|High-volume bakers can achieve consistent results by incorporating mixes into bakery food formulations. |
|Mixes and preblended systems eliminate scaling inaccuracies and reduce waste in many bakery food applications. |
In the world of sports, you can have a great team and still make some serious errors. Not every swing is a home run. Not every pass is a touchdown. The same can be said in the arena of baking, where mistakes, flaws and inconsistencies sometimes sideline the best efforts. In today's labor market, untrained personnel are often responsible for making critical decisions on a production line. Occasionally, these decisions are bad.
Ingredients can be rotated improperly or scaled inaccurately. There may be the addition of extra ingredients or the omission of essential ones. Yeast can die and spices can stale. All of which can make for inconsistent and sometimes wasted product. These mistakes represent serious errors for bakeries that want to satisfy customers and make money.
Adding mixes to a formulation may help strengthen a bakery's ability to please customers and the bottom line. Mixes produce consistent, quality bakery foods that retain customer loyalty and increase profits.
Improving the roster with mixes
Producing bakery foods by incorporating mixes into a formula provides efficient processing, improved throughput and inventory control, increased flexibility, and above all, a consistent end product.
"Convenience is an important driver for mix purchases," says one ingredient supplier. "But equally important are the consistency of results and portion control."
Using a mix allows bakers to manufacture the same product every production run. "The directions are simple so less training and skill is needed on the part of the baker," one mix supplier says. "And, you have a little better control of your costs since the price of a whole mix doesn't change as frequently as the prices of component commodities."
Companies that operate multiple bakeries can use mixes to ensure that its products are identical from plant to plant, and that each formula has the same costs, yields and product characteristics. According to one mix supplier, one benefit of using mixes in bakery food formulations is the elimination of the "surprise factor."
"You don't know if a scratch product is good or bad until it comes out of the oven or fryer." As a result, entire batches can be lost to incorrect ingredient scaling. This wastes ingredients, plus the time it takes to mix, batch and proof. Pre-packaged mixes can help eliminate such problems.
Using mixes also simplifies ingredient purchasing and quality assurance/quality control. "With a mix, you can always call the supplier if you have a problem, and between the two of you figure out what happened."
The use of mixes also allows bakers to hire unskilled laborers who are less costly to employ and easier to find.
Justifying the use of mixes boils down to volume and consistency. For high-volume bakers, volume is not usually a problem. Besides volume, high-volume bakers also must consider consistency when deciding how to formulate bakery foods. If a company operates multiple high-volume facilities that produce and distribute the same products, it is time to start thinking about using a premixed product, says one mix supplier. "Nothing makes customers go away more than inconsistent product," one mix supplier says.
Although many people, including bakers and customers, perceive that bakery foods made from scratch taste better, many ingredient suppliers say that bakery foods formulated with a blend can ape scratch baking. Often, artisan bread manufacturers are reluctant to convert to a preblended product. However, one blend supplier says that even these specialty breads can benefit from the use of a "goodie bag" of special ingredients such as leaveners, flavors, texture ingredients, colors, flavor enhancers, spices, browning agents, nuts, dried fruit, and other ingredients. Bakers add these "goodie bags" to their own flour and liquid ingredients.
By working with a custom blender, bakers can formulate quality products with similar tastes and functionalities of scratch products. To convert a formula to a blend, the blend supplier will begin converting the scratch formula to a premix by working in small batches until the right formula is developed. As a result, problems can be identified before scaled-up production begins.
After the initial formulas are created, the blend supplier will work with the baker to make the product unique, incorporating ethnic preferences, tastes and textures.
Although labor expenses are often reduced when converting to a mix, real cost savings are difficult to calculate. "Remember, the gains are 'soft' when switching to a mix," says one mix supplier.
Since the contract blender has the ability to make large bulk purchases of ingredients, bakers often expect a mix product to be cheaper to purchase. However, mixes are sold as finished products with accompanying overhead costs, and the pricing of mixes reflects that.
"Convenience is an important driver for mix purchases, but equally important are the consistency of results and portion control.
As a result, one mix supplier says that bakers must consider the "soft gains" of converting to mixes. When using mixes, high-volume bakeries gain consistency and hiring flexibility. These factors are critical. "Soft losses can put you out of business," says one blend supplier. Managing the consistency and reliability of product performance along with labor costs can be the deciding factor in the tight margin baking business.
In addition to reduced labor costs, the reduction of inventory represents another significant cost saving when switching to mixes. Less inventory is required for a premixed product, freeing up valuable storage space for other things.
Reducing shrink also is an important factor when calculating the cost effectiveness of
a mix. "With five ingredients to scale in, there are potentially five containers that have to be opened and measured or weighed," says one blend supplier. "These are five opportunities to be over or under the actual formula. Small residual amounts left in a bag and discarded also can add up to big dollar amounts at the end of the day."
Custom packaging also plays a significant role in the use of premixed products. Formula names and color coding clearly mark the outside packaging material, leaving little to chance when it comes to identifying the right bag to use. For example, a whole wheat bread base may be packaged in brown package, and a white bread may come in a white package to avoid confusion at the mixer and reduce waste. Blending instructions can be printed in multiple languages, or shown with graphics as well as text. Formulas with high levels of liquid, shortening, or sugar can be packaged in specialized bags that will protect the contents.
Making the right call
Scratch production requires that production workers know the formulas and the method of mixing and baking. In some operations, disgruntled employees have gone to competitors with valuable information, allowing for stolen formulas and compromised secrets. Custom blends and mixes ensure the confidentiality of formulas.
Timing is crucial when considering the switch from a scratch formula to one that employs pre-mixed product. Labor practices, usage levels and product quality are essential calculations in the move to a mix. When these figures align, converting to a mix can make good business sense.
Potential Food Industry Problems
|In house challenge||Premixed dry blend advantage|
Failure to rotate stock properly
|Simpler to rotate one premix than several individual ingredients. Custom labeling (e.g., different colored printing, larger printing, or multiple languages) will help minimize rotation errors.|
|Premixes are pre-weighed according to formula requirements. Premix bag is opened and emptied with no scaling other than yeast and/or water.|
Ingredients doubled and/or left out
|Premixes eliminate guesswork involved while adding ingredients at the mixing bowl. Each bag contains the proper amount of all ingredients.|
|One-step mixes decrease errors made by new or poorly qualified employees.|
Creating new ideas with technology
|Custom blending partnerships offer the latest food technologies and provide fresh perspectives for new ideas.|
COURTESY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF BAKING VOLUME XXV, ISSUE 3, MARCH 2003