Agglomeration is the process of binding fine powdered food substances into larger particles. It is a technique commonly used in food production for goods such as tea, coffee and other beverage powders, table salt, soup mixes, health bars, and many others.
In general, powder agglomeration creates porosity within these larger, formed particles, improving their solubility and permeability. While the chemical properties of these larger particles are varied, they still contain the same elements as their base components. Not all methods of agglomeration are alike, though, and come with advantages and disadvantages.
The Types of Agglomeration
There are two overarching categories of agglomeration in food processing: non-pressure and pressure. Non-pressure techniques utilize a tumbling process and binding agent to create larger pellets — a procedure known as coalescence. Pressure agglomeration uses extreme compression to bind materials together.
Here is a closer look at some specific methods that fall under the non-pressure and pressure types of agglomeration:
- Conditioning uses a rotary drum, pug mill or pin mixer to homogenously mix dry and liquid ingredients.
- Pelletizing is considered a wet process and involves tumbling fines in the presence of a binding agent to create small pellets.
- Granulation is similar to pelletizing but sometimes involves a chemical reaction. It is most common in fertilizer production.
- Micro-pelletizing is similar to pelletizing, but creates much smaller pellets.
- Compaction granulation uses a compactor to apply mechanical force to materials, forming particles into cohesive units. It is typically a dry process, but binders may be employed as well.
- Briquetting is a dry process that applies extreme pressure to create pillow-shaped briquettes. It is typically used for larger agglomerates.
Benefits of Agglomeration
For food manufacturers, agglomeration has significant advantages including:
- Reduced segregation of ingredients
- Improved storage and transportation
- Less caking
- Better flow properties of products
- Reduced product losses and breakdowns
- Dust reduction
- Superior melting, permeability, porosity and density
Controlled agglomeration allows manufacturers to manage the size, shape and feel of food particles and powders. The original particles are transformed to promote improved flow, less dust and reduced stickiness. The efficiencies and improvements resulting from the agglomeration process provide the following conveniences:
- Easier measuring
- Improved appearance
- More satisfying mouthfeel
- Better consistency across products
- Increased solubility with “instant” goods
PacMoore is your go-to source for comprehensive contract manufacturing services, including processing, packaging, storing and shipping food. Our professionals are equipped to handle the intricacies of the agglomeration process to create the highest quality goods and commodities, including drink and soup mixes, cereals, snacks and bakery blends.
Contact us today to learn how PacMoore can assist your food manufacturing operations and reduce costs.