Entering the new decade, the snack market is riding year-after-year growth. One of the products experiencing a surge is the snack mix category that is positioned perfectly to target consumers living busier and healthier lives. Those people are looking for handy on-the-go snacks that offer a range of nutritional benefits.

The December 2019 GlobalData survey, “Opportunities in the Global Savory Snacks Sector, Analysis of Opportunities Offered by High Growth Economies,” found that savory snacks exhibiting health and wellness attributes accounted for 14% of the sector’s overall global sales in 2018.

The trail and snack mix market is shifting from traditional products to formats that contain a variety of wholesome ingredients, including nuts, dry fruits, seeds and freeze-dried fruits. Ultimately, this means snack producers are working with an increasing number of ingredient combinations to create a range of items that appeal to today’s consumers. In order to do this, they need to know how to accurately and efficiently process these diverse ingredients using today’s weighing and scaling packaging machines.

“This allows ingredients to be measured to a higher degree of accuracy and manufacturers to maintain control over both recipe and costs,” said Anurag Mitra, product marketing manager, TNA. “This has become even more important with the premiumization of the snack mix and nuts category. With more expensive ingredients, every gram counts.”

Balanced blends

Mixing several snacks has always presented a unique challenge, but advances in equipment are paving the way for manufacturers to innovate with different product varieties.

“The key for successfully mixing ingredients is accuracy, which can be achieved with the right weigher system,” Mr. Mitra said. “Such accuracy means brand consistency and legal requirements are maintained when stating percentages of ingredients in a mix.”

However, as more premium, higher cost ingredients are added to a mix, the importance of accurately weighing and distributing is even greater. Providing a proper mix of cashews with pretzels or other items ensures customer satisfaction. And Mr. Mitra said it also controls ingredient costs and maximizes profitability.

“Ensuring that overall product weight requirements are met is equally essential,” he added.

TNA offers snack producers turnkey blending systems for wet or dry products. The roflo VMBS 3 is a vibratory motion blending system that incorporates weighing technology to ensure ingredients are measured accurately to provide control of recipes and costs. The system’s integrated ingredient input module features a compact design including an infeed conveyor with hopper, control conveyor and weigh conveyor. And depending on requirements, the system can incorporate up to 22 different ingredients with the blending controlled from a single control panel.

“When producing multiple types of snacks, it is crucial for producers to select the right feeding system,” Mr. Mitra said. “Maximum optimization can be achieved through custom-designed blended weighers.”

Split infeed funnels and either fixed or movable product fences give the ability to manage free-flowing products, he explained. Additionally, each weigher head on the TNA system can be assigned a specific product group to create different weigher configurations. This means products can be mixed or even layered in a pack.

When mixing two or more snacks, it’s critical that the correct amount of each is packed in every batch, said Mark Podl, chief executive officer, Doran Scales.

“If this is not done exactly to the correct formulation, the flavor profile or saleable product is lost, which can add up to a major impact on the bottom line,” Mr. Podl said.

Doran designs its scales and software to eliminate any mistakes prior to production and before the snacks reach packaging. This is particularly important, Mr. Podl explained, for dried fruit or other ingredients that cannot be pulverized in the production process and must be handled in stages.

“Ingredients that are intended to be mixed and combined thoroughly are processed first and then, in a later stage, ingredients that can be pulverized are added as a final step and mixed in gently to create the desired equal distribution,” Mr. Podl said.

Doran’s scales guide operators through these stages with prompts, directions and labeling to ensure the ingredients are placed in the mixer at the appropriate time and order. It also offers full traceability so operators can track which ingredient and lot number was used to create a batch.

Brian Barr, sales manager of Heat and Control’s packaging systems division, said snack producers need to fully understand their mix requirements.

“Key things that need to be reviewed are the characteristic of each mix component and the approach to handling the variances successfully throughout the manufacturing and packaging processes to ensure an accurate mix without any degradation to the product appearance, taste or overall quality,” Mr. Barr said.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature, click here.