How analytical tools are enhancing the future of baking and snack production
By applying analytical tools to monitor compositional and functional variables, the industry can improve the manufacture of bakery and snack products that are safe, meet nutritional desires, and ultimately satisfy consumers.
Incoming material testing
It is important to know the ingredients in your supply chain well: What are the required characteristics? How variable are they? How will this affect their performance in processing?
Flour is a prime example of an ingredient that has nutritional and functional requirements. It may be perfectly suitable for bread baking but could be a poor choice for cookies. Characteristics such as protein content, hydration and mixing time are critical pieces of information for bakers – and easily analysed with analytical tools such as the PerkinElmer IM 920 NIR and the doughLAB.
The IM 9520 can analyse flour in 30 seconds for moisture, protein and ash content. Perkin Elmer has a patented Torque Alignment system for the doughLAB rheometer that follows standard AACC/RACI/ICC dough rheology methods.
Historically, other devices on the market read independently of each other and have for decades provided confusing results. Torque alignment is a major step forward in flour rheological testing and ensures that multiple instruments at multiple facilities will produce similar test results.
Extruded snacks present different functional requirements. The Rapid Visco Analyser (RVA) measures cooking characteristics – among others – and is used to create new formulations with new ingredients/suppliers and for routine screening.
This upfront testing can significantly reduce process issues, line-shutdowns, and waste in all its forms.
Process monitoring helps detect issues sooner. There is nothing worse than finding product issues after the fact, even worse, once they have been packaged. Here, near-infrared (NIR) tools like PerkinElmer’s DA 7440 on-line and DA 7350 in-line NIR instruments and software have become essential tools. The instruments can be connected to production control systems for manual or even automatic control via PLCs. For example, they can be used to optimise oven or dryer residence times.
The goals are to spot process deviations sooner thereby reducing re-work, waste, and energy.
Final quality check
While final product QC for baked goods and snacks is much about the consumer sensory experience, analytical technologies play vital roles – particularly around safety. For example, globally, there are rigorous yet variable limits for allergenic ingredients.
To meet the strict demands of the industry and safeguard consumers, there has been a shift towards the use of LC/MS/MS instruments, such as PerkinElmer’s QSight 220 Liquid Chromatography Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer. This technology allows processors to simultaneously quantify several allergens in a single run, including the identification of milk and egg allergens in baked goods. The same instrument can also be used to test for mycotoxins and pesticides thereby increasing lab throughput and efficiency
Looking to the (near) future
For both established and rapidly growing food companies, scaling-up successful production processes can become a major pain point. Additionally, as processors look to include novel and alternative ingredients, they may find that they do not hold the in-house expertise needed to ensure consistent production throughout the scaling process.
To optimise scale-up, understanding the novel functional and performance properties of ingredients is crucial. Utilising fit-for-purpose rheological analysis tools designed to combat the unique complexities of food testing producers can greatly accelerate product design and reduce production costs.
Many solutions are available to help bakery processors overcome the challenges to help meet quality and safety testing needs, but it can often be confusing to choose the right tool for the analytical job.
It is therefore helpful to work with a dedicated instrument and expertise provider who understands the importance of working with the industry to ensure that analytical technologies support processors in their goal of developing and manufacturing high-quality goods that meet consumer expectations.
As the industry continues to evolve into the future of food, stronger and more comprehensive specifications and increased regulations come to the fore, ingredient screening and in-process monitoring will become an essential consideration when developing new food products and approaches – while ensuring consistency, speed and efficacy as well as reduced waste all go hand-in-hand.