Manufacturing Process

The margarine manufacturing process is a series of unit operations that transform a blend of ingredients into the product. The five unit operations are emulsification, cooling, working, resting, and packaging.

Margarine is mixed either in batches or by continuous methods. In batching, discrete amounts of the ingredients are measured, either by weight or by volume; blended; and transferred to processing steps. Batching is the procedure of choice when the products are of a variety of recipes. Continuous mix simultaneously measures all ingredients and mixes them in a continuous output stream. One method of continuous mix uses a multiple-headed adjustable calibration pump operated from a common drive shaft. This method is useful if the type of product is constant.

Emulsification is achieved by measuring appropriate amounts of oils, emulsifiers, vitamin A, coloring, and oil-

soluble flavorings. Aqueous-phase ingredients are blended separately, then combined with the oil phase at a temperature slightly above the melting point of the oil. Agitation of the mix is required to promote the formation of the emulsion.

Mixed emulsion at a temperature slightly higher than the melting point of the mixed fat (typically about 100-105°F) is pumped through a filter to a scraped surface heat exchanger cooling system such that the output temperature of the chilled margarine or spread is about 50 to 55°F, which is well below the melting point of the oils. This attribute of supercooling by rapid chilling is employed to reduce the size of fat crystals to a fine dispersion. If the emulsion were cooled via simple refrigeration, the fat crystals would be excessively large. Large crystals promote grainy texture and instability of emulsion, which are both undesirable. Nitrogen gas is injected either before or after scraped surface heat exchange but prior to pinworker (see next paragraph). Chilling and crystallizing of molten product yields an increase in production line pressure to as much as 250 to 300 psig, depending on the specific composition of product and equipment configuration. The scraped surface heat exchange equipment is designed to tolerate pressure slightly in excess of this. Contact the manufacturer for specifics.

The chilled product is agitated by pinworker units that reduce the size of the fat crystals by mechanical working. This further softens the texture of the product and fully disperses the injected nitrogen gas. Working also lengthens the time for the product to fully set.

Supercooled fluid product is allowed to rest in crystallizing chambers before packaging. Stick and brick product can be packed by either of two processes: (1) form the stick, then apply wrap, collect, and carton; or (2) insert cut wrapping material into a mold, then inject the fluid product into the mold cavity, wrap, collect, and carton. Soft product is dispensed into preformed and printed cups or tubs, capped, then sleeved. Many soft products are packaged with a plastic shrink-wrap band for package surety.

Packed units are collected into cases, stacked on pallets, and then moved to cold storage temporarily until quality testing is completed.

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