Healthy snack alternatives: a new challenge for processors
9 December 2015 • Author(s): Doug Baldwin, Vice President, Food and Industrial Products at Wenger Manufacturing Inc.
Doug Baldwin, Vice President, Food and Industrial Products at Wenger Manufacturing Inc. discusses new trends in extruded snacks.
The trend towards healthy snack alternatives continues to influence the extruded snack category. However, these new products also present new challenges for processors. The main-stay of the extruded snack industry for many years has been the single-ingredient puffed snack, which is then coated with oil and a savory flavoring. These are often made using rice grits or corn meal and are easily processed on relatively simple extruders. While lower caloric content can be achieved through water or gum-based coatings, there is a growing trend in the use of unique ingredients to enhance their appeal as better snack choices for the consumer. These ingredients range from vegetables such as peas and pumpkin, dried fruit powders and kale, to ancient grains such as quinoa and sorghum. When these ingredients are added to the raw material mix they bring with them a number of challenges to the snack processors, which are associated with sugar content, protein level, and particle size. As the recipe of a snack product grows to include multiple ingredients, it is important to consider the impact on hardware selection and operating parameters.
During the development of new extruded snack recipes there are many things to be considered. For example, when choosing ingredients it is important to match the particle size of each component. Ingredients with smaller particle sizes will typically absorb water more quickly than larger particle sizes and the non-uniform hydration can lead to limited expansion. An example is making a protein-enhanced snack by blending bean flour with corn meal. Bean flour, due to the smaller particle size and the fact that the protein easily hydrates, soaks up all the added moisture leaving the corn meal dry. The resulting product not only has a hard, glassy texture but it can also contain non-hydrated particles of corn meal. One method to effectively process these blends is to reduce the particle size of the corn meal so that it hydrates at a similar rate to the bean flour…
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