It seems like a simple process. Grease a baking tin with release agent and your product will slide easily from it.

But release agents can also affect things like the finish and shape of baked goods, and different products require specific agents, explains Alfred Fowler, sales director of Croda Food Services.

"If you use too much release agent or the wrong kind, you can end up frying the crust or making the outer part of the product soggy. It can even affect the shape of your product. That is why there are specific agents for different cakes and breads."

He continues: "The releasing part of the process is of prime importance because if the baker has done everything correctly, up to that point, but is unable to release the bread from the tin or the cake from the shape, all his time has been in vain."

Release agents are an area of expertise for Croda, a specialist manufacturer of technical oils and fats. Based in Oldham, Lancashire, it supplies major bread and cake manufacturers and in-store and craft bakeries.

One of its most recent innovations has been to develop trans fat free release agents.

"Retailers want to remove all hydrogenated fats from their products," says Fowler. "Marks & Spencer, for example, set a deadline of April 2006. We had to be sure the new release agents retained their quality and function so we had to do lots of tests and plant trials."

Other health issues that Croda has to be aware of is avoiding contamination by a build up of carbon. "Therefore, as little agent should be used as possible without compromising on its effectiveness," says Fowler. "Because we do regular servicing and design the machines that apply the agents, we can make sure there is not an excess of carbon build-up."

Croda’s release agents are made from vegetable oils, emulsifiers and waxes and are compltely free from mineral hydrocarbons.

Its main areas of specialisation include: release agents for use in bread, cake, pizza and sugar confectionery applications; speciality products designed to replace mineral oils in bakery machine lubrication; emulsifiers for the large cake manufacturers; and speciality liquid, powdered and flaked fats for the food and bakery industries.

Croda also supplies organic release agents that are certified by the Soil Association, as well as soya-free lubricants.

To help bakers decide which release agent is required for their products, Croda has developed an online Matrix test (see []).

The company’s release agents range includes:

l Greetin: a vegetable oil-based emulsion for automated, high volume bread lines.

l Starspray: designed for use by the in-store and craft baker, where application is by brush or hand spray.

l So-Free: an alternative range of release agents that are completely free from soya-based ingredients.