Anyone who has successfully managed or owned a restaurant will say that a key ingredient to its success is making food that’s consistently of high quality. When someone wants to go out for a meal and pay for food that’s been prepared for them, they tend to choose places where they know they’ll consistently get a quality meal. One bad meal can make a regular customer stop patronizing a restaurant.
It’s the same thing for consumers in a grocery store. They’ll regularly purchase the brands they know offer consistent quality. Food processing companies understand the importance of consistency when it comes to the taste and texture of processed foods as well. Consistency in flavor and texture is even more important for candy and gummy manufacturing, depending on how their ingredients are processed.
Attaining Proper Consistency in Candy and Gummy Manufacturing Processes
Key candy and gummy manufacturing ingredients include flour, gelatin, starch, and sugar. These must be processed with consistency (i.e., dependable processes) to attain the proper consistency (i.e., the manner in which ingredients are bound together). In simpler terms, the texture of a food product depends on having reliable processes in place, which contributes to the quality of the food product being made. This, in turn, requires that a candy manufacturing company has the correct equipment and utilizes techniques that will result in the production of a quality product time and again.
The processing of grains into flour has been done for thousands of years. While wheat flour is mainly used for making baked sweet treats like cookies and cakes, it can also be processed into starch, which is widely used for candy manufacturing as a thickener. However, flour can also be used on its own to help thicken ingredients during gummy manufacturing, like licorice or certain other chewy candies. While these thickeners primarily use wheat flour, gluten-free flours like almond, oat, and rice can also be used in candy manufacturing. Regardless of the type of flour being processed for candy, manufacturing processes for milling and sifting flour share similarities. To attain a uniform consistency requires careful particle size management.
Milling and other machinery used for the processing of flour include:
- Hammer mills offer a low-cost means for particle size reduction, utilizing swinging hammers that impact material at high speeds with screens that classify particles of the correct size.
- Air classifying mills produce narrow particle size distributions and are capable of grinding flour to 20 microns (683 mesh), combining impact milling with air classification; hammers reduce the size as per the hammer mill, with blowing air conveying on correctly sized particles and returning the rest to be milled further.
Milling flour for candy manufacturing can involve a range of different machinery and methods to achieve desired quality and consistency.
While gummy manufacturing uses a wide array of ingredients – including syrups, sugars, food coloring, and flavoring ingredients – one of the most important of these is gelatin, a pure form of protein made from collagen. Found in the blood vessels, bones, intestinal lining, ligaments, muscles, organs, skin, tendons, and other connective animal tissues, collagen used for gummy manufacturing comes primarily from healthy cattle, pigs, poultry, and even fish. Powdered gelatin used in the candy industry is generally tasteless and can act to aerate, bind, emulsify, stabilize, and otherwise combine ingredients for proper consistency. Processing gelatin for gummy manufacturing requires special equipment, including centrifuges or separators that filter out unwanted particles.
Gelatin processing for candy and gumming manufacturing involves:
- Pretreatment: This involves freeing fat and minerals via either an alkaline or acid treatment, with the alkaline treatment to break down densely interconnected tissue taking several weeks and followed by an acid treatment that neutralizes the alkaline ingredients of the former process.
- Extraction process: Pretreated raw materials go through multiple steps, using heated drinking water within specific parameters to make gelatin of varied strengths.
- Refinement process: The extracted solution goes through a process that removes acid residue, calcium, sodium, and other salts, along with other traces of animal fats and fibers.
- Congealing process: The refined gelatin solution is thickened to the consistency of honey and concentrated via a vacuum evaporation system.
- Dehydration process: Once concentrated, the gelatin is sanitized, cooled down, set into a gel, and dehydrated until it becomes what’s known as “jelly noodles” that are then ground into grains once dry.
Gelatin is also used for cannabis-infused edible gummies and flavored gelatin nutraceuticals and gummy vitamins. Instead of gelatin, some gummy manufacturing companies utilize alternatives like agar agar, cornstarch, guar gum, pectin, xanthan gum, or other vegetarian or vegan ingredients for their candies.
Plants comprise cellulose, fats, oils, proteins, and other substances, including starch. While starch can come from wheat grains, the vast majority of starch used in the Americas comes from corn, though starch can also be extracted from other grains like rice as well as tubers like potatoes. The process for extracting starch involves a gradual process to physically separate the starch from the rest of the plant.
Corn starch extraction for candy or gummy manufacturing involves:
- Cleaning to remove any external contaminants.
- Soaking in water until kernels double in size, weakening gluten bond and releasing starch.
- Milling until a coarse slurry so that the germ separates from fiber, gluten, and starch.
- During this coarse milling process, corn germ is removed from the slurry and corn oil is extracted from it before being washed and removed.
- Milling process to grind harder parts of corn until fine, which removes starch completely until it’s a milk-like substance.
- Pumping grit milk with fine and coarse fibers to extract starch.
- Removing and washing fiber, after which it’s removed from the water and dried.
- Separating starch and gluten from the starch-rich milk from the previous step so that starch leaves the separator as underflow while gluten leaves as overflow.
- While the gluten is concentrated and further processed, the leftover starch slurry goes through filters or a centrifuge to remove water until it becomes a cake and is then dried.
