Moisture Analysis Options for Snack Food Manufacturing
Moisture analysis plays a critical role throughout the snack food manufacturing process, from verifying incoming dry ingredients, to final product release. Moisture levels are not only critical to shelf life and flavor of the final product, but can also dramatically affect processing and extrusion characteristics. Traditionally, moisture analysis has been performed using an air-oven method, which typically takes hours to perform, making it longer than the mix cycle of most dough-state extruded snacks. Because of the short mixing period of snack food doughs, true at-line process control has historically been nearly impossible. For this reason, direct moisture testing is typically only performed on final product as a quality control measure. Various rapid, indirect techniques (NIR, FT-IR) have been introduced, but are limited in the types of products that can be tested, and require expensive calibrations for each sample type.
The SMART line of moisture/solids analyzers is uniquely designed to handle the wide variety of sample types in snack food manufacturing, from dry powder ingredients to high moisture doughs, hydrates and liquid brews. The SMART Q is a robust infrared-based analyzer that uses direct sample temperature feedback to dry samples quickly without scorching. The SMART Q is ideal for low-moisture products such as dry ingredients and finished goods. The SMART 6 utilizes dual-frequency energy, specifically microwave and infrared, to rapidly analyze any sample, regardless of moisture content, in a matter of minutes. The SMART 6 is ideal for when a mixture of wet and dry products need to be analyzed, or when short test times are critical. Both the SMART Q and SMART 6 incorporate active ventilation to the sealed sample cavity, which pulls moisture vapors away from the sample and expedites the drying process. In addition to moisture/solids analysis, CEM offers an upgrade option to include fat testing with the SMART 6 – ORACLE system. This study demonstrates that the SMART Q and SMART 6 can rapidly analyze a wide range of snack food products for moisture with an average difference of less than 0.03% compared to reference methods.