The biggest challenge facing granola bar makers is the stickiness and product build-up on packaging lines, but this can be overcome with gentle handling and clever belt timing, says Bosch.
Bosch Packaging Technology has used its patented non-contact in-feed belt to help granola maker Nature’s Path boost production capacity and speed.
“The most crucial part is absolutely the feeding system,” said Klaus Häbig, sales manager for North America at Bosch Packaging Technology.
Getting the feed system right is crucial to avoiding friction - the biggest cause of sticky build up on production belts, Häbig told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“The bars come in rows like soldiers of around 25 and we need them in single file. It’s the orientation of the bars that is important…If you manage to do this in the most sensible way with the least friction, you’re guaranteed the longest run times.”
Gentle handling and timing the belts perfectly so the product is not ‘pushed’ but ‘carried’ is the best solution, he said.
The sticky suspect
Non-baked granola bars are bound with a sticky ingredient like honey or syrup – this gives a desirable chewy, soft texture, Häbig said. However, this is also the culprit ingredient that creates challenges for manufacturers when packaging, he added.
“Especially when you go to the speeds of around 500 bars packaged per minute, that’s a challenging speed for a sticky granola bar, even though for a hard chocolate it’s a medium speed.”
The binding ingredient is never cooled, therefore remains liquid right up to the point of packaging, he said.
“Non-baked bars are typically very sticky, particularly on the bottom as there’s no air – this stickiness challenged the packaging lines,” he said.
This type of time and production loss can have a tremendous impact on business, he added.
Slashing production losses and costs
Reducing the stickiness and product build-up means manufacturers can run lines for longer, improving capacity, Häbig said.
By implementing new lines, Nature’s Path went from packaging a maximum of 350 bars per minute for two hours before the lines needed to be cleaned, to 500 per minute for eight hours.