Breakfast cereal manufacturers make up a large segment of the baked good market and produce large amounts of a variety of products. Globally breakfast cereals represent over $30 billion dollars annually in the global food market and are a significant part of food purchases around the world. This food segment includes cold and hot cereals and cereal mixes. Traditional flakes and baked shapes compromise much of the market, but allergen-free mixes, health conscious nuts and dried fruits are becoming more common.
The breakfast cereal market is highly competitive markets where brand loyalty and consistent product quality can result in increasing market share and concomitant production and distribution efficiencies. Consistent product quality and efficient production are keys to a successful product.
During production, incoming wheat, corn, or rice is cleaned and cooked in large tanks of boiling water or steam to soften the kernels. The ingredient is then sent to a shredder or flake press where it is manipulated into its final shape. The material is then conveyed through a large flow-through oven for baking. Additional flavorings, such as frosting or sugar, can be added before packaging.
Incoming raw materials, such as wheat, corn, or rice, can be analyzed to insure proper quality and to verify vendor specifications. The tempered raw material can be analyzed for moisture to ensure that it will be flaked or shredded properly. The in-process product can be analyzed for moisture to control the oven temperature and for sugar content to control the amount of sugar or frosting applied to the material. Finished product can also be analyzed for moisture, fat, and sugar to verify that the process is operating optimally. Improper moisture content in the cereal could lead to poor taste and possible bacteria growth. A proper analytical testing procedure can help to produce consistent product, ensure label requirements, and save money by reducing re-work and improving cycle time.
NIR analysis has long been used in the cereal industry to analyze incoming raw ingredients, intermediates, and finished product. At-line NIR analyzers can supply accurate moisture, total sugar, reducing sugar, fat, fiber and many other properties at any stage of the process in 30 seconds. This information will lead to more efficient production, more consistent products and higher profits.
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