Consumer demand for “clean labels” with simple and natural ingredients has been
a driving force in the food industry
in recent years. In fact, clean-label
food is forecasted to be a $180
billion global market by 2020,
and many food manufacturers are
reformulating recipes to adapt
with the growing trend.
The idea behind clean eating is
avoiding foods with preservatives,
artificial additives and “ingredients
you can’t pronounce.” Although
most of these additives are USDA-approved and technically safe
to consume, they have undoubtedly developed a stigma among
Of course, minimizing preservatives in a product reduces
its shelf life, so some bakery and snack manufacturers are
refrigerating and freezing certain products for the first time.
A Balance Between Simplicity, Shelf Life
When it comes to removing preservatives, a recipe change
typically translates to a processing change. Swapping out artificial
additives can add shelf life while shrinking ingredient labels.
For example, I’m currently installing a frozen doughnut line
in a plant. These products are often distributed to retailers
without refrigeration and with added preservatives, but this
particular manufacturer wants to switch things up. We’re
configuring an ambient cooling spiral that will get the bulk of the
flash heat off the doughnuts; then they will go into a spiral freezer
to bring their core temperature down before distribution. This will
allow the manufacturer to deliver a quality product with fewer
I’m also working with a pizza chain on their dough production.
The goal is to eliminate preservatives but still create fresh dough
that is never frozen. The solution was bringing the dough’s core
temperature to around 35 degrees — cool enough to keep the
yeast from rising and maintain a week-long shelf life without
Not only does freezing keep labels cleaner for the end
customer, but it also tends to cost less than adding preservatives
to the product. However, even snack and bakery companies that
do use preservatives are capitalizing on freezing and refrigeration
to extend shelf life even more. Some of these manufacturers may
not freeze product on the production line, but they package the
product with preservatives and store it in subzero holding freezers
Choosing A Refrigeration System:
Mechanical Vs. Cryogenic
If you’re considering introducing refrigeration as a new
process, or if you’re looking to invest in a system, you’ll have
a big decision to make: whether to invest in a mechanical or a
Mechanical refrigeration systems, which utilize ammonia or
freon, have the highest initial capital cost, require significant
infrastructure and consume a lot of electricity. Some refrigerants
like ammonia and freon also require the plant to have a licensed
operator to control and maintain the system, as well as a proper
safety management program.
On the other hand, cryogenic systems that use liquid nitrogen
or carbon dioxide require a relatively smaller investment up front,
making it easier for a smaller operator to get started. However,
operating costs can become overwhelming over time when you
start adding up the cost of the gas, storage tanks and installation.
Like most things, there are pros and cons to both options,
so it’s important to consider your needs and consult an expert
partner who can help identify the best choice for your plant.
Every Product Freezes Differently
Numerous companies are moving toward this model of
replacing preservatives for freezing or refrigeration — and no two
projects are alike. Every product has different cooling and freezing
characteristics, so every refrigeration installation is different.
For example, if you cool a freshly baked pie too quickly
before freezing, it sinks in the middle. Unlike breads and other
bakery products, pies don’t have a structure to hold their shape.
Or consider a chocolate glaze or icing on top of a cupcake —
you have to make sure to calculate the heat loss and cooling
requirements before the product can be handled for packaging, or
you’ll end up with some not-so-pretty cupcakes.
The variability of each product is just one reason why selecting
the right equipment for your needs is so important.
Want Clean Labels For Your Bakery
And Snack Products? Try Freezing Them
By Kevin Wilson, Senior Project Engineer, Stellar
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