“The company needed a more efficient way to produce sweetened fruit flakes," said Michael Kaiser, sales manager, Lindor Germany.
“The caramelised flakes proved to be a popular product, but the caramelisation process was very labour-intensive and time-consuming.
Lindor designed the machine so that a nozzle at the inlet sprays sugar over the flakes and as the mixer rotates, the flakes are sprayed from all sides, giving them a perfect coating.
After applying the coating, warm recycled air is blown into the mixer and the moisture released during the drying cycle, escapes via the vent on the inlet side.
Once the moisture has been expelled, the air temperature is raised and the flakes are roasted, to achieve a golden brown caramel layer.
According to Kaiser, over the years the company noted its mixers are a great platform for doing more than simply mixing.
“Before long, a customer asked us whether it would be possible to spray liquid onto the product during the mixing process. And, some time later, another customer asked if we could dry the contents," he said.
"Over time, what began life as a mixer, has crystallised into a versatile processing machine.”
Lindor mixers are usually part of a processing line, but in this case the machine covers the entire process.
Operators empty bags of flakes into the mixer. The mixer then completes the program, and, an hour later, the caramelised flakes flow out.
"In the past, you not only needed a mixer to do this, but also a conveyor belt with spray tunnel, and finally an oven to complete the process. So now the customer is saving a lot of money, space, and time, and is able to achieve a better end result," added Kaiser.
The most challenging aspect of the, according to Kaiser, was the delicacy of the flakes and the time needed to roast them properly.
“A batch is in the drum for over an hour. We don't want it to emerge as powder. The tests immediately showed that the flakes, even after a long run, all came out intact. That demonstrates how gentle the mixer is,” he said.
Other challenges included: ‘How fast should the speed of the mixer be during homogenization’, ‘How fast during the coating process’ and ‘how fast while drying and roasting’.
The customer visited Lindor several times to test the product in a laboratory environment. The results from the lab mixers are scalable to the larger mixers.
"The interaction with the customer is very important. They have most knowledge of their product and the process, and we have the expertise regarding our machines and the associated processes,” added Kaiser.