Finding the Right OEM Partner: Six Production Trends to Consider in Chocolate Production

By Chris Sinutko

From candy to ice cream to cookies, the process of creating many of your favorite chocolate foods is more intricate than you might imagine.

Beyond the perfect recipe, the equipment to make the components of a seemingly simple confection needs to be specialized, calibrated and maintained to precise specifications for the product texture and taste to be just right. Companies like SPX FLOW, with a global team that has worked in the food and beverage sector for decades, works with manufacturers and processors worldwide, whether to maintain a classic recipe or innovate something new.

It is amazing how many products have a hand in helping to make chocolate. Whether it’s consistency in a product consumers already love or brainstorming and testing new ideas, dedicated, sophisticated and knowledgeable equipment partners can help.

Chocolate’s unique processes have much to do with temperature and mixing, requiring specialized equipment honed for specific uses. Here are six factors — and the equipment that goes with them — that help shape the chocolate-making process.

  1. Temperature

The heating and cooling of chocolate is a significant determining factor in the end product.

For example, the filling for a sandwich cookie needs a specific cooling process to ensure the taste customers love. The scraped surface heat exchanger (SSHE) is a crucial component of the job. Likewise, bakery filling creams and frostings, including the heavier versions for cookies or lighter for chocolate bars, nougat paste or coverings, rely on SSHEs.

Even the type of chocolate itself, whether white, dark, milk, etc., affects the temperate needs. Chocolates with a higher cacao content (>70%) require high temperatures to mix the product well.

The temperature needs of chocolate are delicate and specialized. Keeping it heated and cooled play a large role in the  consistency, which in many cases, is what a brand has come to be known for.

  1. Blending

Temperature affects blending needs as well. Cacao mass and liquid chocolate are challenging media to agitate due to their high viscosity, non-Newtonian behavior and sensitivity to local overheating.Liquid chocolate is the base for many favorites, including ice creams, confectioneries, pastries, beverages and more. Yet, the production needs can be particular to the customer’s needs. The chocolate end product and ingredients like fat, oil, lecithin and cacao require pumps, like those from Waukesha Cherry-Burrell, Johnson Pump, or APV, to facilitate the process.

Completely blended ingredients, maintaining a truly homogeneous mixture and good heat transfer are essential for the quality of the end product.

Traditionally, customers in the chocolate processing industry use top entry agitators or, even more often, horizontal blenders consisting of plough impellers or a combination with helical ribbon impellers. Disadvantages include extremely high power consumption of the blenders has a negative impact on the overall energy balance of the process. Furthermore, these units have an enormous space requirement that leaves limited plant floorspace for future expansions.

One solution to this problem is using a vertical mixer, like the Stelzer Sigma. It generates forced counterflow circulation with good wall velocity. As a result, the equivalent blending time can be achieved with less power due to more efficient circulation. In addition, its smaller footprint and lighter design make for an easier fit within the confines of a plant’s design.

In one specific instance, SPX FLOW’s team worked with a chocolate producer who was having issues using traditional methods. The team developed a smooth overall tank mixing utilizing their specially shaped Sigma elements plus close- to-the-wall running frames. The units are welded completely inside the tanks, making for a smooth surface which is easier to clear and run at low  circumferential speeds.

Similarly, some puddings and liquid chocolates require unique mixers or agitators that mix and heat the product by circulating it through a heat exchanger. It also holds and cools it for packing.

  1. Specialty Flavors

Many of our favorite chocolate recipes would not be the same without specialty flavors, like hazelnut. These require specific blending packages, such as the Bran & Luebbe dosing system. These are set up to optimize the system by saving customers on raw material, time and product waste.

Benefits of a good dosing system include:

  • Metering pumps that accurately dose the expensive flavorings, mass flowmeters verify the exact amount, and the control system auto-adjusts in real time if required.
  • Precise addition of flavor into tempered chocolate just before the filler to minimize cleanout on product changeover
  • Quick changeover onto new flavors allows short runs of specialty flavors, like pumpkin spice or peppermint.

“From your holiday favorites to new, limited edition flavors, our dosing system helps with the unique flavors and colors into tempered chocolate,” said Mike Scott, Process Systems Manager for SPX FLOW.

“We are here to ensure our partners can create the unique, delicious and decadent chocolate their customers crave.”

  1. Powders and Dried Products

Every end product has its own unique set of challenges and needs. Your favorite hot chocolate mix needs to go through  an extra step of drying before complete. 

Powders go through a specialized drying process using a fluid bed for drying and cooling powder. Using intimate air-to- product contact, fluid beds are designed to ensure good heat transfer coefficients and to avoid degradation reactions in heat-sensitive products. Processing is performed in a single step or as part of a multistage drying operation.

Whether it’s traditional favorites or new choices, having the equipment to help with the complex process of making sweet treats is a special job.

“The process of making these desserts has definitely evolved, but one thing is the same: the passion, detail and expertise that it takes to make even a single ingredient require true dedication,” said Michael Christensen, SPX FLOW Global Technical Sales Director Dry Evaporation & Market Manager Ingredients. 

  1. Cleaning, Plant Maintenance and Energy Savings

Chocolate-based ambient products can be both high-value and, in many cases, highly viscous as well. Its thicker consistency can cause problems with cleaning. Without the proper equipment, a process uses more energy and water than needed, with less product yield. A “pigging system” is required to optimize the project yield and reduce waste drastically.

SPX FLOW recently introduced a new Rapid Recovery System designed to clear products from process pipes more sustainably — using approximately 60 to 70 percent less water compared to other cleaning systems. 

“Customers no longer need to flush valuable products down the drain,” said Pranav Shah, SPX FLOW Process

Category Director for Fresh Dairy and Plant-based products. “This exciting new offering for our customers can help across the board — from a more sustainable process to less plant downtime to higher yields for neutral pH, low acidic products.”

Suppose an operating system has multiple models for pumps that could be replaced with a single brand, model and size. In that case, operatives can standardize their maintenance while getting a more optimized output.

In one instance, a customer who makes candy and protein bars was having issues with pump capabilities, as they were using four different brands of pumps.

By standardizing the customer’s transfer pumps down to one brand, one model and three sizes to handle their entire pump needs — in this case, the Waukesha Cherry-Burrell Universal 3 Series of positive displacement Pumps — the number of spare items was greatly reduced since two of the three sizes share common spare parts. Additionally, technician maintenance is streamlined, as well.

  1. Using the right partner

Given the intricacies of chocolate and the components that go along side it, finding an equipment supplier that you can work with as a partner that you trust. Experience and expertise mean that you’ll have the guidance to help your company perform at the highest level.

The industry is constantly evolving, and with change comes the need for innovation. Equipment developers must  harness the latest technology while meeting the highest quality standards.

SPX FLOW has a suite of brands that covers chocolate, with hundreds of years of combined experience.

From project conception to design to operations and beyond, choosing the right partner is the key ingredient.

The Author

Chris Sinutko is SPX FLOW Global Director of

Product Management – Nutrition & Health