Along with trends from the last few years, the demand for natural and organic products is growing. And it’s not going away anytime soon. So now is the time to jump on the train. But before you do, it’s important to know what’s involved in the process.
When it comes to labeling products organic, companies must be extremely careful to make sure they are doing it correctly. Organic products must be produced without excluded methods, using allowed substances, as well as overseen and certified by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent. There are four categories of organic labeling, per the USDA:
- 100% Organic: contains 100% organic ingredients. Salt and water are exceptions, and products that have no added ingredients (flours, rolled oats) can also be classified 100% organic.
- Organic: contains a minimum of 95% organic ingredients, not counting salt and water. The remaining 5% can be agricultural products that are not available as organic or are part of the National List.
- Made with Organic______: contains a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, besides salt and water. For the non-organic ingredients, there are a number of strict constraints.
- Specific Ingredient Listings: specific organic ingredients listed in products that have under 70% organic content.
What about natural products?
As of now, there is no FDA definition for clean label. It is also difficult to define “natural” food that has been processed. The consensus is it’s fine if it does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. However, as fluid as the definitions are, keep in mind that labeling your product “natural” may open you to lawsuits.
What does this mean for you?
No matter what category of organic you are aiming for, the basic steps of getting there are the same. Start with cleaning up your label with accepted natural or FDA certified organic ingredients, preservatives and additives. Also, simplify the recipe and process however you can.
Keep in mind the costs of producing this product. The ingredient cost is usually twice as much. The processing side of operation cost will increase as well. Production speeds will probably be reduced and line cleaning products and practices will need to be adjusted.
You will need to find suitable substitutes that won’t hurt product quality.
If your game is bread, your first move is getting rid of blacklisted ingredients, such as:
- Bromated flour
- Mono & Diglycerides
Instead, reach for these alternatives:
- Enzymes: reduce mix times, increase oxidation and improve machinability. They are also substrate specific, with many precise applications.
- Lecithin: high-performing emulsifier and stabilizer, improving the texture of goods. Soy lecithin is popular, and sunflower lecithin is available as organic.
- Ascorbic acid: oxidant that promotes dough development during mixing.
- Cultured wheat: a natural preservative without dramatic impact on texture, flavor or color.
With different ingredients, the process must be adjusted as well. Without the use of chemical dough conditioners and strengtheners, it means you don’t have the luxury of putting a lot of pressure on your dough. Aged flour and increased fermentation time will put less stress on your dough system, giving you something more relaxed to work with.
Railcar flour is easy to handle and works best with sponge and dough. Heat treated flour has better functioning proteins. Rapid hydration technology produces a lower-temperature dough that requires less or no dough conditioners.
For sweet products, here are some common ingredients that are blacklisted:
- Sodium Aluminum Sulfate
- Bleached Flour
- Antioxidants/chelating agents (BHA, BHT, EDTA, TBHQ, Propyl gallate)
- FD&C colors
- Artificial flavors
- Trans fat/PHO
Don’t forget this opportunity to optimize your process! Bake better organic products, and get the most out of your equipment as well.
Most organic breads call for a lot of gluten. In the mixer this means a lot more heat for the dough. So, it is crucial to get and keep the temperature down. To achieve this organically, use ice or refrigerated water and mix in smaller batches if you can.
A new mixing technology that has been showing impressive results is rapid hydration technology, where dry ingredients are shot with a high-pressure stream of liquid before falling into the mixing bowl. This technology allows for not only increased dough hydration and fermentation, but mixing time and heat are drastically lower.
The number one fault with ovens, organic products or not, is an unbalance that leads to over baking. Overbaking means a dried-out product with a shorter shelf life—something you can’t afford with organic baking. So you HAVE to know what’s happening in your oven.
Thermal profiling is a way to know what’s happening to your product during the whole baking process, and measure what you need to manipulate zones to reach ideal targets. Anything later than 50% is not proper oven spring. For organic products, you want your crumb set zone between 10-15%.
The cooling tower
If bread does not cool enough, condensation and mold will destroy your product. 38% moisture is the limit! Internal bread temperature should be between 35-40°C (95-104°F).
Did you know that you reduce the effectiveness of your slicing blades when you slice warm bread? Extend the usage of your bread slicing blades by cooling your bread to the above said temperature.
It’s not just R&D and quality. It’s production, sanitation and engineering too! Remember, you can no longer rely on chemical-laden cleaners and sanitizers to get the job done.
Mold spores are abundant in humid, dusty environments—or the bakery floor. Although mold is destroyed during baking at 82-100°C (180 – 212°F), it can grow after based on the air, cooling tower and human contact. The following are conditions to prevent mold growth:
- Aw= 0.6
- Temp = < 30°C
- Humidity = < 60%RH
So how to go about preventing mold? Stick with strict and proper sanitation methods. Clean your bakery! With the products themselves, make sure the internal temperature is 35°C or 95°F before packaging, and handle them with gloves.
For an “organic” clean, do a complete breakdown of equipment, using only organically approved chemical (NOP). Ecolab or your local sanitation chemical company should carry a line of organic approved chemicals.
Pathogens are a serious issue for organic production lines. Wet areas and high temps are sources for bacteria to grow. This means the proof box is highly susceptible. Scrub it down and dry it out completely!
To prevent the spread of pathogens, keep everything as clean as possible. Start a shoe cleaning program and have plenty of hand wash sinks. Sanitation stations are potential growth sports. You’ll want to keep the bakery area dry, so keep sinks away from the product line. Do a wet clean once a week and dry clean the rest of the time.
Staying ahead in sanitation will require a strict sanitation routine.
- Slicer blades
- Easily accessible sanitation stations
- Air filter changes
- Belt and conveyor cleaning
- High area dusting
If you have a flour reclaimer cleaning system, this will need to be purged for organic baking. It is also a good practice to keep the storage, production, baking and cooling areas separated, so that pathogens and contaminated areas are easily isolated.
One last thing…
Going organic is not just the product. It’s the entire baking ecosystem. It will be a lot of work, and will inquire some costs. However, see it as a chance to optimize your process and equipment. And, as a chance to take part in a trend with lots of room for innovation, growth, and success.