Premix Processing

By: Amit Sinha on May 21, 2015

A growing number of consumer products are being fortified to help deliver essential vitamins and minerals to the end user. Companies must determine the optimal way to deliver the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for that nutrient. Premixes are one of the ways that companies like Watson are able to deliver the nutrient profile a consumer desires. Since many functional food ingredients can compose a product, processing technology must be looked at as well

Blending is a common method that is utilized to deliver a homogenous premix with the required nutrient profile but blending does have its own challenges. Challenges could include having a large quantity of ingredient A and smaller quantities of ingredients B and C or multiple ingredients in combination react and

produce an off color or taste, so how does one attempt to solve such challenges? Starting with the basics, looking at blender design and ingredient specs (flowability, particle size, bulk density, etc.) can save significant time in optimizing and creating a homogenous blend. Since the goal is to create a homogeneous blend, choosing the wrong mixer (e.g., V-blender vs ribbon blender) could significantly impact uniformity. Additions of ingredients can also make an impact. Is it better to add all of one ingredient at one time followed by subsequent ingredients similarly or is it better to make a trituration, small blend of the smaller quantities in the larger matrix, and then add it to the blender for further processing? Fill volume of the blender can also make an impact on homogeneity along with not screening clumped ingredients. All decisions that can impact the homogeneity of the premix and in turn how that nutrient profile is delivered should be considered during the R&D process to minimize production challenges.

Other alternatives to blending that is also used to create a homogenous premix blend is spray drying, agglomeration, encapsulation, and roll compaction. The spray drying process takes a liquid slurry and under a temperature differential removes the moisture giving a dried powder. Agglomeration and encapsulation are similar to each other in that both utilize a dry blend (remember, our blending challenges and solutions above) but in agglomeration a binding agent is sprayed on to create adhered molecules similar to a bunch of grapes while in encapsulation a coating agent is sprayed on that protects the active. Inside of BlenderRoll compaction can also be utilized if a blender is not available and there are no aforementioned challenges. Roll compaction involves charging a powdered blend between two pressurized rollers that create a ribbon, followed by milling of the ribbon and screening of the milled material. As can be seen in each of these four processes, these processing techniques can help make the blend uniform and be utilized to mask off taste and prevent ingredient-ingredient interaction that otherwise could occur if only blending was chosen as the premix method.

Food fortification is a growing part of the food and beverage industry and to successfully deliver a premix that meets the target nutrient profile, taste, shelf life, etc., processing technology must be evaluated to ensure optimal delivery of the product.