Chips — potato, corn, vegetable or fruit — leave the dryer, and all appears fine. The quality control team evaluates the chips and deems them worthy of the final consumer. No breakage, they say. The product is packaged and shipped and finds its way to store shelves across the country. And then consumers open the bag and those chips that quality control said were fine are broken. This is checking, a common but unfortunate challenge chip producers face.
“If we don’t pull the moisture out of the product evenly, this can happen 24 hours after the product is processed,” said Ken Zvoncheck, director of process technology, Reading Bakery Systems.
Hairline cracks can form well after the product already has been packaged. To head off this problem, snack producers must remove moisture evenly and precisely from the chips.
For baked chips, this starts at the sheeter.
“We have to sheet very precisely to get the final dough sheet thickness to prevent checking,” Mr. Zvoncheck said.
The efficiency of convection ovens also assists in removing moisture evenly. A dryer can bring even more precision to that part of the process.
Leaving excess moisture in finished chips can cause two problems, said Lisa Mitchell, marketing manager, Radio Frequency Co., Inc., — shelf life and checking. Drying technology follows the oven and enables snack producers to dial into precise moisture removal to get the very last bit of moisture and prevent checking.