Sweet success in chocolate production
Confectionery Production examines how the chocolate processing sector is being driven by rapid innovation, both in new products and production solutions, despite market challenges. Daisy Phillipson reports
Though new trends and eating habits shift at a rapid pace, one thing that’s never changed is the world’s love for chocolate.
This fact is reflected in market figures, which show that despite the economic uncertainty posed by the pandemic and other factors, the international chocolate industry is valued at approximately $89.21 billion in 2021, according to the latest analysis from ResearchAndMarkets.com.
With growth projected in the coming months, we’re here to look at the trends and innovations that are enticing buyers and the latest processing equipment used to make new product ideas a reality. Consumer research from Barry Callebaut has outlined two key attitudes towards eating habits: celebrating life, which includes over-the-top indulgence and sharing in celebrations; and living consciously, involving positive choices that actively impact health, other people and the environment.
As explained by the chocolate juggernaut, although these two attitudes were once separate, they have been merging in recent years.
Indulgent and conscious sweet treats don’t have to be separate entities, as demonstrated by NPD in the chocolate sector. For instance, premium chocolate supplier Lindt & Sprüngli recently released its first ever non-dairy offering, the Classic Recipe OatMilk Chocolate Bar. By catering to the ever-growing vegan movement while also delivering a premium chocolate experience Lindt is known for, the product proved a success, even winning the Most Innovative New Product Award (Chocolate) accolade at the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo. Also operating within the vegan market is free-from business Moo Free, which recently launched its Choccy Rocks range – a series of four tasty centres comprising crunchy
malt biscuit, vegan mallow, plump raisins and vegan ‘Bunnycomb’, all of which are covered in Rainforest Alliance chocolate.
The company invested in a new panning system to bring the product range – which is free from dairy, gluten and soya and uses high quality, ethical chocolate – to market. With ethically sourced chocolate a major focus within the industry, Tony’s Chocolonely is well worth a mention as a strong advocate for social justice and its mission to tackle child and slave labour in the supply chain.
All of its bars are Fairtrade and palm oil free, made with responsibly sourced cocoa and wrapped up in fully recyclable packaging with zero plastic. Alongside these features, the company’s new bars – Milk Pecan Crunch Caramel and Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie – were released exclusively for sale in independent stores only in order to support smaller indie businesses. While we’re on the topic of the cocoa supply chain, one company has eradicated issues such as child labour and deforestation by cutting out the middle man entirely and creating cacao-free chocolate.
The innovation hails from UK startup firm WNWN, which claimed a key award for product innovation at our recent
World Confectionery Awards in Brussels, employed some considerable science and research into the subject to create the ‘alt choc’ thins, which are free from cacao, as well as palm oil, animal products and caffeine.
Made using British barley and carob sourced from Italy, WN WN said the product tastes, snaps, melts and bakes just
like chocolate. With such daring new products on the horizon that fit into the merge of conscious and indulgent eating, chocolate manufacturers must remain competitive while also dealing with issues such as increasing
inflation and food safety and quality compliance. Then there is the rise of ecommerce, meaning tighter margins and SKU proliferation. In order to keep up, the latest chocolate processing equipment that offers flexibility and adaptability is paramount.
When it comes to expanding output, traditionally this has meant significant upfront investment in machinery and technology that is logistically going to take up more space on the factory floor. But as said by Nick Halliday, managing director at chocolate and bar equipment firm PTL Machinery, for some manufacturers in historic restricted buildings, sometimes there simply isn’t more space to be used.
“For others, taking on huge fixed costs wipes out any profit to be made from new SKUs or longer runs,” he explains. “The answer, then, is to do more with the space you have.
With this in mind, PTL developed the V20 melter, said to be incredibly compact, taking up less than half the space occupied by traditional melt tanks. “To produce milk, dark and flavoured chocolate with traditional melt tanks, manufacturers would need multiple tanks feeding into multiple lines,” adds Halliday. “And then, if they
wanted to introduce white chocolate, that would require another tank or a laborious changeover process.” But with the V20 melter’s flexibility, it’s possible to replace multiple large melt tanks with a single, compact machine. “Wheel it over to a new line, tuck it into whatever small space is available, plug and play. When that SKU finishes, rinse and repeat with a new line.
With this in mind, PTL developed the V20 melter, said to be incredibly compact, taking up less than half the space occupied by traditional melt tanks. “To produce milk, dark and flavoured chocolate with traditional melt tanks, manufacturers would need multiple tanks feeding into multiple lines,” adds Halliday.
“And then, if they wanted to introduce white chocolate, that would require another tank or a laborious changeover process.” But with the V20 melter’s flexibility, it’s possible to replace multiple large melt tanks with a single, compact machine. “Wheel it over to a new line, tuck it into whatever small space is available, plug and play. When that SKU finishes, rinse and repeat with a new line.
