Depositors are going small time, and manufacturers are working to ensure they are small time enough.
“We are constantly adding depositors at our customers’ request,” says John McIsaac, vice president, strategic business development, Reiser, Canton, Mass. “Most notable recently have been handheld depositors connected to the Vemag small-spot depositors used to fill mini quiches and special depositors that provide the ‘ice cream scoop’ look.”
Small-product depositing has become wildly popular in the past few years, and suppliers from coast to coast are witnessing the surging demand for machines capable of producing small, precisely deposited products.
“Our most popular new depositors are those that produce mini or portion-controlled products,” says Lance Aasness, vice president, sales and marketing, Hinds-Bock Corp., Bothell, Wash. “like mini muffins, cupcakes, mini snack cakes and brownies.”
Eric Riggle, vice president, Rademaker USA, Hudson, Ohio, says the popularity of product miniaturization has had a big impact on the science of depositing.
“You now see smaller, bite-size cake and dough products on the market in portion- or calorie-controlled packages, therefore you are often depositing or injecting smaller amounts of material and often times at higher rates,” he says. “Scaling accuracy becomes even more critical.”
Consumer trends aren’t acting alone to force accuracy into the forefront of depositor innovation. Economic pressures are at work as well.
“The price of ingredients has gone up, and therefore being more accurate with the depositor is very important,” Riggle explains. “Also, the range of filling and material types has increased, and a client wants to be able to deposit as many different types of fillings with the same machine.”
“In the past, people would accept a single machine for a single product,” he says. “This is no longer the real world. Producers need to be able to respond to market trends without buying new equipment.”
This versatility is becoming a common theme, although change can sometimes be slow in coming. McIsaac urges the stragglers to get on board and make life easier for themselves.
“Buy a versatile machine,” he says. “We have gone to many plants where a customer has bought a series of different machines for different depositing tasks, when one machine with the right attachments would have handled them all.”
The flexibility of attachments isn’t the only aspect clients often overlook. Riggle has seen many clients dismiss nozzles, another important depositing feature.
You can purchase the most sophisticated depositor on the market, but if the nozzle is nothing more than a drilled-out plastic piece, you will struggle with accuracy, weight control and drips,” he says.
As the price of upgrading a depositing system can be hard to swallow, it’s important for producers to take the time to think about all aspects when shopping, starting with ROI.
“What’s important is how quickly the new equipment pays for itself,” Aasness says, “how quickly there will be a return of the customer’s investment. That is achieved through labor savings and increased yield. The equipment produces product quicker, and with features like clean-in-place and rapid changeovers, customers are on to the next product. Accuracy also yields a savings by reducing ingredient waste.”
Riggle tells hesitant clients to bite the bullet and stop thinking about how to get the most effective equipment for a minimal cost.
“My advice is to go for ‘effective’ over ‘minimal,’” he says. “Do your homework, evaluate suppliers, calculate ROI, and test. These machines can operate for many years and have a long operating life. The greatest cost in purchasing capital equipment is purchasing a machine that cannot make the product you needed it to make effectively, accurately or to your demanding quality standards. This is generally the case when a client buys on price alone.”