Despite hearing and reading about health-andwellness ad nauseam, Americans still enjoy eating sweet goods. People devour sweet goods such as Danish, donuts, bearclaws and cinnamon rolls with regularity, and equipment manufacturers are responding to bakeries’ latest needs for automated flexible lines to assist with their production.

Stan Walulek, vice-president of operations, Michel’s Bakery, Philadelphia, PA, pointed out two sweet goods trends currently present in the marketplace. First, because of the current economic situation, consumers are looking for lower priced products. To improve efficiency and lower production cost, processors have to drive volume up and labor out, he added. Conversely, processors also are being asked to produce more specialty sweet goods. “A lot of the QSRs and national companies are looking for more signature items,” Mr. Walulek added.

To meet the first trend, Michel’s Bakery looks for greater automation, especially in the packaging department where most of its labor is, and he said the bakery is already taking steps to add equipment such as pick-and-place systems to tray product and feed horizontal wrappers.

Mr. Walulek also identified a continuing trend for more electronic systems on processing equipment. PLCs, wireless technology and different types of sensors are having a positive impact because these advances in technology give the bakery greater flexibility through quicker changeovers as well as more reliability of the systems, he said.

Michel’s Bakery, which co-packs for national customers, uses six makeup lines to produce a wide variety of sweet goods that it bakes off in three tunnel ovens.

As for making signature items, Mr. Walulek explained that the bakery currently uses a lot of manual labor, but if the volume is there, it would require equipment to automate those processes. “It might take a crossover system like something that twists a pretzel could be used to make twisted Danish,” he said.

Fritsch USA, Cedar Grove, NJ, offers a robotic twisting machine for pretzels that also can be used in the production of sweet goods. The newest generation MultiTwist features a newly designed ability to produce Krapfen, which are donut-like products, and other pretzels products made from sweet dough. To accomplish this, an intermediate table is added to the unit, and a special flour duster applies an ultra-thin layer of flour onto the dough cords to prevent them from sticking to the unit’s tools.

Fritsch also developed a new croissant coiling system, CSV, which was derived from its MultiTwist for pretzels. This coiling system works for filled and unfilled products, noted Dieter Wolf, marketing manager for Fritsch GmbH, the Germany-based parent company for Fritsch USA.

“The impetus is that one system instead of two saves money, downtime and production space,” he said. “The resulting products are very precise in shape and position of the tip. This bending device enables completely closed bending of products.”

Rademaker introduced two new systems in the past couple years for the production of sweet goods, according to Eric Riggle, vice-president of Rademaker USA, Hudson, OH. First, The Netherlands-based company delivered several lines with a unique cutting and panning system specifically for coiled products, where a cinnamon roll or swirl Danish is automatically cut and placed onto a pan, reducing labor at panning. “Also, this system works in combination with an automatic jelly spot depositing system,” he said. “Because the makeup line places the product precisely on the pan, we are able to target deposit the jelly onto the product between proofing and baking without any labor.”

In addition, Rademaker delivered a machine for producing Torsade product, which is a laminated dough with a fruit or chocolate filling in between. “The machine automatically twists the product into shape,” Mr. Riggle explained.

The most important processing trend when it comes to manufacturing sweet goods is flexible automation, according to Mr. Riggle. “Because the category is so broad and covers everything from donuts and Danish to cinnamon rolls and bearclaws to palmiers, there is a need to be able to produce a wide variety of products on the processing line in the most efficient and automated method possible,” he added. “There is also the need to produce these items either fully baked, fully frozen , pre-proofed and frozen, or freezer-to-oven.”

Rademaker manufactures the full spectrum of equipment for sweet goods starting after the dough is mixed and ending when the product is put onto a pan or transferred to a freezer belt. “The key item that differentiates a Rademaker sweet good process from the competition is the attention we pay to the client’s product,” Mr. Riggle observed. “Because we are a custom machine manufacturer, we start by evaluating the customer’s product and quality and develop a system that will maintain or exceed their existing quality. Also, a Rademaker system is known to be the most industrial solution on the market as well as the easiest to maintain and to clean. We have been providing washdown lines for more than 30 years, whereas ‘sanitary design’ is a relatively new concept to our competitors.”