For suppliers looking to build as they grow, machinery business Winkler und Dünnebier Süßwarenmaschinen (WDS) offers the ConfecPRO Type 670, a chocolate moulding plant for confectionery manufacturers who want to target a medium to high output quantity.
The company states that its modular design together with the decentralised electrical control ensures small expenditures during the initial assembly as well as later expansion. Addressing the need for flexibility, the plant allows the production of a variety of chocolate products such as solid or filled and bars or pralines. With regard to footprint, it is 1,000mm in height and is said to offer good accessibility for cleaning and maintenance purposes.
A robust touch panel displays the various control options clearly and logically while also providing operators with recipe management, production data and precise parameterisation.
or manufacturers seeking to create products that cater to a wide variety of trends, coated sweet treats are always a great option as it’s possible to cover a wide variety of fillings in chocolate using one piece of equipment.
There are a number of methods to do so, including enrobing and panning. While enrobing showers the inclusion with tempered chocolate and is ideal for products such as cookies and bars, panning is the best option for round balls such as Moo Free’s Choccy Rocks as it covers all the sides of the inclusion thanks to its rotating drum. For the former process, machinery specialist Sollich offers a range of tempering and enrobing solutions.
With factory footprint in mind, the Temperstatic T6 is an ideal space-saving solution, offering the latest of the company’s enrobing technology with an integrated tempering system. With this machine, the built-in Turbotemper ensures controlled crystal formation on continuously, evenly cooled surfaces while a tightly controlled mixing zone provides a constant optimal degree of temper.
Sollich notes that the coating process is characterised by consistent viscosity and throughput, with the precise calibration of all built-in components ensuring an even product coverage. Production solutions provider Aasted’s most recent innovation in this area is the StellaNova chocolate tempering machine, which offers separate cooling and shearing processes.
This means it is possible to set the exit temperature as low as 27ºC while maintaining the highest quality of crystals, with a reportedly 40 per cent shorter cooling time enabling productivity gains.
The machine is built entirely in stainless steel and has a distinctive planet wheel design within the column that is said to deliver 400 per cent more shear without creating additional shear heat. When it comes to enrobing, Aasted offers a full Nielsen Enrobing line for products that either require chocolate, compound or sugar-coating.
The business highlights its patented energy-saving chocolate enrober technology, which is said to decrease energy usage while simultaneously increasing chocolate quality. Its StellaNova also claims savings of up to 50 per cent of energy compared to traditional tempering machines.
Regarding the panning process, chocolate machinery specialist Selmi offers the Comfit system for coating a variety of inclusions such as nuts, dried fruit and coffee beans. The firm highlights how the coating pan is made entirely of AISI 304 steel and is equipped with an electronic speed control to optimise the coating of different types and sizes of products. The introduction of air into the rotating tank cavity is controlled by a cooling system aimed at speeding up the enlargement of the dragees via the introduction of chocolate.
In the following phase, a resistance is used to smooth and polish the product and clean the machine. The Comfit is compatible with an optional SpraySystem for automatic chocolate spraying. Another company operating in this particular process is DT&G Limited, with a team of specialist engineers manufacturing its range of Finn Chocolate Coating and Polishing Technologies for fruit, nuts, rice krispies, malt balls and many other products in chocolate and yoghurt. Demonstrating not only its engineering capabilities but its ethos as a solutions provider, the company recently donated one of its coating solutions to the Aggie Chocolate Factory, a small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate production facility at Utah State University.
The factory was introduced so that students can explore the industry and get hands-on experience. Since most of the equipment is donated and the operating facility produces smallbatch chocolates, DT&G felt its Micro Coater would best suit its needs as it is ideal for table-top producers, researchers and product designers.
The company notes that the system is different to other DT&G Finn coating machines as it offers hands-on experience with manual chocolate application. Since sending the Micro Coater, the Aggie Chocolate Factory has been working on a number of new products including chocolate coated peanuts.
With rising SKUs and globalisation in the food sector, recent years have seen a gradual shift towards Industry 4.0, with chocolate suppliers implementing innovative digital solutions in order to boost efficiency amid increasing product complexity. One company that champions innovation in this area s equipment group Bühler, which offers a broad chocolate processing portfolio from bean to bar.
Stuart Bashford, digital officer at Bühler Group, suggests to engage with digitalisation as soon as possible. It has started to digitalise the whole production process, connecting all equipment via sensors to its industrial IoT platform Bühler Insights.
By enabling data collection, the company is able to offer digital services to reduce energy usage, increase yield or quality, or reduce unplanned downtime. For those starting out on their digital journey, Bashford notes that it’s important to not try and solve every problem at once. “Start small, look for some quick wins, and then build from there,” he adds. Bühler offers numerous services in this context including sensors that can be retrofitted to existing plant equipment, and equipment that can be integrated to a range of industry standard communications protocols, which opens up the potential to offer state-ofthe-art solutions to older equipment to augment performance or extend lifetime