Sovereign Foods expands portfolio

A two-phase upgrade: ‘mechanization’ and automation


Sovereign Foods, located in Uitenhage, South Africa, is a large, vertically integrated poultry processing company that has been growing strongly in recent years. The state-of-the-art processing plant, with a high capacity of 12,000 bph (200 bpm) and equipped with Marel technology, has been updated and upgraded over the last few years.

Starting points of the Sovereign Foods ‘automation project’ were process optimization, better logistic solutions, less giveaway and higher product quality. In phase one, the focus was on improving product logistics and reducing operational costs.

The entire project was prepared during normal production. It was a big challenge to accomplish all changes with minimum production downtime. Now that phase one is done, results are evident.

Automatic cut-up

Before entering the cut-up department, whole products are weighed and graded – grading includes the seven anatomic parts –, based on weight and all different quality aspects.

The aim is to put every product into its most profitable form. High yield, profitable cuts are then produced on the various modules of the two ACM-NT cut-up systems.

Improved product logistics

In the new setup, products are sorted automatically in-line on four grading lines and automatically brought to the next process steps via a system of conveyor belts. Such a next step can be packing, marinating, injecting or even a further process such as cooking.


Sovereign Foods wanted to open up new product possibilities. They opted for a ModularOven system from Marel Further Processing. This is the biggest oven system for high capacity steaming, cooking and/or roasting. The ModularOven enables Sovereign to produce large quantities of a wide variety of perfectly cooked products.

A stable, efficient process

The result of the first ‘mechanization’ phase is a stable, efficient process with improved product logistics and higher product safety, as there is less hand to product contact. Automated internal transport systems ensure a continuous flow of products, reducing disturbing movements with loose crates.

With the automated cut-up and cooking of the products, Sovereign Foods successfully expanded its product portfolio.

Innova controlled breast deboning

Phase two of the update project includes the automation of breast deboning on two AMF systems. The systems produce a wide variety of high yield, top quality fillet products, suitable for wholesale and for the demanding retail and food service markets. The new lines are completely controlled by Innova software.

The unique level of software-controlled automation in the new filleting line sets new standards. All of this results in very high yield and a very efficient process with optimal uptime.

Bone-free products

To ensure bone free products and increase value and safety, Sovereign Foods went with a SensorX system, which has a rework mechanism that guarantees X-ray re-inspection of contaminated fillets and can handle the product stream from two AMF filleting lines. Operating screens highlight the contaminants for easy removal.

Multihead Weighers

Sovereign Foods also decided to go ahead with five Marel Multihead Weighers. After X-ray inspection, fillets can be either calibrated on a SmartLine Grader or batched into fixed weight packs using a Multihead Weigher for fresh products.

The four other Multihead Weighers will be handling a mix of fixed-weight IQF products like wings, breast portions, thighs and drums. The installation of this equipment means a significant reduction in labor costs for the company, as well as freed-up floor space.


Sovereign Foods also purchased two MCheck2 Checkweighers to monitor and optimize the accuracy of the process equipment and remove off-weight packs from the product flow. Innova Checkweighing software provides real-time monitoring and data collection.

Making complex processes transparent

As the plant became more complex, Sovereign Foods needed a system to oversee various processes. By installing modular Innova software, the company acquired this overview.

Data is gathered and presented in user-friendly charts and dashboards, enabling production management to oversee, plan and customize production most efficiently. The system enables full registration and traceability of all production. The Innova system makes for optimum production processes, breast filleting operations being a prime example.

About Sovereign Foods

Sovereign Foods markets a wide variety of affordable, high-quality frozen, fresh and cooked poultry products. The retail brands Country Range, Farmer’s Lane and Rocklands are names well known to the South African consumer.


Sovereign Foods People

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