Puffed and extruded snacks continue to be a popular choice for snackers, but with producers competing for shelf space and consumer dollars, they need to come up with innovative new products and maintain efficiency in order to stand out. Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery recently connected with John Barber, sales manager with equipment producer Clextral USA, to discuss the topic.

Jenni Spinner: Puffed and extruded snacks are increasingly popular—could you please talk about some of the recent and emerging trends we’re seeing that are impacting the field?

John Barber: For wholesome snacks, new ingredients, and shapes are delivering healthy appeal–one example is a peapod snack recently developed by Clextral. This expanded snack contains pea flour, giving it a nutritional boost, and it is shaped into a pea-pod shape post-extrusion. Adding a unique and fun aspect to snacking, Clextral’s Emoji Dies offer a variety of options including smiley faces, sad faces, stars, flowers, for fall, pumpkin and spooky Halloween emojis, animals, etc., with more to come for other holidays.

JS: What are some of the attributes consumers are interested in re: puffed and extruded snacks? Feel free to talk about anything from pulses and other bases to fun and novel shapes, to new flavors and seasonings, etc.

JB: Clextral offers co-filled and bi-coloration technology for directly expanded snacks giving our customers options to make unique snacks. Another advancement fueling Clextral’s innovative products is our patented twisted pillow technology. This elevates filled snacks to a new level by adding a sophisticated look and mouthfeel with a filling if desired. Twisted pillows can be produced in both salty and sweet varieties. 

Clextral recently installed a complete processing line in North America for expanded snacks with a volume of 4000+ lbs/hour. It can utilize clip-on modules to produce snacks in a variety of flavors and shapes. 

JS: What are some of the challenges snack producers are facing with all these recent and emerging P/E snack trends? Feel free to talk about anything from base formulation to coating adhesion, etc.

JB: Capacity and flexibility are a focus for Clextral in an effort to support our customer’s needs.  Evolum+ twin screw extruders are high capacity with optimized volume/energy ratios and can process in ranges of 5000+ lbs/hr. Clextral extruders offer a large operating window with varying speeds and torques, which improves ingredient feed and transferability. This is especially critical in many healthy snack applications that involve finely ground flours with small particle sizes, which are not suitable for processing in the single-screw extruder. 

Clextral_inside.jpgThe Evolum+ twin screw extrusion technology is capable of processing new and challenging raw materials via our advanced feeding capability, and efficient conveyance of the mix along the machine via its intermeshing screws, while meeting high capacity with our machine. Additional advantages of the Clextral Evolum extruder line include their PLC control that enables optimized startup and shutdown with less waste, and remote access.  Plus, Advanced Thermal Control (ATC) provides absolute temperature control of each barrel with continual monitoring and adjustments to ensure product consistency.

JS: Then, what specifically are some of the production challenges that makers of puffed and extruded snacks are facing?

JB: Clextral continues to innovate. The new ingredients incorporated into snacks to add health benefits including high protein and high fiber flours, whole and ancient grains, and pulses, have required process adjustment and fine-tuning to successfully create snacks with appealing texture (expansion ratio, density), appearance, and taste. 

Clextral’s work in healthy snacks and cooperation with ingredient suppliers in testing and understanding different ingredient functionalities has proven highly valuable to snack processors looking to design and produce healthy snacks with textures ranging from dense, to crunchy, to melt-in-your-mouth light. As far as our development, we have found that fine-tuning the recipe, extruder configuration, and process parameters is key to producing healthy and delicious snacks with these new ingredients.

JS: Do you have any parting advice for puffed and extruded snack producers?

JB: I would recommend looking beyond single-screw technology, to that of co-rotating twin-screw technology to meet your future innovative needs, and to open up that window opportunity to produce unique expanded products, efficiency, and quality. 

Also, looking to complete line solutions with flexibility. Clextral offers complete line solutions with attention to detail in not only the extruder with its hygienic design for example, but also an efficient dryer, sweet and savory coating, and clip-on equipment that give further capabilities. 

Lastly, but maybe the most critical to consider, and often overlooked is services. Having a snack line for decades requires a partnership based on good communication and trust. Clextral, as a global leader in extruded snacks, dedicates much time, resources, and efforts to always be improving our desired goal of having world-class service in this sector.  

Related: Puffed and extruded snack consumers want health and heat in their buys