Maintaining a Hygienic Environment in Chocolate Manufacture

From dark chocolate and milk chocolate to white chocolate and ruby, safety and hygiene play a key role in the chocolate industry. It’s important that chocolate manufacturers maintain a hygienic process environment to reduce the risks of contamination and ensure the health and safety of the consumer.

Proper cleaning is also essential to ensure product quality. After all, the reputation of the processing plant (and the brand) will potentially be damaged if a chocolate product gets manufactured in an undesirable way.

In this post, we’ll look at how to effectively clean chocolate transfer pipelines using liquid product recovery (‘pigging’) technology.

The Problem with Water and Chocolate

Maintaining a hygienic environment includes keeping the pipework, equipment, and machinery that processes the product, in a safe and clean condition.

Clean in place (CIP) systems that use large volumes of water, cleaning chemicals and resources are frequently used by food and beverage manufacturers to ensure sanitation and to clean the interior surfaces of process pipes, vessels, tanks, etc.

However, this is not the case for the chocolate industry. That’s because water doesn’t work well with chocolate, particularly chocolate with a high cocoa content.

If chocolate comes into contact with even a small amount of water or moisture, this can change the texture of melted chocolate causing it to seize or thicken. If this happens chocolate will be rendered unusable and will need to be discarded.

chocolate and confectionery and pigging

How Chocolate and Confectionery Manufacturers Clean Pipework?

Chocolate lines don’t need cleaning as frequently as food and beverage lines. That’s because chocolate products contain virtually no moisture meaning they’re less susceptible to bacterial degradation. However, they still need cleaning.

Many chocolate manufacturers often clean the tanks and pipework by dismantling the equipment and cleaning it by manually scraping and brushing the equipment. This can be extremely time-consuming, tedious and wasteful.

In addition, it’s common for manufacturers to use butter, oil or both to remove residual product from within pipes. However, this is also a time consuming, multistage process resulting in significant downtime. The mass for the next production can also be used to clear the existing product out of the pipe.

Using Butter, Oil and the Next Product to Clean the Pipelines

For manufacturers using butter and oil, the first stage of the process could involve oil being used to remove the residual chocolate out of the pipe. Following this, butter could be used to remove the oil from the pipe. While oil can sometimes be reused, this is not usually the case for butter. And what chocolate manufacturers want to waste ingredients, especially ones that are expensive to buy?

Instead of butter or oil, some chocolate manufacturers may rinse the line with the mass for the next production. This will be added to clean the line and the next production will begin following assessment from the plant operators. In most cases, this can lead to substantial product loss and high wastage and can be extremely costly for chocolate manufacturers.

No chocolate manufacturer wants to waste product. Especially considering that the price of cocoa (the raw material for chocolate) has been particularly volatile in recent years. The chocolate market has also been hit by unpredictable demand. As a result, many chocolate companies have reported declined sales and reduced revenue.

chocolate processing and production

Using a Specialist Projectile (Pig) to Clear the Chocolate Pipelines

With raw materials becoming more expensive, chocolate manufacturers are realising the cost-saving potential of recovering product from their pipelines, rather than discarding it.

That’s why hygienic and sanitary pigging systems are in wide use in chocolate manufacturing plants throughout the world. They’re one of the most effective ways to recover product and remove practically all traces of chocolate residue from the piping.

Using a specialist projectile or plug (the ‘pig’), the technology recovers up to 99.5% of product residue remaining in the pipelines at the end of the transfer process. The pig forces the residual product through the pipelines into a destination filler or tank to continue processing along with the rest of the product.

High-Performance HPS Pipeline Pigs

HPS pigs, in particular, are made from flexible, hard wearing material and have a long life expectancy. They are manufactured from food-grade silicone polymer and can easily travel around 1.5 D bends while maintaining full body contact. They can also withstand high temperatures without degradation. HPS pipeline pigs are unmatched in performance, durability, efficiency, and reliability.

Because the HPS pig clears the line so efficiently, it enables the same pipeline to be used for various formulations with fast changeover times. Therefore, this ensures ease of cleaning and enables recipe changes. Pigging also eliminates the requirement for lengthy dismantling of equipment for cleaning, which saves time, resources and labour.

Pigging Reduces the Use of Oil, Butter and Saves Product

Because the HPS pig removes as much product residue as possible from the pipelines, it can eliminate the requirement to use butter for cleaning. It can also significantly speed up the oil flush.

This will have a positive impact on the bottom line, delivering large savings on butter and oil. It also reduces material handling and speeds up the whole process, saving time, labour and money. Pigging systems for chocolate can also reduce the need to flush additional product through the pipe. This not only saves product and reduces waste; it also prevents cross-contamination during changeovers.

So, without a pigging system, this would increase waste, changeover times as well as resources and labour costs for chocolate manufacturers.

chocolate production at chocolate manufacturing plant

The Problem with Chocolate Being Left Stationary Within a Pipeline

When companies change from one configuration to another, production may be paused temporarily. This can be extremely problematic for chocolate manufacturers as chocolate left stationary within a pipeline may deteriorate, freeze or solidify.

Generally, if chocolate freezes up or solidifies, it can no longer be used. At the same time, any excessive heating of the chocolate (if the chocolate sits too long in the pipework), it can burn. This can cause the chocolate to form grains, thicken and to become unusable.

With HPS custom pigging systems, manufacturers can easily clear the pipe as frequently as they like, rather than leaving it in the pipeline. Therefore, this helps avoid the product settling, solidifying and then being wasted.

Special Considerations for Chocolate Production

Chocolate transfer lines tend to be water-jacketed carbon steel. In other words, they are heated to keep the liquid chocolate from hardening. Therefore, the pigging equipment must also be jacketed and able to retain and sustain the heat without degradation.

The water-jacked transfer piping keeps the chocolate at the correct temperature. Therefore, if the equipment that maintains the temperature of the chocolate should fail and drop significantly, this will lead to the chocolate eventually freezing up and solidifying.

Because pigging enables chocolate manufacturers to clear the pipe as frequently as possible, it prevents settling and freeze-ups. Instead of sitting in the pipelines for long periods, pigging can easily push this product to storage. This improves lot control and prevents product from sitting unavailable for extended periods of time. Here’s a case study on pigging for confectionery production.

Find Out More

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HPS is the world’s leading specialist in Liquid Product Recovery and Pipeline Pigging Solutions for manufacturers, producers and processors of chocolate, confectionery and other food and beverages. Our pigging systems are in wide use in many chocolate manufacturing plants throughout the world. This includes companies such as Nestle, Ghirardelli, Mondelez, The Hershey Company, Log House Foods, Mars Chocolate and many others.

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