Building Better Tortillas

Staying fresh while going clean

by Romy Schafer – See original article here

All manufacturers deal with a variety of daily occurrences—some expected, some unforeseen—that can impact their production efficiency and costs and, ultimately, their bottom line. Food producers must also figure food safety, sanitation (machine, facility and employee) and facility inspections into their production equation.

For tortilla manufacturers, choosing the best ingredients and equipment for their operation can help them improve their production efficiency, deal with unexpected events and keep up their bottom line on an upward track.

Ingredient efficiencies

AB Mauri North America, St. Louis, offers core ingredients used to produce wheat flour tortillas, such as chemical and biological leaveners (baking powders and yeast), acidulates, mold inhibitors, flavors, enzymes and dough relaxers. It also has solutions that meet the unique requirements of gluten-free and/or organic tortillas manufacturers as well as solutions for those interested in offering clean-label, low-sodium or phosphate-free products.

The company’s Supremo Tortilla System comprises ingredient modules created to meet key attributes of wheat tortillas, including shelf life, softness, stretch and thickness. The modules—which can be dialed up or down to meet consumer preferences—work synergistically with one another to produce a variety of tortilla types.

AB Mauri recently introduced two new solutions for corn tortillas: Supremo Liquid Preserve and Supremo 1000 GF. The first is a clean-label mold-inhibition system designed to inhibit a broad spectrum of microorganisms for both corn and flour tortillas. The second is an enzyme-based system designed to meet the extended shelf-life requirements of gluten-free baked products, such as corn tortillas.

“Every client has its own goals and challenges,” says Darren Braulik, region vice president, AB Mauri North America. “AB Mauri focuses on understanding the client’s priorities—whether it be product, formula, process or ingredient. Once the requirements are understood, we are able to work specifically on those objectives. This approach brings in improvements that balance key areas and typically result in better energy use, less waste and enhanced product quality.”

Corbion Caravan, Lenexa, KS, also has multiple ingredient solutions for tortilla manufacturers, including emulsifier solutions, enzyme technology, flavor blends and a wide assortment of mixes and bases that “deliver high-quality tortillas and flatbreads in a consistent manner for any producer,” says Abby Ceule, director, market management, breads. The company’s latest technology, Southern Tortilla Advanced, is a base designed to make high-quality tortillas with maximum flexibility, softness and little translucency.

“Our functional ingredients offer improved quality, anti-stick, extended shelf life and maximum flexibility,” says Ceule. “Our convenient mixes and bases deliver these same functionalities in the formats needed for any bakery.”

Emulsifiers, hydrocolloids and enzymes are among the core ingredients useful to tortilla manufacturers. “Some of our offerings are very unique and provide specific functionality unavailable elsewhere,” says Steven L. Mallory, senior application specialist, bakery, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, KS. He cites POWERFlex enzymes and emulsifiers, PANODAN DATEM emulsifier, POWERFreshG4 amylase-based enzymes and DuPont Danisco hydrocolloids as products that help manufacturers create soft, extensible tortilla dough; extend the shelf life of tortillas; prevent sticking of finished tortillas; keep tortillas flexible; and more.

The company also offers a product that helps prevent mold growth in tortillas. Natamax B Plus is unique, says Mallory, because it is all-natural and, unlike calcium propionate or potassium sorbate, doesn’t depend on the pH of the substrate for its functionality. It also has no flavor or odor in the finished product, allowing for the production of a long-shelf-life tortilla that tastes freshly made, with a natural claim and cleaner label.

“We work with specific customers to solve challenging problems, such as production issues, improving flexibility, sticking problems, extending shelf life, improving texture, protein or fiber enhancement, sodium or fat reduction, PHO replacement and clean label,” Mallory says.