Softer candies and centers of candy are formed via a starch mogul, a machine developed at the cusp between the 19th and 20th centuries, which makes candy centers and shaped candy. Manufacturing these centers and softer candy involves filling trays with cornstarch, after which the starch is stamped into a desired shape and then filling the stamped holes with the liquid candy or gel.. Once the candy is set, these are removed from trays, and the remaining starch gets recycled.
Though these machines reduced the number of jobs available in candy manufacturing companies, they made workplaces safer by reducing dust that could cause respiratory conditions while also decreasing the probability of conflagrations or explosions occurring due to explosive starch dust.
Arguably the most important ingredient in candy and gummy manufacturing is sugar, though there are several types of sugar that are used in the industry to make candy. Manufacturing equipment used to process sugar breaks down naturally occurring sugars from plants, though traditionally, sugar comes from either sugarcane or sugar beets. Naturally occurring sugars are glucose, fructose, lactose, and sucrose.
Glucose comes from foods with high carbohydrates, like potatoes and fruits. Also referred to as “fruit sugar,” fructose occurs naturally in foods like fruit, honey, and vegetables; it’s the main ingredient in high-fructose corn syrup, which is often used instead of sugar in the United States. Lactose is the natural sugar that occurs in milk and dairy products. Along with nuts, sucrose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, including sugar beets and sugarcane, from which table sugar is derived. Besides the sweetness it provides for candy manufacturing, sucrose also acts as an emulsifier and preservative. Though all these sugars can and are used in candy manufacturing, sucrose is the most commonly used.
Steps for processing sugar from sugar beets or sugarcane for candy or gummy manufacturing:
- Sugar beets or sugarcane are sieved to remove rocks and dirt after harvest and before processing.
- Wash beets or cane thoroughly in flues filled with water or spraying water as they are conveyed on belts.
- After washing, beets or cane are conveyed to be milled; sugar beets are cut with slicing machines, while sugarcane is crushed via either grooved crushing rollers or shredders with swing hammers.
- Cut-up beets go into hot water tanks to soak while hot water is sprayed on the cane; this is done to make plant cells swell to make extraction easier.
- Juice is then extracted:
- Beets are pumped into tanks, with a rotating shaft conveying beet solids upwards against a flow of water, which extracts the juice.
- Cane is milled, with juice collected in large vats where sugar concentrations within the juice are measured.
- Sulfur dioxide is added in a process called sulfidation to purify the juice and lighten its color.
- An alkalization or a carbonation process is used to separate out material that isn’t sugar but is soluble from the juice to further purify it.
- Juice is removed from the top of the tank while sludge is removed from the bottom, with the sludge further filtered to extract the remaining sugar.
- Juice is boiled along an array of vacuum evaporators until it’s at between a 50 to 65 percent concentration of sugar until a virtually pale, thick syrup results.
- In a vacuum pan, a sucrose solution is slowly added to the syrup in a process known as seeding, in which moisture evaporates from the syrup until sugar crystals form.
- A dense syrupy mixture with sugar crystals is formed, which is then transferred to a crystalizing container, where it’s mixed, cooled, and continues to crystalize.
- A centrifuge rotating between 1000 to 2800 revolutions every minute separates sugar crystals from molasses, which is removed and stored in tanks.
- Sugar crystals are washed with spring water once molasses is removed.
- Dried via dryers using hot air, sugar crystals’ moisture content is reduced to as little as 0.02 percent.
- Sugar goes through a granulator, where it’s tumbled and further heated.
- Dried sugar crystals go through vibrating screens that separate crystals by size before going into bins and being packaged.
A variety of machinery can be used for sugar processing. Lump crushers use compression, impact, or shear to break down sugar beets or sugarcane, utilized to crush sugar grains with higher speeds producing smaller grains. These machines can be used to process raw sugar or, later in the candy manufacturing process, break down agglomerated sugar before its addition as an ingredient in finished products.
For powdered grades of sugar, fine grinders and air classifying mills are used. Air classifying mills utilize impact milling, followed by classification and conveyance via moving air, separating and recirculating sugar particles by sizes ranging from 44 to 74 microns (200 to 325 mesh). Sugar processors often use fine grinders to make confectioners’ and powdered sugars, utilizing impact milling within a pneumatic system that both conveys and classifies much like air classifying mills do. Fine grinders can easily reduce granules from 75 to 149 microns (100-200 mesh) within a narrow particle distribution.
Prater Equipment for Candy and Gummy Manufacturing
Prater Industries designs and builds a wide variety of equipment that can be used to process raw ingredients before candy and gummy manufacturing. Many of our machines can also be customized to serve specific purposes within candy and gummy manufacturing systems as well.
Prater equipment used during various stages of gummy or candy production includes:
- Air classifying mills for milling flours, along with gelatin, starch, and sugar production.
- Fine grinders for processing flours, gelatin, starch, and sugar.
- Hammer mills with full screens for milling flours, along with processing gelatin and starch.
- Lump breakers for sugar production and breaking down agglomerated sugar prior to use in baking and confectionary manufacturing.
- Rotary sifters (also known as centrifugal sifters) for processing flours and sugar, along with reclaiming starch from mogul machines.
To learn more about how our highly versatile and customizable machinery can fit your candy or gummy manufacturing needs, contact the experts at Prater today.