Even if it’s a slight change, certain ingredients can be more apt to bridge up in a depositor and stop dispensing properly..

For years, bakers, chefs and food marketers of every variety have said the same thing: People eat with their eyes. Whether it’s a sheen, a perfect split or a baked product seeded with all kinds of healthy goodness, consumers put a lot of stock in what’s on top of a product.

“Consumers love eye appeal,” said Bo Maurer, vice-president, sales and marketing, Wheat Montana, Three Forks, MT. “People love to see all the grain and the seeds.” Sunflower seeds, chia, flaxseed or even a good, old fashioned egg wash and even water are just a few ways to get that visual aspect of baked foods and snacks.

With the rise in popularity of visible seeds and grains, baking companies like Dave’s Killer Bread, Milwaukie, OR, and Wheat Montana are now enrobing their breads. “Enrobing is pretty hot in the market right now,” said Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford Corp. “We’ve taken that concept and built a new machine with that capability.”

WP Bakery Group USA has also seen an uptick in requests for this technology. “Fully enrobed loaves are a hot trend,” said Patricia Kennedy, president, noting that the company’s engineers have also developed enrobing equipment.

No matter what’s going on top — or all around — these products all have a few things in common. They have to be precise, they have to look good — and taste good, too — and the equipment used for them has to be food safe and safe to use.

The ‘what’ factor

Whether spraying or seeding, an important question every supplier will ask starts with the word “what” — as in, “What ingredients are you topping with?”

Not all toppings are the same, and they aren’t dispensed the same: Flour is different from salt, and salt is different from seeds. Bakers must consider first what they’re applying, and then how they want it applied and what level of accuracy they’re looking for.

“Our dry material machines can do different things depending on what seed it is,” said Alex Robinson, president, Christy Machine Co. For instance, seeds like sesame need to stay intact when deposited so the oil doesn’t come out. For these types of toppings, Christy uses a drilled shaft. “For caraway and some of the larger seeds, we can use either a knurled shaft or a grooved shaft with vertical cuts to help deposit them in an even pattern over the width,” he said.

WP Bakery designs its equipment with different particulates in mind. “We have separate seeding containers that are interchangeable and have different sized holes according to the specific particulate,” Ms. Kennedy said.

Reading Bakery Systems receives requests for a variety of different seeds and seasonings to be used in a number of ways. And regardless of what’s being applied, accuracy matters. “The range and size of these particulates are so different that we have four very different topping application units to offer the most precise system,” said Shawn Moye, vice-­president of sales, Americas. All the units are available for bakers to test in Reading’s Science and Innovation Center.

As consumers’ tastes, preferences and dietary considerations change at increasing rates, many bakers know the products they make now might be quite different than the ones they’ll make a few years down the road. Even if it’s a slight change, certain ingredients can be more apt to bridge up in a depositor and stop dispensing properly.

Burford keeps this in mind when working with customer requests for topping systems. “Over the past several years, we’ve taken into consideration that most bakeries are going to run different products, not just sesame seeds, and we’ll recommend options up front for future use,” Mr. Lindsey said. “If we know a customer is running oats, or they call us for a mandrel and say they want to run oats with it, we’ll inquire about the model they’re using so we can ensure we’re giving them the right thing for that product.”

Tromp Group Americas also keeps changeability top of mind with its seeding systems because when a baker uses one mandrel for everything, it can lead to clogging and poor functionality. “It is important to have a removable mandrel, one that can be changed out for the proper mandrel to fit the topping,” said Jim Cummings, president. With that said, Tromp also offers a universal strewer for buns that works with most toppings, and Mr. Cummings noted that the machine is designed with rake systems, belt control and traveling heads for targeted depositing.

Physical properties such as health, environment and safety should be considered for each ingredient to be sprayed.

And what’s more

The same considerations go for spraying in that one ingredient does not fit all. For example, a liquid functions differently from a slurry, and an egg wash will come with an entirely different set of concerns than a mold inhibitor post-oven or water to be sprayed for topping adhesion.

Norman Searle, GOE, noted that physical properties such as health, environment and safety should be considered for each ingredient to be sprayed. “Will it require agitation or temperature control? Is it caustic? Will eye or breathing protection be necessary? These are concerns that a baker should address in anticipation of contacting us,” he suggested.

Another question Mr. Searle suggested asking is, “Is there a fire risk?” Yes, fire risk. It’s not unheard of for a product to catch fire in the oven. Picture this: A product comes out of the oven on fire and heads downstream where it will be sprayed with a flammable substance. Likely? Probably not. Possible? Entirely.

More companies are adding fire protection to their post-bake oil sprayers independent from what GOE provides as standard. Local fire suppression (FS) suppliers are required for continuing maintenance as the FS system is designed to FM approvals by the manufacturer. (FM approval is the independent testing arm of international insurance carrier FM Global.)

Regardless of the reason, every ingredient must be tended to individually. “You’ve got to think about what’s being sprayed,” Mr. Lindsey advised. “If it’s just water, it’s pretty straight-forward. But you’re spraying a glaze or synthetic egg, you have to consider things like storage and sanitation, as well.”

Additionally, Tromp designs its units with chilling vessels to keep product like egg wash cool while in use.