SHIELD liquid mold inhibitors control microbes, preventing spoilage and mold growth, notes Courtney Schwartz, marketing communications manager, food technologies, Kemin Industries Inc., Des Moines, IA. The products provide homogenous, even dispersion throughout dough; eliminate dust common with dry preservatives; and improve handling without affecting product taste, she says. Other benefits include increased dough softness, moisture retention and end product flexibility; optional automation to reduce weighing and variability; and high concentration, reducing freight, handling and storage expenses.

Schwartz notes that SHIELD products also offer users an application method not often found in typical tortilla systems. “SHIELD products can use a computerized delivery system, which is added with water at the mixing stage,” she explains. “This addition helps improve overall mixing efficiencies by thoroughly blending dry ingredients before the addition of water and the SHIELD antimicrobials. In a wheat flour system, this means there is a certain amount of tolerance given to the chemical leavening system.”

By the batch

“Tortilla manufacturers face many challenges,” says Tom Jondiko, Ph.D., food scientist, Allied Blending & Ingredients, Bell, CA. “Increasing production without increasing costs is a major concern. Likewise, consistency in product outcome and meeting industry standards consistently can cause frustration.”

Jondiko says one way tortilla manufacturers can overcome these obstacles is with BatchPaks, an assembly of functional and nutritional ingredients tailored to meet specific needs. “With the increasing popularity of tortillas both in the U.S. and worldwide, tortilla manufacturers can expect a consistent increase in sales,” he adds. “One creative way to decrease production costs and increase one’s competitive edge and profit in the tortilla market is to use low-cost BatchPaks.”

Jondiko says BatchPaks help tortilla manufacturers increase their efficiency in three key areas—ingredient management, quality control and assurance, and research and development. Because the supplier manages all the ingredients and creates the packs, tortilla manufacturers see lower inventory management and warehousing costs. Each BatchPak’s pre-weighed packaging ensures increased homogeneity in the tortillas produced, as well as in product yield. The mixes are developed by a team of experienced and highly trained scientists that works with tortilla manufacturers to make proprietary formulas for their specific needs. They can develop organic, gluten-free, heart-healthy, whole-grain, low-sodium, low-carb, clean-label, multigrain, low-fat and non-GMO formulations.

Improving production

Ingredients that help tortilla manufacturers easily, affordably and consistently develop on-trend products that are flavorful and flexible—as well as have a long shelf life—are just one part of the efficiency equation when it comes to producing tortillas. Choosing the right equipment for all stages of the tortilla manufacturing process is the other.

Don Giles, director of sales for snack processing systems, Heat and Control Inc., Hayward, CA, says the company’s new Masa Maker system produces fresh masa from dry corn in minutes, rather than hours, like the traditional simmer-soak-wash process.

In addition to reducing production time, it eliminates wasteful water usage and effluent surcharges because it eliminates the need to soak or wash the corn. “Water is used only as an ingredient in the masa,” Giles explains, adding the machine requires no steam generator and produces fresh corn masa at a lower cost than using pre-milled masa flour.

Transporting tortillas smoothly from ovens to packaging stations requires conveyors with durable belts that can withstand high temperatures at the beginning and release products easily at the end. Taconic, Petersburgh, NY, produces fiberglass fabric coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and converts it into belts in its facilities for use in the press stage of the tortilla manufacturing process, says Tim Romero, the company’s product sales manager.

Made to customers’ specifications, the belts go through extensive testing by the company to ensure durability and longevity. And because they’re manufactured from raw materials in the company’s facilities and distributed from these facilities to customers, Taconic can maintain a short lead time.

“Our engineered tortilla belts offer our customers high-temperature resistance, dimensional stability and optimal release, even for wheat-based food products,” Romano says.

Improving packaging

While the Genesis Servo Tortilla Counter/Stacker is the most commonly sold piece of equipment by Arr-Tech Inc., Yakima, WA, the company is selling more fully integrated packaging systems—including a counter/stacker—today than ever before, says Kevin Pearson, the company’s vice president. “Five years ago, the majority of our sales consisted of a single counter/stacker,” he explains. “Today, it is becoming rare for our customers to purchase a counter/stacker without the packaging automation.”

