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Keeping up with consumer trends

08 February 2019

Food Processing finds out how extrusion technology can help you to keep up with fast-changing consumer demands without continually investing in equipment which may become obsolete when the trends change. 

Demand for extruded ingredients and inclusions is growing, with typical examples being soy or grain crispy pieces that add texture and functional ingredients to bars and dairy products; modified flours and starches that act as clean-label thickeners and emulsifiers for soups, sauces, desserts and beverages; and standard or gluten-free breadcrumb, croutons and sausage rusk. 

When compared with traditional processes, extrusion can offer savings in space, equipment, energy and labour. The process is also often more flexible than many other production solutions and it is possible to quickly and easily switch between different products with a simple adjustment to recipes, process parameters and screw profiles. 

Reducing complexity
A good example to show where extruders can help reduce complexity and the number of production steps is breadcrumb production. The traditional production process involves mixing, forming and baking of bread before the crusts are discarded and the bread is ground into crumbs. The same result can be achieved without waste using a twin-screw extruder and a dryer. Similarly, to create croutons for soups and salads a bread-like texture can be developed in an extruder and the pieces cut to size at the die or a post-extrusion cutter.  

Extrusion technology can also help make the most of modified and pre-gelatinised flours used in products such as instant soups, sauces, desserts and infant nutrition. Because a wide range of conditions can be created within an extruder it is possible to make best use of ingredient characteristics such as rapid and/or cold-water thickening, increased protein or fibre content, improved dispersibility and enhanced texture. 

Baker Perkins can offer extrusion solutions to help food processors extend the variety of their snacks and ready-to-eat cereal products, in response to the growing consumer demand for functional nutrition.  Ready-to-eat cereals and snack products provide a convenient and palatable carrier for many beneficial nutrients, and any existing extruded or co-extruded product recipes can be easily augmented to meet this trend by simply changing the product formulation.  Proteins from wheat, dairy, soy or nuts as well as fibre can be introduced to an extruded snack in powder form. Soluble fibres can be added to co-extruded products while whole grain or multi-grain formats can also be chosen to make a positive contribution to the nutritional profile of a food product.

Another discernible trend is the move towards more adventurous products and here extruders offer the capability to easily add a wide variety of colours and flavours to enable products to be tailored to meet fast-changing consumer demands. 

Extruded sheet snacks
One particular extrusion process was developed by Baker Perkins to help a customer to cost-effectively create a range of cracker-type snacks.

The conventional production method requires sheeting, gauging and rotary cutting equipment. Such equipment is expensive and is dedicated to sheeted products so it is not  possible to adapt the line to make other products.

The solution provided by Baker Perkins for this application was to create a sheeting die for an extruder that produces a thin, wide sheet of dough that is cut into regular, geometric shapes by an in-line rotary cutter. The shapes can then be fried as a conventional snack, or oven baked for a lower fat content, and then flavoured.  The extruder would be easily redeployed for other uses if this becomes necessary in the future.

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