Equipment manufacturers have absolutely responded to bakers’ requests for equipment that is easier to sanitize and maintain, Mr. Walulek said. “But it still comes down to fundamentals, and that is a good, solid preventive maintenance program to keep your equipment running efficiently all the time,” he added.

Fritsch offers premium sheeting, laminating and makeup lines for sweet goods production, including special machines such as the Rollfix, CTR and makeup tables for craft bakers. Additionally, it fabricates a variety of lines such as the Multiline, Mulitcut, Euroline and Laminator 300 for wholesale bakers, and it offers a variety of Impressa lines for industrial bakers of croissants and pastries.

Lamination is an important dough makeup step for many sweet good products because fat is incorporated between layers of dough to give it the flaky quality expected of pastries. The Laminator 300 can produce pastry blocks with up to 144 layers of fat with a final thickness of only 20 mm.

Miniaturization of sweet goods products is another trend, according to Mr. Riggle, noting that companies are making croissants as small as 6 to 10 g and Danish products as small as 20 g. “When a product is reduced in size, this can create makeup issues with folding, twisting and cutting because there is not much product mass to work with,” he said. “Attention must be paid by the manufacturer to his makeup tooling to ensure that the design is such that it can handle this product size reduction.”

Many bakeries also are attempting to produce sweet goods that are less indulgent and healthier, Mr. Riggle observed. “Zero trans fat shortenings are generally more difficult to process through a fat pump than butter or margarine and, therefore, require a certain amount of flexibility and technology in the fat pumping system,” he added.

Producing high-quality sweet goods that have a clean label remains the biggest trend, according to Mr. Wolf, also noting that there is strong growth for organic products in the US. To this end, he said Fritsch invested many years in its SoftProcessing technology to meet the desire for clean-label sweet goods. “We already treat dough as soft as possible and with that bakers can avoid many additives,” Mr. Wolf explained.

As it relates to fried sweet goods, the most prominent change for products that require solid shortening is trans-fat-free (TFF) oils, according to Roger Faw, president of the Belshaw Adamatic Bakery Group, Auburn, WA. “The growing movement to reduce trans fats in foods is an attempt to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and this is based on research studies by the medical community,” he said. “Therefore, in the recent years, consumer groups and regulatory bodies have been pushing to reduce trans fatd, which are scientifically linked to heart disease and obesity.”

As a result, fryer manufactures have been forced to evaluate the effects of frying with TFF oils on the fry process. “With all that has been learned, there is still more information emerging every day that forces fryer manufacturers to be diligent in keeping up with this change as well as others that are based around more health-conscious eating,” Mr. Faw added.

New TFF oils also are more susceptible to breakdown than partially hydrogenated shortenings. “This has created the need for fryer manufacturers to look for alternative designs that move away from direct gas-fired frying, given the frying oil quality issues inherent in its design and operation,” he said.

To maintain optimal shortening quality, frying oil must be turned over during production to maximize the constant flow of new oil into the fryer. “If the fryer is properly cleaned and the oil is properly filtered, there should be little need to ever dispose of shortening in the fryer,” Mr. Faw explained.

Through a joint venture with JBT Food Tech, Belshaw is working to improve high-volume systems for frying donuts. “The advanced frying and filtration solution uses JBT’s unique vertical THERMoFin fryer combined with a MicroMAX MX hot oil filter for the continuous and efficient removal of starches and bakery remnants from the frying oil,” he said. “The conveyor system for handling the various types of donuts will be designed by Belshaw to seamlessly integrate into the fryer kettle tank.”

The new system will save between 15 to 20% on energy compared with conventional gas-fired fryers currently in use, Mr. Faw observed. “These savings result from higher combustion efficiency of the external thermal oil heater and the large heat transfer surface area that is efficiently packaged in the THERMoFin heat exchanger,” he added. “The design of this heat exchanger allows it span the full frying width, and its compact design results in a lower frying oil volume.”

The larger heat transfer area significantly reduces the heat flux for more gentle heating of the frying oil, extending its life, Mr. Faw said.

Overall sweet pastry products such as croissants, Danish whirls, and chocolate rolls are among the most popular being requested today, according to Mr. Wolf. And equipment manufacturers are continuing to introduce new lines and improve existing systems to help bakers make a wide variety of products more efficiently on automated lines.