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It is a daunting task to feed over 7 billion people worldwide, every day. A large part of this supply is given by a complex network of trusted and reliable food producers who ensure the safety of the food products we eat every day, and snack food manufacturers are one of the largest sub-categories of this network.
Producers of snack foods such as corn and tortilla chips, potato chips and crisps, crackers, puffed products, cookies, and more are challenged continuously by fluctuating quality and costs of raw ingredients.
To meet these challenges, snack food companies are heavily reliant on the ability to monitor the production process and raw ingredients to ensure a consistent, safe, product experience for the consumer. The monitoring required to meet the product consistency, food quality and food safety standards that consumers expect requires repeatable and reliable technology that supplies proven results year after year.
Process Sensors Corporation® (PSC) has supplied reliable and accurate near-infrared (NIR) analyzers to snack food processors, permitting better quality control and cost savings for over two decades.
NIR instrumentation enables repeatable and reliable measurements of moisture, oil, seasonings, and other parameters with no requirement for routine maintenance or calibration. Specially designed enclosures enable PSC instruments to be installed in exceptionally harsh environments.
Measuring Points and Quality Parameters
In snack foods, moisture affects the texture, taste, and shelf life. This measurement is particularly critical for corn- and potato-based products that absorb moisture from the surrounding air and are extremely hygroscopic.
For instance, moisture can adversely impact shelf life by 45%, which is why PSC near-infrared (NIR) sensors such as the MCT466-SF or the heavy-duty, IP69-rated MCT469-SF are often placed on the line shortly after the fryer exit to facilitate responsive process control. Before final packaging, the moisture is also measured at the seasoning drum exit to ensure freshness, flavor, and shelf life.
Fat or oil measurements are usually dependent upon the moisture which is displaced in the process. Oil/fat content affects product flavor and is measured by utilizing the same NIR sensor which measures moisture at the fryer exit.
The stainless-steel housing of the sensor and sanitary design is IP69 rated and ensures reliable online operation and washdown compatibility.
For fast, accurate and reliable samples testing, the QuikCheck NIR benchtop analyzer may also be utilized either in the laboratory or at-line while the QuikTest analyzer is a look-up benchtop version that is perfect for ground samples with inclusions (i.e, chocolate chip cookies).
Value and Quality
Most manufacturers do not only produce one type of snack food and in addition, incoming raw ingredients can also vary widely in moisture content and composition. Production systems need to be able to recognize and adjust for these variations.
To remove the proper amount of moisture and produce high quality and consistent snacks, the measurement of moisture and oil at the fryer exit with a NIR sensor from Process Sensors can be connected to a plant PLC via a data bus which enables the automatic adjustment of belt speed or fryer temperature.
Along with improving the product quality, this control minimizes the energy and cooking oil used, optimizing efficiency, and saving the producer money. A consistent product quality before packaging is ensured by further analysis of the product after seasoning with an MCT online sensor or PSC benchtop instrument.
This monitoring will extend shelf life and make sure that the final product adheres to the nutritional label specifications on the package, in addition to meeting the expectation of the consumer for a consistent product.
The PSC Advantage
Process Sensors has sales and support offices around the globe to help on projects from initial scope and estimation of potential ROI to installation and integration of a system with responsive support after the sale.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Process Sensors Corporation.
For more information on this source, please visit Process Sensors Corporation.