Advances in bakery fat analysis reduce production downtime and wastage

Manufacturer and supplier collaborate to create functional specification

It was the regular occurrence of production issues that prompted John Marcon, Raw Materials Continuous Improvement Technologist at savoury pastry specialists Pork Farms, to look at alternative methods for assessing the functionality and performance of his food ingredients.

A particular equipment issue prompted John to look at the specification for the laminating fat used on site.  He realised that, although the specification provided a lot of information about the chemical and nutritional composition of the fat, nowhere did it provide him with any information about the functional properties relative to his process.

In the production of pastry products the texture of the fat is critical. Too hard or too soft and it can have a major effect on the quality (consistency, lift, layering etc) of the finished product, which in turn can lead to high levels of waste and / or rework.

John was already working on measuring the texture of meat and wondered if the same basic methodology could be applied to fat.  He decided to place a sample of fat in a texture analyser to see what information it might give him.  A widely used item of equipment in most food manufacturing facilities, a texture analyser can measure the physical attributes of a product including levels of compression, extrusion, puncture and, crucially, hardness and softness essential information when using fats. After taking a few interesting readings John picked up the phone to his fat supplier, New Britain Oils, and discussed his findings with their Technical Manager Adam Thomas.

John says: We’ve been a customer of New Britain Oils for several years and when I explained my rationale to Adam it became quickly apparent that we shared a mutual interest and he was keen to collaborate and explore the idea further. The shared desire to achieve consistency and go beyond a rudimentary product specification is what led me to team up with New Britain Oils.

Adam comments: Developing functional specifications for bakery products has long been a goal of the industry.  It’s all about identifying optimum performance characteristics and being able to apply these across the wide range of different processes and recipes used by our customers.  It sounds like a simple concept but for many industrial bakers it remains the holy grail.  The results John had obtained looked very interesting, so much so that we went out and bought the same machine.

Both companies then set about a project of work comparing and analysing the results from literally hundreds of samples of margarine.  Over a period of several months, both parties were able to build up an extensive database of information about the effect of margarine texture on finished product and have been able to apply this knowledge at a practical level.  They continue to work together on process optimisation and further reducing textural fluctuation which they believe will ultimately deliver significant mutual benefits in quality, production efficiency and most importantly reduction of waste.

There are a number of factors that can affect texture including age of the fat, process settings and temperature but John and the New Britain Oils team are making major advances in understanding these variables and how they can be applied and controlled.

New Britain Oils Adam Thomas continues: Working with Pork Farms has provided significant mutual benefits. It has provided both sides with a much greater understanding of the product and in particular the factors affecting performance.

For us the ability to have a consistent, accurate point of reference on product performance will provide enormous advantages. Not only will it allow us to provide products tailored to a particular customer’s need, it will ensure consistent quality.  For customers like Pork Farms this means greater production efficiency and reduced waste, both of which have a significant financial value.

It’s been a real pleasure working with John on what is a truly innovative project for the bakery sector.  The fact that we have been able to share open and honest views is really what has made this project so successful.

The ultimate aim of this project is to establish a common language between the supplier and the end user by to translating a series of analytical measurements into a set of factory process conditions.

John and Adam also believe that the project could have wider implications, which could challenge accepted industry standards in areas such as shelf life. Currently, the typical shelf life for a bakery fat is 5-6 months, but texture analysis at different stages within that lifecycle could establish the optimum usage range for different products, meaning that manufacturers can incorporate this knowledge into their production processes.

For John this represents the next stage in a project which continues to evolve and excite as further new possibilities come to light.

The more insight we can gain, the more we can work on improving our techniques and processes, which in the long term has commercial benefits.

Through this work we have been able to significantly reduce the amount of down-time and levels of waste in our factory. In addition, we have saved ourselves a huge amount of time and effort by being able to quickly identify the root cause of issues, whether they be product or technology related.

It also means that manufacturers like us can feel more comfortable when looking at new products as this innovation will significantly cut down on trial time and costs, giving us the confidence to go from kitchen test stage to a large scale trial based on much more reliable and robust information.

Pork Farms Group is one of the UK’s leading food manufacturers, specialising in the chilled savoury pastry market. Its brands include Pork Farms, Scrummy Eggs and Bowyers and the company works with some of the UK’s largest supermarkets.

New Britain Oils is one of the world’s leading producers of certified sustainable Palm Oil and derivatives. It offers a full and comprehensive range of bakery products in both Mass Balance and fully segregated formats including reduced fat, reduced saturate, low salt and clean label options. A six strong technical support team is on hand to provide help and advice on choosing the right products and seamless integration into the manufacturing process.