The process can be used for no-bake granola bars, other grain-based snacks, as well as clusters for ready-to-eat cereal, particularly instant hot cereal like oatmeal. Grains can include oats, maize, rice, barley, sorghum, quinoa and flaxseed, among others.
Cutting costs in granola bar production
For grain-based snacks like granola bars, General Mills said the baking stage is “particularly time-consuming and typically is the rate-limiting step in the process that holds up the whole of the rest of the production line”.
It added that the drying process – often done in an oven – requires a significant amount of energy to dry the adhered components like nuts, dried fruit or cereal as well as large investments for equipment, materials and space.
General Mills also said the baking process can result in uneven toasting – with the outer surface toasted the most.
“It would be desirable to eliminate the need for drying the adhered components in a drying oven. It would be desirable to provide an adhered component with a uniform toasted appearance, which in turn results in a uniform taste of the adhered component,” it said in the patent filing.
Mixing with high heat
In the patent application, General Mills specified that the ingredients should be mixed at high temperatures of 200 degrees F and above. This is to ensure the sweetener remains in liquid form so that the process simply requires conventional mixing equipment.
However, General Mills warned that the temperature should not be excessive otherwise there is a risk the sweetener caramelizes or burns.
Additional ingredients can be added in at any point of the mixing step, General Mills added.
The product is then formed into either a rectangle for snack bars or clusters for cereals.
The method can be used to develop bars and cereals containing sweetener ingredients including brown sugar, honey, aspartame, sucralose, corn syrup. The no-bake product can also contain additional ingredients like nuts, seeds and fruit.
“Although optional ingredients such as nuts, seeds, and fruit are preferred, additional ingredients to enhance the no-bake product can also be added,” General Mills said. These include sodium bicarbonate to impart texture, flavors and colors as well as accelerate toasting and food pieces such as cereal.