Frying makes snacks taste good, but the process can load them with up to 30% fat by weight. As a result, producers of pellet-based snacks often find it challenging to prepare more healthful air-popped snacks that are lower in fat but have nearly the same expansion, flavor and mouthfeel as those fried in oil.

To create similar taste and texture, the AeroExpander by Buhler Aeroglide, Cary, NC, relies on dual-plenum airflow to surround each pellet evenly and deliver enough thermal energy to transform the moisture in the pellets into steam that can help them expand.

With air expansion technology, snack producers can diversify their product lines often without reformulating their pellets, noted Paul McKeithan, regional director for Buhler Aeroglide. The systems come in multiple sizes, including 300, 600 and 1,200 kg per hour.