Super-indulgent ice creams with large delicious chunks are in high demand worldwide – and now consumers want their favourite large inclusions inside premium impulse ice creams such as sticks, bars and sandwiches, in addition to the cups and bulk packages already available. Ice cream producers aiming to capture this opportunity, however, face a few key challenges in producing these products cost-efficiently while also meeting consumer demands on quality.
When introducing large inclusions into extruded ice cream, securing the even distribution of the tasty chunks, a smooth product surface and a precisely placed stick every time is challenging. The existing traditional technology uses vertical extrusion and wire cutting, which is not optimal for ice cream with large inclusions. To begin with, when the wire hits a large inclusion, it cannot cut through it. Instead, the large inclusion is pushed in front of the wire, resulting in a highly uneven product surface. Furthermore, when it comes to stick products, existing stick insertion solutions risk incorrect placement, further surface disturbance and even stick splintering.
Precise positioning of your ice cream products on the trays is important in preventing waste. However, in traditional solutions the impact from the collision between the wire and the large inclusion mentioned above is also transferred to the ice cream slice. This causes a significant shift in how each ice cream slice is positioned on the extrusion line trays. The uneven positioning then leads to increased waste when the products subsequently fail to be picked up from the trays. This waste is unacceptable in efficient production.
A traditional solution for producing stick products with large inclusions is based on liquid nitrogen-cooled moulds that reach down to -60°C. However, the nitrogen cooling solution increases production costs significantly, and the handling of liquid nitrogen adds complexity to the start-up and running of the equipment.
The latest developments in technology for producing impulse ice creams with large inclusions aim to solve these challenges. Several attempts to solve the product quality and placement issues with high-speed cutting knives, scissor cutting and double-wire cutting, have not been able to create products with large inclusions that have a smooth surface and are correctly positioned on the trays. But a completely new solution employs an innovative and patented wheel design where ice cream is filled into a cavity with pistons that push the ice cream products from the moulds past a stationary heated blade that creates the release when the products are very close to the trays, in a precise and continuous synchronized movement. This not only eliminates quality problems from cutting and ensures accurate placement – it also reduces cost and complexity while improving work environment and safety for operators since external cooling systems, i.e. nitrogen, are no longer required.