Process and Operations

Last-Minute Production Problems with Dry Mix for Chili

When Brian Yager, corporate research chef for Archer Daniels Midland, set out to create an easy to use, versatile dry mix for chili, his team had to overcome a last-minute production problem.

By Brian Yager, Corporate Research Chef, Archer Daniels Midland

Chef Brian Yager

The mix was developed to be able to work ground beef, chicken or turkey or even hydrated soy protein concentrate. It was also designed to use our dehydrated whole beans and bean powder.

With standard chili spices as a base, dehydrated whole beans were added with dark red kidney bean powder (to help increase bean flavor and color). The entire team signed off on the flavor, color and mouthfeel for this product, so the formula was sent to the plant for manufacturing and packaging.

The bean powder and spice blend was mixed and bulk-packaged for us by an outside company. Our plant received the blend and trial runs were begun. But we immediately ran into a problem: Nearly one third of the packages weren't sealing because the powder stuck to the packaging material.

At first, we tried adding oil to the powder (1 percent of the total content) to help alleviate the dusting of the mix. This idea had to be scratched, though, since the packaging was already printed and label changes would be costly. We then tried installing a copper anti-static ring in the packaging to reduce static electricity. This also failed. By this point frustration was mounting - we were on the verge of missing the "big chili season." A solution had to come fast, hopefully from the inside.

Humidity levels were investigated but they were a satisfactory 19 percent RH in the plant. I finally took a step back to re-examine the whole problem. The answer finally came: The filling equipment just wasn't able to load that much powder at one time, causing the powder to drop from too high of a height.

We determined the best solution was to have the mix packaged at a different plant within the company. Unfortunately, the original plant was where the dehydrated whole beans were processed and now they would have to be transported to a different location, adding to the final manufacturing costs. Sometimes it isn't about the recipe. Sometimes it's the equipment, packaging and distribution parameters we overlook.

- Brian Yager is corporate research chef at Archer Daniels Midland Co., specializing in application development for ingredients.

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