Everybody knows snaking goes far behind eating. It is not just a matter of consuming some food when hungry. Snacking is a pleasure. Snacking must satisfy not only mouth and throat but ears too. Snacking digs in to brain with its flavor and aroma. Snacking is not a matter of surviving it is a matter of enjoying.
However, on earth you can’t enjoy forever can you? Since a while we all understood a good diet is essential to live longer and reduce heart disease. It is essential to reduce national health care budget too. So consumers trend and government health guideline are pushing all minor and major savory snack producers to move in the direction of reducing salt and fat, introducing more fibers and protein in every day snacks, savory snacks too.
I personally believe this is the right way to go but what about taste and aroma? What about enjoying snacking without enough fat & salt? This is the question still bothering both producers and conscientious consumers and none seems to have found the answer yet. In fact! So far healthy savory snacks on the market are either “almost healthy” or too boring.
Usually the most difficult reduction to obtain is fat reduction. Salt can be sensibly reduced by working on the recipe, also fibers and protein can be increased working on ingredients. Fat reduction instead can be achieved either by using a fat reducer after the fryer or by expanding the snack using an alternative method to frying.
Fat reducer is usually working well if snacks oil intake is expected to drop from 25 - 27 % down to 18 or 19% (personal experience using a defatter equipped with saturated steam). If final product needs to be labeled as low fat then entire fraying process must be replaced with “something else”. So far “something else” process has been identified by majority with hot air expansion. In other words a flow of hot and high velocity air previously heated by direct flam up to 230 °C or more is injected either in a rotating tumbler (rotating vertically or horizontally) or into a number of round long tubes so to form a fluidized bed. These technologies are usually performing really well with those products eaten with liquid such as breakfast cereal however once used to expand snack pellets these machines or technologies usually deliver a very dry product, hard to swallow even if some fat (around 4% to 8%) is added “manually” afterword to “glow” flavor on. I believe the dryness of today healthy snacks is main reason of poor market penetration so far! Of course, to achieve an enjoyable quality of low fat snacks major improvements need to be done on extrusion process, ingredients quality and flavors, however all these improvements might be useless if expansion technologies are not improved as well.
Another essential difference between frying and hot hair expansion process is the result of expansion itself. Most, if not all, traditional hot air technologies applied to savory snack are delivering a smaller product or an higher bulk density compared to frying. This means either a larger half product has to be produced for hot air expansion or a smaller bag volume is sold. Beside, lower expansion usually means poor texture with good possibility of hard point and gritty or glassy mouth feeling.
Pictured products are showing fine tuned expansion methods alternative to fryer and hot air, good recipes and proper shape can deliver very nice expanded products quality with good bulk density. Also texture, aroma and flavor are pretty nice and appealing. Finally a low fat enjoyable savory snack!