which makes the installation time quite short. After installing the baking machine, the responsible production personnel are trained by the technician until they can operate the machine confidently and independently.”  

Markus says they go the extra mile to ensure their machinery are as sustainable as possible. “We focus on reduced gas consumption and alternative heating. As the leading supplier in this technology our heating systems are constantly state-of-the-art. Recently we even launched a retrofit for older machines minimising gas consumption,” he explains. 

Aside from the machines, the team are constantly thinking of sustainable developments in their daily work at WALTER. Last year WALTER doubled its production floor and installed photovoltaic panels on the roof. “In our workshop our staff uses screens to show drawings and guides when assembling machines, reducing paper consumption significantly. Moreover, the premises of WALTER are the home of 360,000 bees which are kept by the company owner Andreas A. Eule – our WALTER honey is very popular with our customers!” 

The WALTER team will be making every effort to be present at events this year, promising to attend seven shows across the globe. We were an exhibitor at ProSweets to promote our confectionery and snack products. The next fair will be the SIGEP in Rimini in March and Anuga Food Tec in Cologne in April focusing the ice cream market and in July the Snackex in Hamburg will cover our snack market. We are happy to meet our customers and potential ones in person again.” 

Editorial contact:
Editor: Kiran Grewal kgrewal@kennedys.co.uk