Filled bars require different handling to seal off the ends in a way that maintains their product quality and the visual appearance.

Quick to change

To keep up in this highly competitive category, high-volume bar producers make a wide variety of products. Innovation is booming, and a line that’s flexible enough to keep up will help a company remain relevant in this ever-changing landscape.

Quick changeovers are the heart of flexible equipment. Many features that make a piece of equipment simple to clean translates into easy changeovers.

“For processors who are already making extruded products, these innovations help to optimize their processing line by using existing extrusion equipment to create new products,” Mr. Montgomery said, referencing Clextral’s updates to its coextrusion equipment that make them easier to access and clean. “For processors looking for new products, this technology allows them to incorporate new ingredients and functionality in their foods to meet market demands for nutrition and clean labels and stay competitive in markets where innovation is key to success.”

And extrusion is the way to go when it comes to flexible bar systems that can handle the gluten-free, vegan and organic products pervasive in this category, said John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser.

“With multiple changeovers and smaller runs, these do not fit the normal criteria for sheeting and cutting lines,” he said. “These call for extrusion. We built our system around these types of products.”

Baker Perkins’ TruClean Wirecut can be easily changed to make filled bars with the addition of an auxiliary hopper, pump module and separate filler block, which enables the equipment to work with a range of pumpable nut butters, fruit or chocolate pastes.

Bar producers are experimenting with new ingredients and shapes, so equipment needs to support such innovation.

“We’ve seen a big uptick in applications that are not rectangular or square,” Mr. McIsaac said. “Many of our customers are taking advantage of our ability to easily create non-standard shapes such as cylinders or balls.”

He said bar producers can quickly change the Vemag from conventional shapes to cylinders and balls and still expect the same level of weight control and product integrity.

Handtmann focuses its design innovation on improving the flexibility of its bar forming equipment, Mr. Zelaya said. The company’s attention has been on ensuring its machines can handle more inclusions, new ingredients, smaller sizes and new shapes. The servo-driven multiple blade system on Handtmann’s new FS 521 forming system enables the production of different 3-D shapes. Its forming systems can also interface with a variety of downstream equipment, whether oven, freezer, fryer or packaging equipment.

Innovative categories demand innovative equipment that can keep up. Bar producers need forming technology that can do it all, and suppliers have managed to deliver.