The food business is hugely dependent on consumer demands and processors, while equipment manufacturers must adapt accordingly to stay ahead of the game. Andre Erasmus examines some changes and adaptations that have taken place in the cooking field.
The 21st century is very much a consumer-driven world. People are spoilt for choice and can pretty much pick and choose when it comes to anything from food to foreign holidays. Indeed, there has been a significant learning curve for many over the past decade or two as things have changed and modernized.This is thanks, largely, to the world of technology. The Internet has turned our entire world into a global village and we have become more international and more cosmopolitan in everything we do.And this includes how and what we eat. Localized food becomes global: travel allows tradition to become trendy, while populations migrate and take their favorite dishes with them.
This not only includes food, but dietary trends, with the continual search for the ‘healthier’ option again dictates lifestyle choices.To this end, fried foods and potatoes have often been regarded as the ‘baddies’ in recent times. This was not always the case, but the hectic pace at which most of us live has seen a rise in convenience foods, snacking and pre-prepared meals.
As always, the food industry adapts. Frying has become healthier, as technology advances and alternatives to fried foods are made available. The rise in the popularity of the baked potato chip is a case in point.In fact, the snacks industry overall has responded positively to demands from consumers for healthier snacks by reformulating how snacks are produced.
According to major equipment supplier Baker Perkins, however, there is always the need to further improve the nutritional profile of snacks if market share is not to be lost.Consumers seem to be continually on the lookout for alternatives to traditional savory snacks, which is where the innovative research and development teams come into play.
For instance, says Baker Perkins, hot air expansion can replace frying as a process for converting extruded pellets into a finished snack. The company says that frying snack pellets absorbs a large amount of oil, giving them a high fat content. Hot air expansion, meanwhile, produces snacks of comparable texture and appearance without any oil being used. The minimum amount of oil required for flavor purposes may be applied at the end of the process.The healthy positioning of hot air-expanded products can be further extended through the complete elimination of oil. Baker Perkins has successfully applied knowledge from its confectionery technology to enable polyol-based syrups to carry seasoning and flavors. Polyols are low-calorie sugar substitutes without the sweetness of sugar, making them ideal carriers for savory flavors.
The equipment used for hot air expansion includes the Baker Perkins Thermoglide2 toaster, in which product is conveyed through multiple temperature zones in a fluidized bed, which gently lifts and tumbles the pellets to ensure even and consistent expansion. The Thermoglide2 offers continuous processing with multiple temperature zones to provide more flexibility, greater consistency and better control over the finished product parameters than batch systems.
Meanwhile, the company’s Direct Gas Fired (DGF) oven is a modular oven, which offers the processor great flexibility in baking. It can handle a full selection of baked snacks, including baked potato chips and bread-based snacks, such as pitta chips. As always, productivity is crucial and the DGF oven has been designed with the aid of sophisticated computer modelling systems to provide optimum productivity of the major components. These include burners, extraction ducts and turbulence ducts. Managing the airflow in this way delivers accurate, predictable control with no edge-burning effects. This ensures high product quality and minimal waste.
You can read more on this topic in our print magazine Potato Processing International (July/Aug 2016)!