Most equipment suppliers claim their topping and seeding machines are quite versatile when it comes to dispersion rates. Of course, most products call for a significant amount of toppings or seeds to be added. Some foods, however, require much, much less.

“The request for lower dispersion rates is pretty common right now,” said David Moline, sales and marketing manager, Moline Machinery, LLC. “We’re actually seeing a lot of demand for very, very low dispersion rates.”

Those low rates are used for the dispensing of just a few particulates onto a product. Some muffins just need a few dried blueberries. Some brownies are finished off nicely with two walnut chunks.

“Some of them just want three or four little pieces on a muffin top or something,” said Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford Corp. “It’s just enough to give it a little place of character — that little extra shine for the market.”

Achieving this means slowing down. “We’re doing a lot of this with our nut topper,” Mr. Lindsey said. “With the expense of that ingredient, of course, you want to make sure you don’t use too much. That forces you to run at slower speeds and make adjustments.”

Mr. Moline’s thoughts were along those same lines: “It gets down to balancing the type of shaft you’re using and its design with the RPM and how fast your product is going,” he said. “The low dispersion rates are the most challenging; that’s really where our ability to customize is a huge advantage.”

The challenge grows when the baked item calls for just a few pieces of a wet topping. “The tendency of such materials to stick together makes it especially difficult to get the correct appearance or weight specifications when using small, decorative quantities,” said Ty Sarajian, president, Axis Automation. “If you are trying to make a visual impact with a few blueberries topping a muffin, but you can’t deliver exactly two or three berries every time, this becomes a real issue.”