The extrusion process was first invented by the end of the 18th century in England to create pipes from soft metals like aluminum. Nowadays, this process is used for many purposes and industries. We consume extruded products every day in the food industry, like pasta, snacks, cereals, and many others. In this article, we’ll talk about other applications of this process in the food industry.
A History Within the Food Industry
Dry pasta has brought the extrusion process to the food industry, along with our well-known breakfast cereals. The industrialisation of food products has never been the same ever since. Later, in the 60s, this technology was also applied to pet food.
New extruded products make it to shelves every day now. According to a recent survey, the extruded snack industry has grown steadily in the past few years, notably in Europe. The market for this kind of product reached $50 billion five years ago already. Such a rise is explained by the increasing urbanisation and caters to the busy lifestyle of the big cities.
Food companies are constantly researching new ways of extruding their products. Recent developments have led to creating what’s been called “third-generation” or “half products”. Those products have gone through many different processes, like frying, popping, or puffing.
From Cooking to Packing
The extrusion process isn’t only crucial for shaping our favourite sweets. It’s also necessary for creating safe and effective packages. Fresh goods, like poultry and meat, are mostly through Hard Pressure Processing (HPP), also called “cold pressure.” Sausages go through an extruded aluminum tube for better shaping and packaging, for instance.
Extending the shelf-life of food products is a matter of sustainability. It’s one of the best ways to prevent waste. It also allows goods to travel long distances. It’s a vital feature for reaching remote locations.
Aluminum offers itself a repeatedly useful material for solving such food-industry problems like this. It’s recyclable, corrosion resistant, thermally conductive, and advantageous physical properties make it capable of being used in a variety of situations, which is what companies like Impol are offering and increasing their market share for.
This section will talk about a few examples of extruded foods we eat in our daily lives. There are mainly four kinds of extrusion applied to food: hot, cold, co-extrusion, and steam-induced expansion.
The hot process transforms raw materials through a thermomechanical process. It heats materials to high temperatures and shapes them under pressure. It’s the most common method applied to texturised products. The cold way mixes the materials into the dough before shaping them. Products like pasta and other doughs are shaped through this method.
Snacks and breakfast cereals are shaped through a steam-induced expansion process. Here, materials are expanded and shaped at the end of the die due to water evaporation.
Co-extrusion products mix the steam-induced method with injection for defining different textures. It’s a standard technology for making filled snacks, like mozzarella sticks and pies.
The increasing demand for industrialised foods will keep pushing companies to innovate. It doesn’t matter if it’s food for astronauts or your regular snack. New processes can create longer-lasting and better quality goods for every purpose.