When scanning the grocery store aisle for a tasty bread, oat-and seed-topped loaves tend to stand out amid a sea of traditional breads. However, if the cost of upgrading lines and adding more ingredients is worrisome, equipment manufacturers insist that extending production lines with topping systems is inexpensive.
"A particular organization can come up with more skus using the same basic line," one topping machine manufacturer says. "Where as ovens and freezers can be expensive, topping equipment is not expensive, and it creates a value-added product, a high-margin product."
A variety of toppings exist that enhance breads' appearance and provide more healthful products. For example, the market has recently been dominated with products touting the benefits of oat, bran and flaxseed, all of which contain various healthful attributes. However, these ingredients add significant costs that may alarm some bakeries.
Besides giving bakery foods an attractive appearance, seeds, flour dust, bran and oat toppings add a healthful, premium value to bakery foods. Luckily, bread does not require a thick layer of toppings to generate consumer interest.
"What is needed is the right amount to tease the customer," one oat miller says. Oats generally cost $.20 per lb. and can be recycled if the oats miss their bakery-food target on the production line.
"Bran says a lot to health-conscious people nowadays, and flour gives that appeal that Mom is making the bread in the kitchen with sprinkles of flour on it," one ingredient supplier says.
Multiple topping systems can be used to provide a consistent topping stream on an assortment of bakery foods.
High-volume bakeries can implement and automate a motherly touch to bakery foods with topping systems, which typically can dispense various toppings from one system. Seeds are one of most commonly used topping, and they sprinkle value and taste to otherwise traditional hamburger buns. However, adding seeds to buns has its challenges, and when seeding systems are not operating correctly, 40% of seeds being deposited can miss their intended bakery foods, one topping manufacturer says.
To solve this problem, one manufacturer's seeder/topper minimizes seed waste with accurate seed placement on bakery foods. Before production begins, the pan's design is inputted into the PLC. In order for the seeder to work efficiently, lasers are used to detect when pans approach. The process begins when the edge of the bakery pans intercepts the laser light, causing the seeder/topper to start. The seeder/topper will stop depositing when it detects that no pans are passing through the system. This system eliminates topping recycling, the topping equipment manufacturer says.
"Seeds are on the pans, and bakers can't really recycle those," one topping equipment manufacturer says. "All the seeds are on buns. If you seed correctly, recycling is not needed." The system accommodates conveyor speeds of 125 ft. per minute.
The seeder/topper also uses an automated setup system that requires operators to insert the correct topping mandrel, and the seeder/topper automatically adjusts itself. The quick-change mandrels accommodate oats, bran, sesame and poppy seeds.
Keeping the streusel flowing
In the past, streusel has been known to clog topping systems. However, streusel's simplicity in its creation makes it a suitable candidate to decorate sweet goods.
To keep streusel flowing without production downtime, one manufacturer's topping system uses a reciprocating homogenizer bar coupled with an adjustable gate to deposit a consistent streusel topping. The system also uses a lattice system with thin intermeshing bars that rotate to eliminate problematic streusel buildup. Streusel is pumped into the topping system from a hopper located above the conveyor. The system can be positioned onto an existing conveyor or mounted onto a portable C-frame that uses lockable casters.
"food service outlets do not want to finish the product, they want the (food) manufacturer to handle it all."
Toppings such as oats give a premium appeal to bread, muffins, buns and other bakery foods.
Streusel's dry, crumbly and fluffy characteristics do not make it a top choice for a fast-pace production line. However, one topping equipment manufacturer examined how to automate streusel depositing for pie production. The manufacturer developed a series of streusel depositors for cake, muffin and Danish production. The depositor employs an anti-briding hopper that uses straight sidewalls and agitation to ensure clean and even streusel distribution. The system also performs high-speed spot depositing with a pin-wheel system that uses funnels or an adjustable chute. This releases streusel at a consistent, volumetric rate. The system accommodates 40-inch pan widths.
Whether adding streusel, oats or seeds, to bakery foods, these toppings have attached themselves to the high-volume baking industry. In order to stay in step with the premium food trend, sprinkling a few toppings can entice consumers into buying bakery foods.
"This is a cycle that will continue," one topping equipment manufacturer says. "We are in a period today where in-store and food service outlets do not want to finish the product , they want the (food) manufacturer to handle it all."