Nuts About Color Measurement: Reducing Process Variation With Spectrophotometers

Nuts just may be the perfect food. Available in a variety of types and flavors, nuts make a great on-the-go snack, when you want something salty or sweet, or for that extra protein boost. With all the options on the market today, consumers have a wide selection from which to choose and are counting for products that look and taste great. Nut manufacturers strive to meet consumer expectations, but process variation creates challenges in product uniformity and consistency.

mixed nuts process variation
Nuts come in many varieties and flavors and provide a healthy snack choice for many consumers.
Image Source: Flickr user s58y

Color measurement provides a solution for reducing process variation, and advanced technology allows for continuous production monitoring of nuts throughout the different processing stages. From shelled and raw nuts to roasted and coated, spectrophotometers offer quantifiable and accurate color measurement that emulates the way the consumer views the product to ensure consistency, quality, and acceptance every time.

Real-time process monitoring

Process variation can occur throughout any phase of nut production and can affect different aspects of final product acceptance. Color perception is one of the main attributes on which consumers rely when making product selections, and it plays a vital role in the discernment of taste and quality in nut products. Color is also a main reason for process variation in nut production and many factors can influence final color outcome. Operating temperature, line speed, and dwell (resident) time, all present opportunities for color change and process variation to occur. Consistent and real-time color monitoring is essential for maintaining product quality and consistency throughout these various stages.

shelled peanuts process variation
On-line color monitoring can detect changes in roasting times and temperatures in real-time, allowing for immediate changes to be made to ensure color consistency and quality.
Image Source: Flickr user Kate Ter Haar

Measuring and assessing color variations on the production line is the best way to monitor changes and identify where process variation occurs. Real-time production line monitoring allows for immediate data that can prompt changes in roasting times and/or temperatures, allowing for more efficient and cost-effective processing results. Final color control assessment also helps to eliminate consumer complaints associated with color and works to ensure quality product sales. Spectrophotometric analysis can also play an important role in detecting contaminated products. The GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) recommends continual monitoring of nut products to provide preventative and corrective analysis for the safe processing of nuts. With on-line color measurement, any changes or upsets in production are revealed immediately and allow for quick reaction, saving both time and money and ensuring product safety.

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On-line color measurement tools

Since process variation can occur at any stage, on-line color analysis is a necessity for continual monitoring and provides a tool that can ensure final product safety and satisfaction. The use of real-time color measurements during on-line processing offers an advantage over intermittent laboratory analysis, which only provides data after the batch is complete. This method does not allow for any adjustments to be made in as soon as a disruption in production occurs, resulting in wasted product and time.

roasted almonds process variation
Roasted and coated nuts can undergo significant changes due to roasting times and temperatures, but real-time color monitoring allows for immediate adjustments to be made to correct process variation problems.
Image Source: Flickr user Jim Winstead

The HunterLab SpectraTrend HT is the ultimate tool for on-line process variation analysis and real-time color monitoring. Providing highly accurate spectrophotometric analysis, the SpectraTrend HT can be mounted directly above the conveyor belt, providing the capability to assess layers or piles of nuts that pass underneath. This style of instrumentation gives frequent color measurement data that is readily available for process variation analysis, allowing for appropriate and immediate modifications during any processing phases. Using advanced on-line spectrophotometric technology can ultimately reduce plant operating costs by promptly determining the cause of product variation and maximizing production and equipment usage. Contact HunterLab for more information on upgrading your equipment and let us show you how you can save both time and money today.

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