Replacing a packaging process that uses manual labor with a fully automated packaging system, says Pearson, allows manufacturers to greatly reduce their labor footprint and run upstream equipment at full capacity, with typically only a couple of operators managing the systems’ operational functions.

Specializing in fully integrated packaging equipment has allowed Arr-Tech to stay “ahead of the game in terms of technology, maintainability and return on investment,” says Pearson. “Because our systems have so much flexibility, we are able to match up an Arr-Tech packaging systems to any of the tortilla production lines on the market.”

In addition to flexibility, Arr-Tech’s system offers easy product changeover without the need for tools. Control settings are set up through easy-to-operate, recipe-controlled, color touchscreen HMI units, and it typically takes only a few moments for a product change, allowing customers near-seamless product changeovers. “We have some customers that will run up to 20 different SKUs in a day, all on the same line,” says Pearson.

Dennis Gunnell, vice president of sales and marketing, Formost Fuji Corp., Woodinville, WA, says tortilla manufacturers purchase Formost Fuji baggers, wrappers and automation systems for their gentle handling, increased speeds, reduced labor and flexibility, factors that all contribute to increased production efficiency. Other benefits offered by this equipment include sanitary designs and easy changeover.

After developing their signature tortilla recipe, finding the right ingredients to use in it, and investing in equipment to efficiently manufacture the end product, tortilla manufacturers don’t want their efforts and investments undermined by stale products due to improperly sealed bags.

Kwik Lok Corp., Yakima, WA, offers the 865 Automatic Bag Closing Machine, which closes any package width without adjustment, closes vertical packages at speeds up to 80 bags per minute and easily adapts to existing lines. The machine uses all-plastic closures and closure-labels. According to Tom Sheffield, the company’s vice president of sales, the model can increase output (bags per man hour) and decrease labor costs.

The Kwik Lok automatic bag closing systems enable users to print traceability information onto the Kwik Lok plastic closure. They also can close bags with a closure label. The preprinted label can convey a story, be a coupon or be a cross-advertising vehicle to promote other products.

Ensuring safety

Inspecting finished food products for impurities can be challenging, especially if certain ingredients cause inspection equipment to issue false rejections. Todd Grube, sales manager for inspection systems, Heat and Control Inc., says the CEIA THS MS21 metal detector is the only metal detector that has eliminated false rejections without reducing metal detection sensitivity. “This is particularly useful to manufacturers of flour tortillas, because the iron content of the flour can trigger a false rejection of perfectly safe product,” he explains.

The metal detectors eliminate product waste and the cost and delay of re-inspecting rejected product. The equipment also detects smaller particles of ferrous and nonferrous metals (including type 316 stainless steel). “In 80-count flour tortillas, CEIA detects 1.8-mm-diameter ferrous metal, 2-mm-diameter nonferrous metals and 3-mm-diameter 316 stainless steel,” Grube explains.

Ishida DACS checkweighers, also available from Heat and Control, are a popular and inexpensive method of verifying package weight or tortilla count accuracy. According to Grube, Ishida’s DACS-G checkweigher can check two different weight ranges, so processors can use the same machine for small and large packages. It can be integrated with a CEIA metal detector and a variety of different reject conveyors (arm, push plate, drop belt, etc.).

Ishida DACS-G checkweighers give tortilla manufacturers the flexibility to inspect different weight ranges using one checkweigher, says Grube. Integrating a metal detector with the checkweigher enables them to use one reject conveyor and save floor space. It also reduces sanitation and maintenance costs because the conveyor and belt can be removed by hand without tools.

Few consumers think of all the factors involved in making a tortilla when biting into a plump burrito or cheesy quesadilla. But creating fresh, flavorful products is top-of-mind for tortilla manufacturers, as is making them efficiently and cost-effectively.