Snack innovation these days is all about using the newest, healthiest ingredients in the most unique ways. These snacks push the boundaries of flavor profiles and texture, which in turn test the limits of what equipment must do to produce these innovative, healthy snacks.
“The basics are corn, wheat, rice and oats, but these snacks could be made from things like pulses, lentils, beans, chickpeas or ancient grains like quinoa, teff or kamut,” said Michael Shaw, sales manager, North America, snacks and cereals extrusion, Bühler.
These out-of-the-box ingredients bring their own flavors, textures, hydration needs and challenges to the production floor. To handle these alternative snacks, producers look to extruders to turn out the latest in textures, shapes and ingredients.
“We understand how to include higher percentages of these healthier ingredients in the mix and still get the correct texture,” said Vince Pasquini, technical sales engineer, pretzel and snack, Reading Bakery Systems.
Managing the texture with these ingredients requires everything to come into play, he said: the right die and metering design, the correct tooling, the heat being put in the barrel.
“All the usual tools that any high-pressure extruder manufacturer might use — we’re coming at it from the same direction, just learning how to make the blends and how they react and how much flexibility you can have in those products,” he said.
While snack producers can employ several strategies and equipment innovations to make these doughs more consistent, produce more volume and result in a quality finished product, flexibility remains a top concern.
“Much of the innovation in this sector is driven by smaller companies,” said John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser. “Many of the folks we see at our customer center and in their plants have unique ideas that have market appeal to certain segments: organic, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, etc.”
Also, these smaller companies often produce a variety of different snacks in smaller quantities and, therefore, need equipment as nimble as they are at responding to trends.