2020 is a year that will go down in the history books. An election year with a pandemic, massive job losses and business closing, historical social unrest, and rioting combined with record job losses. When times are rough consumers look for classic great-tasting comfort foods. . Many bakery sweets are the perfect comfort foods. Product freshness and flavor will be the key indicators of what consumers will be looking for. Clean-label and healthy will take a back seat as the consumer looks for something to make them feel a bit better about life in 2020. Do you need assistance with improving shelf life and quality of your sweet baked goods? Contact DVFI to see how we can assist.
It is extremely important to provide quality products at affordable price points and the product must have a long shelf life. If a consumer buys a dozen donuts and 1/2 of the package is thrown away due to staling, there is no value proposition. Consumers want a great satisfying taste with zero-waste. Many consumers are more concerned with great taste, price, and shelf life than clean label during recessions, are you providing this product?
What is Sweet Bakery Product Shelf Life?
It is critical to know how sweet bakery products shelf life is effected and what causes this. These bakery items can stale, dry out, lose flavor, go moldy, and get off-flavors. While many of these can be considered the same, there are distinct differences and this is the key to solving your issues.
Staling vs Drying
Baked goods can go stale and can dry out. While the sensation is similar, there are drastic differences. It is vital to know what your issue is before you can solve it.
Staling. This is the recrystallization of the starches. Starches and in particular, amylopectin will retrograde towards its native state. This will give the perception that the baked good is much drier, firmer, and coarse than a fresher item. The baked good has not lost any moisture and this is reversible by reheating. Placing a baked good that is stale back into the oven will reverse this and the product will be seen as fresher.
Drying. This is the irreversible loss of moisture. Once the moisture is gone, the product is dry and nothing can be done. Obviously, putting a dried-out baked good into the oven will not add moisture and this will only make it worse.
In most cases, staling is caused by poor formulation or using a formula that is not designed for a long shelf-life. Our concentrates contain the latest and most advanced emulsifier, gum, and enzyme systems specifically designed for each type of product. Proper ingredient formulation will solve staling issues.
Drying is usually a packaging issue or overbaking issue. Glazes and icings with high sugar content will pull water out of the baked good causing drying. Our ESL Glaze Stabilizer is the perfect choice to completely solve this. Gums and reducing water activity can assist, but will only slow the drying process, they will not stop it. It is very important to look at the packaging used. Does it allow moisture to leave the package? Does it absorb moisture? These can be very important factors.
Flavors and Off Flavors and Sweet Bakery Product Shelf Life
As a sweet bakery product ages, the flavor of the product will change. Fats will oxidize and flavors will oxidize and even be scalped by the packaging. These can be some of the more challenging things to solve in Sweet Bakery Product Shelf Life.
Masking agents antioxidants and oxygen scavengers or even higher levels of flavor can help reduce the overall off-flavors. Understanding the product and the ingredients used will help. If fat oxidative rancidity is the issue, changing fats to a more saturated version, antioxidants, oxygen scavengers, and modified atmosphere packaging should be things considered.
Flavor scalping is typically only seen in extreme shelf life. Flavor scalping is the process of packaging material absorbing certain flavor components over a period of time. A balanced flavor will contain many chemicals. If your packaging absorbs certain components and not others, the remaining flavor will taste strange and out of balanced.
Mold and Bacteria and Bakery Product Shelf Life
The largest concern should be mold in Sweet Bakery Product Shelf Life. As in the dough, sanitation and application of quat sanitizers or peracetic acid sanitizers and even bleach should be your first line of defense against mold. A clean plant is different from a plant with a low mold count. Always remember many sources of mold spores are invisible.
Think of mold like weeds in your lawn. If your lawn is perfect with zero weeds, but your neighbor’s lawn is covered in weeds, the seeds will transfer by air to your yard and then you will have a weed problem.
So just like a lawn, look beyond the walls. Things like stagnant water, unpaved parking lots, filth around a dumpster that employees walk to, batch room floors, lunchroom floor are all possible sources of mold spores that can be carried in on employee shoes, clothing, and hands.
For example, one plant was spotless and they have a reoccurring mold problem. The employees would carry paper waste to the recycling bin by walking over a gravel driveway and a dirty loading dock. They would then walk back into the plant without washing their hands or going through a foot bath. Another plant had a leaking roof many years ago and there was mold growth above and in the ceiling insulation. Look for the hidden sources. It may not be obvious.
There are many sources of mold and each plant is unique, look for the source and correct it.
Sanitation is very important. You will not be successful in producing a packaged donut with a shelf life of 60 days and more without a very clean plant with good personal practices.
There is a difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and Disinfecting.
- Cleaning is the removal of food buildup, filth/grime. Cleaning is what is normally performed in most bakeries.
- Sanitizing is to reduce microorganisms such as mold, yeasts, and bacteria to acceptable levels for public health and/or product quality
- Disinfecting is to destroy or inactivate microorganisms.
- Hypochlorites / Bleach – needs to be applied to clean surface, no residual activity, strong odor. Corrosive to metal, skin irritation.
