If you delve into some of the more specialised content on YouTube, the vexed question of "how do they get the filling into garlic bread?" will be resolved.

For YouTube’s smorgasbord of digital delights includes a range of films of extruders and depositors and their related injection equipment at work.

From macaroni, to chicken kievs and bread sticks, through to pies and, of course, garlic bread, it becomes clear that we have a lot to thank these machines for. But now that garlic bread, first invented in the 1940s, is becoming a bit old hat, can we expect any other advances from the technology for the future? And what are the issues in the sector at the moment?

Bakery expert Stan Cauvain of consultancy Baketran suggests that, for the moment, innovation in this sector is focused on areas other than the machines. "The technology is relatively mature and most of the changes tend to be around ingredients rather than the machinery itself."

That said, industrial manufacturers rely on these machines for efficient production, so suppliers are constantly seeking to enhance areas such as speed, performance, sanitary standards, ease of changeover and ease of cleaning.

Influence from innovations

Moreover, depositing and extrusion innovations from the more cutting-edge sugar confectionery arena are also having an influence. Ideas such as mixing flavours and layering fillings are starting to creep through to baking, according to a spokesman from supplier Baker Perkins, which specialises in supplying depositing and extrusion equipment to the sugar confectionery sector. However, novel confectionery applications such as four colour deposits are still a long way from being able to be applied to dough mixes.

One of the suppliers of depositing equipment to bakers in the UK is Interbake, which represents Canadian manufacturing company Unifiller Systems in this country.Stewart MacPherson, vice-president, sales and marketing of Unifiller Systems says that when it comes to depositors, bakers may see return on investment in many different areas, but that portion control is a key benefit.

For example, depositors allow bakers to respond to consumer-driven trends by offering value-added new products that incorporate premium, wholesome and healthy ingredients, he explains.

"Bakers today are committed to producing products of a higher quality than ever before, such as muffin or cake batters containing larger fruit, nut or chocolate inclusions," MacPherson says.

That means that accurately portioning bakery products with depositors without changing the integrity of the formula is key. "In light of skyrocketing ingredient prices and increased shipping costs, we need to improve how we manufacture our bakery products," says MacPherson. "A well-designed bakery depositor should offer the baker precise portion control, be simple to use and easy to clean, and offer thorough machine sanitation. This is only possible if the equipment has been designed with that end result in mind. These are increasingly important factors for today’s bakers."

New product challenge

New types of dough and novel products bring new depositor challenges, MacPherson adds. "Gluten-free baked foods have risen in popularity recently, and they present a new set of issues for wholesale bakeries."

The biggest issue is that gluten-free batters have very high viscosities, he explains. "It is a challenge to our accuracy for drawing product into the metering chamber and then placing the product where you want it and getting clean cut-off," MacPherson explains.

The company offers a range of different depositors, and it’s a matter of matching up the right model for the application. "It’s also about having the right port, or piston, sizes and then making the proper adjustment," he says.

At the core of Unifiller’s design strategy is to offer a depositor that has the least number of parts to clean, lose and maintain. "To the baker, a machine with half the parts just makes sense."

One of Unifiller’s best-selling standard depositors is the Universal, which has more than 100 depositor attachments.

The attachment most used by bakers in the UK is the hand gun, which is fitted with an ergonomically correct swivel pistol grip design and micro-trigger start switch. The Universal depositor can cycle up to 180 cycles per minute, which is the world’s fastest performing depositing machine, MacPherson says.

The depositor is also equipped for clean depositing of standard or low-carb products such as muffins, cake batter and fruit pie fillings. And its power-lift frame lowers the base to floor level for manual filling.

Meanwhile, Mono Equipment recently launched its latest confectionery depositor, which is particularly suited to bakeries that are short of space. It will process a wide range of products including Swiss rolls, Battenburg, eclairs, meringues, cookies and Viennoiserie, according to Mono.

Equipped with up and down as well as backward and forward movements, the Epsilon Tabletop depositor is designed to replicate the traditional time-consuming hand movements of the master confectioner. It requires less than a square metre of space in which to operate.

The Epsilon Tabletop model also features a touchscreen with picture programming that can store up to 96 unique products.

Supplier Tromp says its range of Unimac electronic depositors meet the needs of a wide range of bakery applications. The Unimac, a universal electronic machine, can produce a range of cookies, batters, meringues, praline fillings and choux paste.Its modular design makes it possible to purchase the basic model and upgrade later with a choice of optional devices, Tromp says.

Moving up the scale, it offers the Unimac XL, which is mounted on a C-frame for operation above a continuously moving production line, with vertical and lateral movement to ensure an optimum depositing pattern.

Meanwhile, the company’s Unimac XXL is designed to be installed over the infeed band to a tunnel oven on high-output lines up to 1.2 metres wide. Choux pastry and sheeted sponge for Swiss rolls are typical applications. Both the XL and XXL feature the economic and quality benefits of individual weight control, Tromp says. Touchscreen controls include the facility for recipe storage.

Supplier Reach Food Systems now includes Bell Perkins, with its expertise in the confectionery sector. It has an in-house manufac-turing facility producing equipment including enrobers, depositors, transfer pumps, jelly injectors and spraying systems.

Its Multifunctional depositor has a volumetric controlled single-shot rotary valve for accuracy and versatility, with a user-friendly approach, so changeover times and cleaning are fast.

Low-level and rise-and-fall models are available, which can be lowered to floor level for ease of filling and then raised to a convenient height to suit the operator for depositing.

Depositing speeds are from 10 to 100 deposits per minute depending on viscosity and weight of the dough.

Functionality remains key

Suppliers will agree that the key developments in the depositors and extruders sector of the bakery machinery market hinge around functionality and cost reduction,tackling areas such as portion control and space-saving.

In the meantime, bakers can be inspired by the strangely hypnotic footage of depositors and extruders in action even Mono’s tabletop version available on YouTube.

Case study: Wrights’ Burger Bar

Pie company Wrights recently launched a Burger Bar, a three-layered savoury hand-held snack with the flavour of a burger. It says the product has already been a big hit in the retail and wholesale sectors.
In order to create the product, it spent two years developing a bespoke depositor system at its bakery in Crewe, following an exchange visit to South African pie producer, Pieman’s Pantry, based in Johannesburg.
Since 1996, Wrights has exchanged ideas and best practice with Pieman’s Pantry, South Africa’s largest pie producer with around 70% market share.
During one visit, Wrights was inspired by a similar Pieman’s product to develop the Burger Bar, a layered mix of beefburger, cheese and relish, encased in puff pastry.
Chairman Peter Wright explains: "The South African Pieburger comprises a round beef patty, followed by two single deposits of a smokey cheese sauce and a piquant relish encased in puff pastry. After development trials, we chose to produce a hand-held bar-shaped product through our concept of a triple extrusion system. This consistently deposits the three key food components, at the same time, with minimum wastage."
Wrights, working alongside a local engineering company, developed a triple extrusion nozzle from the stainless steel and polypropylene constructed head. The depositor is connected to three Handtmann vacuum pumps, while the Handtmann water wheel extrusion system maintains equal pressure, allowing the components to be accurately deposited within tolerances of one gram.
The system can make up to 14,000 units an hour. "Normal industry standards allow for plus or minus 5g on filling weights, so we calculated that the payback on our investment of £120,000 would be less than five months because of the savings we made on product waste," says Wright.
Wrights now plans to develop more triple-layered products in the future, and believes that its investment in food processing innovation is set to pay handsome dividends.