Baby food / Infant food
Baby food / Infant food

Baby food / Infant food

Todays market demands drive manufacturers of baby food to focus on the efficiency of their production process and on the highest product quality. A determining factor for the quality of baby food / infant food is the production line, starting with proper mixing of the raw materials followed by pre-cooking of the slurry. For more than a century, instant cereal-based baby food has been manufactured on process lines incorporating the drum drying technology. Due to the organoleptic properties obtained from this type of process these drum dried products are easy to prepare and therefore have become the standard for cereal-based baby food. The drum drying technology guarantees that the product will be fully gelatinized, so that it can be broken down and digested in the human body. The gelatinization also makes the product easily (cold) soluble during reconstitution, resulting in a smooth and light viscous porridge. The very high protein solubility, good swelling behaviour, and water absorption of the final product is a unique combination of product characteristics obtained by the drum drying process, something that can not be achieved with other processes.

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Drum dryer technology

The drum drying technology not only meets high consumer demands, but also offers many advantages for manufacturers. For example, the wet product is dried to the required final moisture content (to obtain a long shelf life) in one single process step, without the need of any additional equipment. Due to the intense temperature treatment of the product during the drying process on a drum dryer, the product is actually pasteurized while being dried.

The drum drying technology is incorporated in processing lines that also include slurry preparation, a mill-sifter section, a section for blending additives, such as vitamins and minerals, and storage in silo's. A determining factor for the quality and recognizable colour, taste, and texture of the baby food is the slurry preparation where the ingredients are taken in, weighed, mixed and pre-cooked (see flow sheet).

Each production line is specially engineered, designed, installed and commissioned. Yet, the following process description could be considered a good example of how slurry preparation in a modern production line is done. The process starts with intake hoppers, big-bag unloading stations, silo's or a combination, where the ingredients for the baby food are stored. Based on the formula, a combination of ingredients in the required composition are weighed in a weighing hopper from where the ingredients are fed into a turbo mixer.

Turbo mixer

The turbo mixer is filled with the right amount of water followed by dosing the ingredients in the mixing tank which is the starting point for the slurry preparation. The end-result of the mixing process depends on several design aspects of the turbo mixer. Important aspects are the shape of the mixing tank, the type of valves, the speed of the mixer and the shape of the propeller blades. Due to its high speed the turbo mixer allows short mixing times, guaranteeing an efficient production process. By enabling short production runs this type of mixer ensures a constant quality of the slurry during processing, as degradation of the slurry due to long holding times is avoided. Small batches also minimizes the loss of slurry in case of an unexpected production stop in which case the slurry is to be disposed of.

Pre-cooking

From the batch-based mixing process the slurry is transferred to holding tanks with stirring unit. The holding tanks enable the change over from the batch-based process to the continuous pre-cooking and drum drying process. Standard configurations of production lines include 2 holding tanks although other configurations are also possible.

For pre-heating ANDRITZ Gouda offers a direct or indirect solution: a direct type heater, the Jet Cooker, or an indirect type heater, the Thermorotor®. Pre-heating of the slurry is basically done to pasteurize or sterilize the slurry to obtain a low germ count. Moreover, it is applied to obtain a optimum degree of pre-gelatinization.

The versatile and robust Thermorotor® is a scraped surface heat-exchanger. The double-jacketed cylindrical body of the Thermorotor® acts as a heat exchanging surface where the product comes into contact with. A rotor with scraper knives runs lengthwise through the core of the heat exchanger. The scraping knives improve the mixing process and refresh the product film on the heat exchanging surface. As a resultant the heat transfer is increased, supporting a high efficiency of the production process. The strength of the Thermorotor® heat exchanger is that it can thermally treat a wide range of products where other heat exchangers give unsatisfactory results due to product properties.

The direct pre-cooking unit Jet Cooker is a cylindrical unit containing a static mixer. The slurry is being pumped through the unit with the pump which brings the slurry from the holding tank to the drum dryer. In the Jet Cooker sanitary steam is injected in the slurry. As the slurry and steam flows through the unit, they are mixed intensively by a unique static mixer. The required residence time at high temperature is realized in the piping after the mixing unit, where the slurry is kept under (steam) pressure. The temperature of the slurry is automatically controlled by the amount of steam which is injected in the product. At the end of the piping, the product is released to atmospheric pressure. The product is then ready for the next process step: drum drying.

Enzymatic treatment

For sweetening of the final product without the addition of sugar, for liquefaction, or a combination of both, ANDRITZ Gouda offers the possibility to design the process line for enzymatic treatment of the slurry. Based on modern enzyme technology the starches are broken down to sugars in an enzymatic treatment tank. As the viscosity of the slurry can be reduced during the hydrolyzation process, slurry's with higher dry solids can be processed.

CIP and flushing system


An important aspect in every food production line is a long and continuous operation time between cleanings. Downtime means lack of production and risk of contamination. A Cleaning in Place (CIP) or flushing system can be installed as integrated part of ANDRITZ Gouda's production lines for baby food. These systems meet all hygienic standards of baby food production and avoid product degradation and contamination during the process. The systems offer a fast and simple solution for either Cleaning in Place after each production or flushing after each batch. The CIP and flush systems can be fully automated and their design guarantees a minimum usage of water. Besides the CIP and flush features of ANDRITZ Gouda's processing lines, the pre-cooking units also offer the possibility to easily disassemble the inner work for cleaning and inspection.

 

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Infant Food
Infant Food
Infant Food Processing
Infant Food Processing
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