- Peroxyacetic Acid PAA– Effective in removing biofilms. The breakdown into acetic acid (vinegar smell). However, before breakdown they are hazardous. Great fogging sanitizer if the area can be clear of staff for 6 hours.
- Quat Sanitizerss – Quaternary Ammonium Compounds. – Good residual activity once quat dries on the surface. Odorless, nonstaining, and non-corrosive. Also fairly nontoxic to users.Will tolerate light buildup on surfaces.
When we refer to sanitizing or sanitation we are referring to the application of a sanitizing chemical to drastically lower the mold and bacteria levels on the food contact surfaces as well as walls, floors, ceilings in inside air handling ducts.
There are several ways of looking at plant cleanliness.
- You can have a plant that looks fantastic. It appears to be extremely clean, but mold and bacteria are microscopic and the plant can be teaming with massive bacteria and mold levels. This plant has a massive mold problem and can not produce a donut that stays mold-free for more than 10 days. Remember microbes are invisible.
- You have a plant that looks old, rundown, and messy. However, this plant has an active anti-bacterial fogging and a sanitizing program. While the plant is not pretty, this plant has a very low micro count. This plant is successful in producing ESL Donuts.
Since mold and bacteria are microscopic, it can not be seen. It is hard to know where to clean or even what to sanitize. To make matters worse, an employee could be touching a high mold count spot REPEATEDLY during his shift and then touching the donuts. Many feel gloves help. Gloves can make it worse. The employee will not even notice that the plug, switch, or handle is sticky or dirty while wearing gloves. The gloves will just as easily transfer the mold spores as a bare hand.
So your beautiful, extremely clean, and organized plant with all staffers wearing gloves, hairnets, face masks, and more can produce moldy donuts. That is bad news.
The good news, there are some easy ways to minimize mold in your plant.
- Trash cans – clean and sanitize frequently
- How and where are trash cans emptied
- Employee shoes, are they allowed outside of the production areas
- Employee shoes, do they go through a sanitizer bath
- Wet areas or areas that have been wet
- Sinks- Apply sanitizer daily
- Wash down areas – apply sanitizer daily
- Old roof leaks – deep clean and apply sanitizer repeatedly, weekly and then monthly
- replace damaged tiles, insulation, and anything that could hide an infestation.
- Floor Drain – Clean and apply sanitizer weekly
- Condensation areas
- A/C units and ducts – inspect, clean, and sanitize monthly
- Refrigerators – Clean and sanitize monthly
- Floor Mats – not recommended- difficult to sanitize
- Mixers, scaling buckets, and scoops. Sanitize daily
- Proofer – remove old donuts daily. Clean weekly. Sanitize monthly with fog
- Fryer – Clean weekly
- Conveyors – Clean 2x per day, sanitize daily with spray, and monthly with fog.
- Glaze Pump – Clean daily, sanitize daily. Inspect shaft monthly
- Open windows or any source of unfiltered air should be eliminated to minimize.
The wrapping and cooling area needs special attention. The fryer should kill 99.99% of mold and bacteria spores. Areas deep in the donut will have MUCH lower kill rates while the surface of the donut will have 100% kill in the fryer. Starting with extremely high mold counts in your ingredients or in the dough (from the mixer, water, etc) can result in mold spores surviving the frying process in the center of the donut. It is possible but highly unlikely for this to happen. But it can.
Most contamination will occur AFTER frying. The cooling area and packaging area should be where you concentrate the most in looking for hidden sources. Buttons, switches, handles, power cords, and any high touch area should be cleaned daily and sanitized daily. We require fogging the cooling and packing area weekly with a quat sanitizer and monthly with a peracetic acid sanitizer (If allowed in your region) This is the area where 99% of you mold problems will occur.
Also, an analysis of airflow in this area is needed. Is air flowing from wet production areas to the cooling or packing areas? Fog and sanitize in areas were the air comes from.
Sanitation is more than good housekeeping. The plant should be clean and organized. Sources of mold such as standing water, dirty drains, clogged air filters, and more need to be fixed, but there also needs to be a very aggressive anti-mold spore fogging and spraying program to assure your plant has a very low micro count and there are no airflows from dirty to clean areas. While fogging may not kill the spores, repeated fogging and spraying sanitizers will reduce the spore count over time as more and more viable mold is killed before it can reproduce/produce spores. The key is repetition in the application of sanitizers on all surfaces.
Employee practices need to be excellent. Hand washing, clean uniforms, and even shoe baths to prevent the introduction of microbes from the outside world.
Close to 100% of mold issues are due to something in the plant being wrong.
It is safer to assume everything is a problem and have a regular fogging schedule of quat sanitizers or peracetic acid. Fogs will penetrate above ceilings, walls, and inside equipment helping to minimize mold in even hard to see areas. However, remember, sanitizers will have the minimal effect of dirty surfaces. Clean often and fog regularly after a good cleaning. Weekly sanitation is adequate in most bakeries.