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Moisture control in manufacturing & packaging confectionery
Friday, 08 July, 2011, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Sonali Dutta

And all sweet things come to a sticky end, ideally, in the mouth. Moisture, however, plays spoilsport midway ruining the texture and making confectionery items soggy and visually unappealing to the consumer. This arises because all confectionery items, chocolates, hard candies, chewing gums, bubble gums, sweets, toffees, and so on, are rich in sugar and hence are hygroscopic. When the humidity is high, these products regain moisture and become sticky and prone to mould formation. Some typical problems of moisture include bloom in chocolates. "Bloom" is nothing but fat and sugar crystals that rise to the surface if the chocolate absorbs moisture during packaging. Moisture also inhibits the natural flow as it sticks to the high speed processing and packaging machinery and also to the wrapping material. The processing thus slows down and also creates a problem of hygiene, resulting in loss of production as well as loss in the final product quality.

The ideal and most cost-effective solution is moisture control during processing, packaging and storage. Moisture control with Bry-Air's range of dehumidifiers ensures that sweet things have a sticky end in the mouth only.

Confectionery industry

The confectionery industry is one of the major players in the food processing business. Confectionery includes items that are rich in sugar i.e. chocolates, candies, lollies, toffees and some varieties of snack foods as well. While the Indian confectionery industry has picked up pace in the last couple of years, it still has many challenges to tackle, moisture amongst many others. Moisture is a major hindrance during processing, packaging and storage, leading to decreased shelf life, change in texture, mould formation, loss of crunch and so on.

Uncontrolled humidity / moisture during the manufacturing and coating process of confectionery (chocolates, candies sweet snacks) typically causes -

  • Change in the structure / dimension of the film core interface

  • Grainy and irregular coating

  • Increase in residual moisture content and improper adhesion i.e. degradation of coating quality presence of moisture

  • Sugar bloom and change in flavour

    Moisture problems

    Chocolates!! The very mention of the word sets the taste buds tingling of young and old alike. It builds bridges, breaks the ice and well one can get poetic or downright hungry at the mention of chocolates. Behind the scene, the manufacturing process of chocolates and candies right from the point when cocoa is bought in, to the packing and shipping out stage demands stringent humidity and temperature control.

    Moisture spoils the chocolates. When it is tempered, moisture or steam usually gets into it. And chocolate once spoiled by moisture cannot be restored to its original condition. Hence the importance of keeping chocolates free from dampness during manufacturing process. The various stages in chocolate manufacturing where humidity control is a must are mainly chocolate coating areas, packing rooms and storage areas.

    Chocolate coating areas

    Chocolate coatings are applied to the entire material by two ways: either formed by hand or cast in starch or rubber moulds and then dipped by hand or enrobed mechanically. Setting of chocolate is controlled by conditioning the air in the dipping room. The conditions usually recommended for achieving uniform distribution are RH at 50% or lower at 24-27°C temperature. Such precise condition can only be maintained by a dehumidifier.

    Chocolate covered nuts, a popular gift item now-a-days can benefit more from using dry air to speed drying. Coated chocolates with a high quality glossy surface can be obtained with the aid of dry air from desiccant dehumidifier.

    Chocolate packaging

    Manufacturers often overlook the fact that the air in the packing room has moisture while chocolates are being packed in one of the moisture-proof packets. Controlling this air in context to humidity and temperature is very essential as presence of moisture would make chocolates lose their lustre or show sugar bloom and would develop either a sticky or grained surface depending on the formula used.

    Knowing blooming

    The whitish discoloration 'bloom' is fat and sugar crystals that rises to the surface if the chocolate absorbs moisture during storage. Such chocolates do not look nice even though they are edible.

    Chocolates need to be stored at 35 ± 5% RH at 25°C for safe storage in order to retain its original flavour and aroma.

    Now-a-days with the bludgeoning of supermarkets, the storage time at the retailer has increased considerably. It is important that the chocolate or candy does not lose its quality during this time. The additional benefits of conditioned storage are

  • No blooming

  • Insects are rendered inactive at temperatures below 9ºC

  • Chocolates remain firm

  • Loss of colour, aroma and flavour is minimised

    Biscuits manufacturing

    Due to the highly hygroscopic nature of all biscuits when exposed to moisture even for a short while, they lose their crispness. Although the quality is not affected, they become soggy and rubbery and in general not very appetising.

    In the manufacturing process the biscuits are at high temperature. However, before the cooled biscuits can be packed they often have to be stored and being exposed to humidity, they tend to regain moisture. Therefore, it becomes essential that humidity in the 'Hot Room' be controlled so that quality of the biscuit is not spoiled.

    Candy manufacturing

    One of confectionery manufacturers' worst fears is high humidity in production facilities. Candy quality deteriorates when humid conditions exist in three primary areas: coating, cooling, packaging and storage areas.

    The production of hard candies, with or without centrefills or coated gums (sugar-free / sugar gum) is an intricate process. The material is in a plastic state during the manufacturing process. It must flow and be shaped by a stamping machine. The natural foe which inhibits the free flow is the ever-present moisture in the air. Sugar, being hygroscopic by nature, becomes sticky when exposed to highly humid conditions. The moisture also interferes with the operation of the processing machine.

    The only solution to the problem lies in surrounding the processing and manufacturing area with dry air.

    One of the most widely used coating techniques is pan coating. The term pan comes from the coating apparatus used to coat soft-centre candy with a harder candy shell. This would include candy with soft jelly centres, chocolate centres, centres with combinations of chocolate and nuts, gum pallets - sugar- free / sugar-coated and many others. The coating pans are used to apply the outer coating into the raw centres as they tumble in a large drum. Spray nozzles mounted inside the pan coater drums evenly distribute the liquid to form the outer coating shell. Heat is applied to the pans so that the liquid in the coatings evaporates and the hard shell is formed. If the heated air blowing through the pans is too moist, the drying times are significantly longer and, therefore, the throughput is greatly diminished. The drying of the coatings applied in pans becomes the critical factor in maximising the throughput in this entire production cycle.

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