Snack foods are found in virtually every household and is a growing market representing over 350 billion USD in annual sales. Snack foods include chips, tortilla chips, nuts, savory snacks, and sweet snacks such as cereal and granola snacks. The snack food market is extremely competitive, and maintaining the strict quality control standards set by the manufacturer is important to make every snack look and taste the same no matter where you buy the bag of your favorite snack food.
Producing consistent quality snacks can present a challenge to manufacturers, with natural incoming materials showing variations in composition and quality. Many snack food manufacturers are either performing little analytical testing or are using time consuming methods that do not provide “real time” analysis. Little or no testing is performed on incoming raw materials. Manufacturers tend to rely on the vendor to provide them with the proper ingredients. This is a recipe for disaster as there is no proof that the vendor is sending the proper material or a particular quality. Little is also being done at the mixer. Manufacturers trust that all ingredients are added properly based on weight.
Additionally, small variations in manufacturing such as mixing, oil temperature / quality or oven temperature can further compound the situation.
A proper analytical testing procedure can help to ensure consistent food product quality and to save money by reducing re-work and improving cycle time. Quality control testing can be done on raw materials, during the process and on final product for everything from moisture, fat, percent seasoning and may others. Other methods that can be used for these applications are wet chemistry and image analysis.
NIR analysis has long been used in the snack food industry to analyze incoming ingedients, intermediates and finished products. At-line NIR analyzers can supply accurate moisture, total sugar, fat, protein and many other properties at any stage of the process in 30 seconds. This information enables more efficient production, more consistent products and higher profits.