The growing snack market and increasing demand for new and healthier snacks create a veritable playground for incubator snack companies to develop cutting-edge new products or better-for-you twists on old favorites, and many equipment suppliers stand ready to not only provide the right equipment but also aid in new product development.

“We work with processors to develop recipes with many non-traditional raw materials to make snacks with natural and authentic appeal,” said Jose Coelho, president, Clextral USA.

He identified ancient grains, quinoa, vegetable powders and inclusions as well as high-protein pulses as some of today’s hottest snack food ingredients.

“For new products, we have more latitude as there are no previous expectations,” Mr. Coelho said. “However, taste mouthfeel and visual appeal are still top priorities for healthy snacks.”

A few years ago, Franz Haas, a division of Bühler, Inc., identified heathy and better-for-you snacks as a growing market and discovered an opportunity to apply its traditional wafer technology to savory snack production.

“We did a lot of research on different products using ingredients like chickpea flour and millet,” said Kevin Knott, technical sales manager, Franz Haas Machinery of America. “Insect flour is also very big.”

Franz Haas often works with its customers during R.&D. and might even develop new products of its own to demonstrate the versatility of the wafer equipment.

“We created a liquid deposit that flows a little,” Mr. Knott said. “We have one product we call a ‘Scoopie’ that is made of chickpea flour. It’s a scoop that has a three-­dimensional shape and is stackable. We use different baking plates and different shapes on the plates.”

Additionally, Bühler’s extrusion technology offers options for processing healthy snacks with ingredients such as chickpea flour and beans.

“We dry traditionally extruded snacks, and we also have popping dryers that use high impingement, high heat transfer air popping for pellet products,” said Mike Shaw, sales account ­manager, snacks/cereals, Bühler, Inc. “A customer can either extrude and expand snacks directly out of the extruder, or they can purchase pellets from a supplier in the market, and they can simply have the expansion in our Aero Expander, our hot-air expander.”

Hot air popping with pellets is a lower cost equipment option that gives flexibility for quick product launches, Mr. Shaw added.

In addition to seeking new products with better-for-you ingredients, health-conscious snackers also turn to bars as one of their many mini-meals throughout the day.

“Many of Reiser’s customers who produce bars are looking to make a variety in smaller batches,” noted John McIsaac, vice-president, strategic business development, Reiser. “We’re seeing more creativity in their recipes, using seeds, whole nuts and dried fruit, as well as gluten-free, organic, vegan and high protein. These processors need a bar system that allows fast and easy changeovers from one product to another and from one shape to another.”

Modifying a traditional snack such as a cracker to fit a healthier profile by incorporating different ingredients into a wheat-based dough can dilute the gluten content and weaken the structure, said Ken Zvoncheck, ­director, process technology, Reading Bakery Systems.

“In some cases, depending what the ingredient is and the quantity we’re incorporating in the formulation, it’s still sheetable, but in other cases, we might need additional ingredients to help bind that dough back together,” he said.

These types of adjustments will require producers to look carefully at how they process better-for-you snacks.

This article is an excerpt from the March 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on snack technology, click here.