Custom Processing Services Blog

How Micronization Improves Food Product Shelf Stability

Willow Slusser, Jan 24, 2024 8:07:00 AM

Shopping cart next to a food shelf.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that for every dollar made in retail food sales, two dollars are lost to food waste1 — a ratio that has food manufacturers chronically facing an uphill battle when it comes to product shelf stability.

To lessen the impact of the financial imbalance, managing product stability and the customer experience is essential for manufacturers. Why? Spoilage is a major contributor to food waste, followed closely by customers rejecting food that doesn’t meet their sensory perception of freshness in color, taste, smell, and/or texture.

But, ensuring appropriate shelf stability doesn’t start at the shelf. When handled by toll processing experts, micronization in food processing can change fundamental molecular characteristics of ingredients to extend product longevity and enhance customers’ perceived freshness cues.

6 Factors That Lead to Food Product Shelf Instability

Maintaining food product safety, appeal, and quality on the shelf is challenging. It requires manufacturers to pay attention to several often competing priorities, including:

  1. Oxidation: Certain ingredients — especially fats and oils — deteriorate when exposed to oxygen, causing undesirable flavors, odors, and textures.
  2. Microbial spoilage: Bacteria, yeast, and molds can experience rampant growth in food products that could cause spoilage and potential health concerns.
  3. Moisture: An excess or lack of moisture content can affect food products. Too much moisture can lead to microbial spoilage and texture changes. Too little moisture makes for dry, unappealing products.
  4. pH levels: Proper pH is essential for consistent shelf stability as it controls enzymatic and microbial activity that could otherwise negatively affect product quality.
  5. Texture: Changes in product hardness, softness, or crystallization can signal inaccurate or incompatible ingredient formulations, poor product quality, and shorter shelf lives.
  6. Temperature: Some foods are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, which can cause changes in molecular compositions that impact product taste, texture, and oftentimes safety.

Overcoming Challenges with Micronization in Food Processing

Micronization refers to particle size reduction processes that result in particles less than 10 microns in diameter — and these tiny particles have a big impact in food processing.

Breaking down ingredients to the micron level promotes both particle size uniformity and increased surface area. As a result, proliferation of undesirable bacterial enzymes is slowed, which decreases premature spoilage.

Micronization also improves certain functional properties of food products, such as water and oil holding capacity, antioxidant capacity, bulk density, solubility, and fluidity. In turn, these improvements support higher quality outcomes in products’ physical characteristics (color, texture, flavor, appearance), shelf life, and shelf stability.

Micronization Technology from CPS

Micronization is a sought-after solution in the food industry, but it’s a sophisticated process that requires proven toll processor capabilities and specific equipment options.

CPS offers unparalleled toll processing expertise, and a robust assortment of in-house equipment that aligns with micronization techniques, including:

Spiral and Fluid Bed Jet Mills

Spiral jet mills and fluidized bed jet mills use compressed air, gas, or superheated steam to cause particle collisions within a grinding chamber, resulting in micronized particle sizes to 5 microns and even smaller (nanonization).

Ball Mills (Media Mills)

Ball mills, or media mills, use collision and shear forces to grind down material, whether wet or dry. A ball mill can operate at either high- or low-energy outputs, and material characteristics can span a wide range. Adjustable variables include ball types and sizes, speeds, material mass in slurry, and more, to achieve desired micronization.

In addition to equipment, toll processors such as CPS that offer advanced materials drying technologies can elevate results for food applications. Flash drying, in particular, is beneficial in helping manufacturers preserve nutrients through short drying cycles, meet customer expectations for product appearance and taste, and improve shelf life by managing moisture content.

The nature of most food products will naturally present shelf stability challenges for food manufacturers. Managing the impact and improving outcomes for customers and the bottom line is possible with the help of a trusted toll processing partner leading particle size reduction efforts.

Learn more in the Food & Pharma Guide to Jet Milling & Advanced Particle Size Reduction. Click below to download your copy.

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Posted in:Grinding/Milling