The health trend continues in 2021, with consumers continuing to seek healthier options in baked goods. The public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced this consumer interest, as health remains top-of-mind in 2021. This urgent focus on health has directed consumers towards purchasing artisanal products, such as artisan bread, which call for simple, clean, and high-quality ingredients. This desire for simplicity in baked goods has evoked a response in retail and wholesale bakeries, many of whom are now rising to meet this ongoing demand.

Leveraging Automation in Bread Production

Automating the mixing process is the perfect solution for bakeries aiming to maximize output of artisan bread. Not only does automation ensure a higher standard of food safety, as less hands are required to handle the product, it would allow bakers to establish organized process control.

artisan bread

Careful process management and food hygiene are key for successful production of artisan bread, a process which integrates liquid preferments and sourdough. Making artisan bread requires less processing compared to the typical pre-packaged supermarket loaves, so bakers will want to aim for highly hydrated dough with reduced mixing time. The addition of yeast and preferments increases the preparation phase of the dough and makes the mixing process undeniably more complex, so careful management of the mixing process is essential to successfully develop a good flavor and texture, as well as a lasting shelf life.

VMI has worked to optimize the shape of its mixing tools and tanks, which are specific to premixing, kneading, and fermentation. We have ensured that there is very limited increase in dough temperature during mixing, and this is thanks to the careful design and construction of tool shape, diameter and position inside the mixing bowl.

Automated mixing system with resting area for fermentation

Repeatability and accuracy

To carry out these processes in a repeatable way, bakers should leverage automation and process programming tools. Nothing is left to guesswork, whether it’s fermentation, sprouting, degassing, or introduction of yeast to sourdough. Each recipe is made accurately, lending to overall quality control and consistency.

Increase productivity

For retail and wholesale bakeries that aim to produce large quantities of product, utilizing buffer tanks during fermentation, which are automatically managed by a monitoring system, is ideal. They make the implementation of batch technology possible. Batch technology is suited for the complex and long processes of mixing and fermentation due to its capabilities to help bakers maintain high productivity (from 15 to 16 bowls per hour) and build scalable processes.

Optimizing the Assembly Line

Other emerging technology makes it possible to integrate this type of process, in particular the separation of premixing, fermentation, and kneading. For example, VMI’s horizontal premixer allows the realization of the first homogenization of the mixture, which can be integrated directly into the continuous mixer or transferred into the buffer tanks for fermentation while other tanks feed the kneader. In the same way, VMI’s VERYMIX and CONTINUUM continuous mixers make it possible to automate the flow management towards resting phases or for a transfer to the line while also reintegrating any dough scraps.

Expanding the lens to the larger assembly line, VMI’s linear bowl transfer system automates the transference of mixing bowls from the dosing of the ingredients, mixing, rest time (if required) to the downstream processing equipment. It also automatically transfers the mixing bowls themselves to the CIP cleaning station.

We understand that equipment cleanability is a top priority for our customers, as easy cleaning minimizes downtime during product changeover. That is why we built our batch mixer KNEADSTER with a fully stainless steel design that can be cleaned quickly and easily with a pressure washer. It has no visible pivot, screw, or seal, providing operators with an effective cleaning process.

Ready to make the dive into the world of automated food processing equipment?

At VMI, we have expert technologists on site or in our Process Development Center ready to field any questions and help customers to improve their production processes. Our company has been offering automated mixing systems to bakeries looking to streamline their production process for the past 25 years, and we continue to improve the automation of our batch mixing solutions to enable a high control of complex processes that ensures consistency and quality of dough product.

Process Development Center for baked goods at VMI