Top 5 things to consider before investing in a new seasoning equipment

So, a decision has been made and the budget has been approved to change your existing flavoring system. Regardless of what is your key driver for the purchase of the equipment, below is a checklist to apply as you go about evaluating various equipment suppliers.

1. Is the system tailor made for your unique product and flavors?

The diversity in snacks and flavors these days is mind boggling. From flat fabricated potato chips to extruded rings, spheres and hexagons, with bulk densities ranging from 30 kg/m³ all the way upto 250 kg/m³ and flavors that range from salt and pepper to seaweed and barbeque – the possibilities are endless!

As a snack manufacturer, organizations take great pains in selecting and developing the right products and flavors most suited to their target consumer segment. Because these products and flavors are unique and differentiated, it shouldn’t be out of line to expect that the flavoring equipment used to manufacture these products be custom designed to suit these products. When it comes to flavoring systems, there is no one size fits all approach and food manufacturers should be wary of buying an equipment off the shelf, no matter how well known the supplier is. After all, it is your product’s brand, quality and reputation that is at stake. Several design parameters of the flavoring system’s tumble drum for e.g. flight profile design, screw profile pitch and height should be carefully tailor made by equipment manufacturers who have rich experience and understanding of these systems and their fit for different product shapes, bulk densities and flavors. A tumble drum that is right for flavoring of potato chips is not necessarily the right choice for a ring shaped product. Food manufacturers should also ensure to check the references of your supplier and ask for examples of similar product shapes treated with the flavoring system.

2. How accurate and uniform is the application of the flavoring?

Flavoring Accuracy is the ability of the system to apply flavor/seasoning as closely possible to the specified recipe. This ensures that consumer enjoys the same taste and sensory experience with your product, bite after bite, pack after pack. Manual application of flavoring typically ends up either under or over flavoring thereby compromising the essential element of product quality.  In closed loop loss in weight flavoring systems, flavor dosing is automatically adjusted based on the weight of incoming product and the loss-in-weight of flavor from the flavor hopper or slurry kettle. Barring one off instances, (for e.g. when a hopper is being refilled when system turns to volumetric mode), these closed loop loss in weight systems ensure accuracy of flavors being applied and the margin of error between +/- 0.5%.

Closed Loop Loss in Weight Systems accurately apply seasonings within +/- 0.5% error margin. In the above chart, blue line is the prescribed flavor dosing and orange line is the actual delivered dose rate.

Uniformity of flavor application is defined as how many products have 80% or more of their surface area coated with flavor. A visual inspection of 5*5 randomly selected product samples (as shown below) provides a good gauge. Less than 50% samples with uniform flavoring all over the surface area is considered a poor result. Uniform application of flavor greatly depends on design of the tumble drum, correct length and positioning of the scarf feeder (in case of dry seasoning) and cone angle of nozzles (in case of wet slurry applications). It is therefore highly recommended to work with OEM suppliers who have a good understanding of these design parameters and who take the time and effort to work with you to understand your products and flavor in depth before providing options and quotes.

A 5*5 random selection of potato chips to visually test uniformity of flavor application.

3. Does it simplify your operations?

Batch manufacturing and flavoring processes is still common among snack manufacturers in SEA. When volumes are relatively small and product requirements are such that they can change from one batch to another, batch processing is the way to go. However, this flexibility usually comes at higher per unit costs. As companies standardize their products and scale up volumes, batch processing gives way to continuous processing and typically results in lower per unit costs. Continuous processing also delivers benefits of consistent product quality and reduced chances of human error.

4. Is it easy to clean the system?

Cleanliness and hygiene are considered table stakes in food manufacturing business.  Manufacturing equipment that are easy to clean and maintain help to reduce changeover time, enjoy greater uptime and have reduced probability of flavor cross contamination.  Manufacturers offer several features to enable easy cleaning and maintenance, for example skid mounted systems that can be easily moved away from work area for washing and deep cleaning. Similarly, flexible and movable scarf feeders not only help with right positioning inside the tumble drum for a more uniform flavor application on the product, but are also easily accessible for routine cleaning. Several manufacturers also offer cleaning in place option for slurry kettles. Dust covers on mouths of tumble drum and/ or dust extraction systems are other options to consider while investing in a flavoring system. Remember to check with your provider on what features their system provides to enable easy cleaning and upkeep of your equipment.

5. Does it offer a good RoI?

Last, but not the least, in order for final seal of approval from management, one needs to calculate how long is the payback for each shortlisted quotation. If moving from a batch to continuous system, significant labor savings can be expected, as people are no longer required to manually flavor the product and can be redeployed to other value adding tasks. If, on the other hand, one is looking to upgrade from current volumetric system to more precise closed-loop weighmetric system, much of the savings can be expected to come from precise dosing of flavor, thereby reducing wastage. Generally speaking, a payback period of 3-4 years is considered acceptable. While calculating financial paybacks in terms of tangible and quantifiable $$ savings, manufacturers mustn’t overlook the intangible but positive impact of consistent product quality resulting from an upgraded system which ultimately leads to an improved customer experience and brand loyalty in the long run.

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Ruchika Kapoor

Ruchika Kapoor

Portfolio Manager, Snacks Bakery Confectionery

Know more about this topic through our live event:

26 February 2021

Flavours are a major driver of consumer trends in the snacks industry. Especially with the health trend on the rise, there is a huge scope for innovation in this sector.

Learn from the industry leaders about:

  • Latest taste trends in snacks
  • Indulgent healthy snacking: balancing nutrition and taste, without sacrificing the flavour experience
  • Savings on flavour through the application of Loss-in-Weight (LIW) principles
  • Considerations while upgrading your seasoning system
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