Research and Technical Services completed numerous projects for clients and provided services to major industry customers during 2012. The department offers a variety of services, including ingredient evaluation, product formulation and development, troubleshooting process and quality issues, shelf life performance studies, food labeling, and scale-up services.
“We have the technology and the personnel to provide the fast, convenient, and accurate results that clients demand from third party resources,” said Brian Strouts, head of research and technical services. “Companies know they can depend on us for accurate, objective assessments of their ingredients, formulas, and finished products, and for all of their scale-up needs.”
An ongoing quality control program for a popular quick-serve restaurant was a major part of research during 2012. Research and technical staff tested anywhere from 60 to 414 hamburger buns per day for height, diameter, texture, and other characteristics. Bryan Glaser, senior manager for analytical services, worked on the project.
“It’s always interesting to see how a bakery, with a team effort from their personnel, can use the scores provided by AIB to improve their product quality,” Mr. Glaser said. “Product failures prompt a corrective action response as well as intensified sampling of product from the restaurant or restaurants that the particular bakery supplies. The end result is a more satisfied restaurant customer, which is good for the baking industry as a whole.”
When product testing is completed, scores from each box of product received that day are then emailed to the client, along with weekly and bi-weekly reports. Richard Dempster, Ph.D., director of product and technological development, created a dashboard that allows the client and supplying bakeries to view all of their past and current scores, and includes photos of each product.
Another project conducted for a major national client involved extensive testing to determine the cause of — and solution to — a problem with ingredient inconsistency.
“Using near-infrared technology, we are attempting to develop a rapid test method that would focus on protein quality as related to performance of egg whites in angel food cake,” Mr. Strouts said. “Such a method would give egg producers confidence that their product will perform as expected for their customers.”
Food Labeling services provide Food and Drug Administration-sanctioned nutrition labeling services for all aspects of the food production industry. Originally created as a service to the baking industry, the food labeling department now provides nutrient information for all F.D.A.-regulated food products and ingredients.
At the end of 2012, food labeling had nearly 37,000 ingredients in its database, and had processed more than 85,000 formulas (cumulative since 1993).
“We are close to rolling out a new computer program for the development of labeling information,” said Elaine Meloan, director of food labeling. “I am currently working with the programmers to fine-tune the program.”
A major restaurant chain contracted with food labeling to review nutrition and ingredient information for food items being supplied to the restaurants. The manufacturers were responsible for providing the information, but the restaurant company requested third-party confirmation that the products were meeting their criteria.
“Demand for Canadian food labeling services increased as more companies are branching out and having their U.S. food product labels adapted for Canadian markets,” Ms. Meloan said. “Our seminar enrollments remain strong, with 86 people enrolling in two basic labeling training courses.”
Technical bulletins dedicated to fundamental baking skills and ingredients were created to target new employees and provide continuing education for those who are changing careers within the industry. Topics include primary and secondary ingredients, dough processing, cake ingredients, and cake processing. Additional technical bulletins on a variety of food safety, facility security, and baking topics were prepared for release in 2013.
Requests for gluten-free testing also saw an uptick in the past year.
“We see more and more manufacturers confirming their gluten-free claim in part by sending product samples to AIB for gluten allergen testing,” Mr. Glaser said. “As consumer preferences drive the demand for increased gluten-free baked products, more manufacturers are seeking impartial, third-party testing to confirm that their products comply with gluten-free standards.”