Greasing baking trays and bread molds remains a messy and dirty but necessary task in a lot of bakeries. In smaller operations, it can also be labor intensive and sometimes unnecessarily expensive. In volume production, it can create polluted environment and be the source of a lot of waste due to poor releasing or depanning action of the product used, according to Luc Imberechts, owner/president of Bakon USA

The ideal approach is the result of the careful selection of the right releasing agent combined with the right tool or equipment, he adds. Without a correct understanding of ingredients and machines, the greasing process can easily become cost prohibitive or non-sanitary and slow. There are better options than using vegetable oil for all applications, and better tools than a brush or aerosol spray cans.

Typical challenges are poor releasing (especially for products high in sugar), off flavor or risk of allergy, misting, lack of spray ability, disappearance or puddling of the oil when the trays are not used directly, build up on the trays after baking, price, and other factors.

“It is important to realize that one size may not fit all when selecting the correct release agent. One should look at the end products: is it bread, rolls, cakes, sponge, cookies…with a special eye on sugar content? Other important questions are: expected shelf-life of baked products, baking forms (trays, tins, oven belt) and their material, their condition, their temperature, the process (are the products being frozen?),” Imberechts explains.

Next, we can select the correct equipment. Based on the usage, one can select a manual approach or a conveyorized system. Most of the time, the technology used will be an air mix approach with the possibility of adjusting the liquid pressure and the air pressure. In the case of flat trays, the conveyorized disc sprayer is a convenient and clean approach as the release agent will form very small droplets that will fall by gravity. In the case of other trays and possibly trays with cavities, an air mix machine with a conveyor or a C-frame solution that comes on top of an existing conveyor for target spraying are valid possibilities. These solutions can be equipped with an optional damp exhaust that will suck the overspray and recycle the oil once separated from the air.

Bakon USA offers several small solutions like the popular Spraymix and the new Bazz 50 with onboard compressor. Conveyorized applications include the Disc sprayers, release agent sprayer that can be installed in-line, or designed as a C-frame and positioned over an existing conveyor, or even stand-alone models.

The use of aerosol spray cans is very expensive (small amount of product, high transport costs, difficult to recycle when at all possible, and one should make a quick calculation as to the true cost of that approach. It is also an opportunity for a better, more sustainable approach, Imberechts says.

Q&A with Vantage Food

To gain a better understanding of challenges and solutions for retail bakeries in bread pan oilers and release agents, Bake magazine reached out to Donna Gray, global marketing communications manager at Vantage Food, for practical and progressive solutions.

What are some common issues bakers run into with their bread pan oilers and release agents?

Many issues arise from incompatibilities at the beginning or modifications made over time. As with any topic within the baking space, it is incredible how technical release agents and their application can be. You can’t just run any release with any equipment or nozzle and modify the line without making significant adjustments or experiencing severe adverse effects. Even something as simple as conveyor speeds and pan flow is a prevalent issue.

Conveyor speeds must match the bread pan oiler speed. If they do not, you will get pans backing up and pushing each other through the oiler, which does not allow sensors to work correctly and trigger precise spraying.  

One of the most common issues we see, which is very preventable, are release agent containers being left opened to the bakery environment. This allows for contamination from flour, dust, and sanitation water. This is very detrimental to the functionality of the release and leads to a loss of product and release investment.

What are some of the latest technological advancements at bakers’ disposal in this area?

Modern bakeries are so intriguing and exciting, and this comes from technological advancements. The ability to remotely monitor equipment, adjust settings, sense signaling, and direct flow are easy examples of how technology has led to such an increase in mechanized advancement at these facilities.  

Our equipment seeks to stay in line with these technological advancements and match the progression within specific bakeries. Our equipment allows remote-in control, automatically notifies plant personnel when there is a problem at our machine, automatic adjustments for pan changes, and cutting-edge PLC and HMI controls.  These are all advanced technology offerings within our equipment solutions.  

How can bakers maximize labor savings and efficiency with today’s bread pan oiling tech?

As we know, product demand from bakeries is at an all-time high, but the challenges surrounding staffing and talent retention are also at an all-time high. Even though baking equipment and technology solutions can come with an expensive price tag, they can help overcome those constraints surrounding the cost of revolving staff.  When our bread pan oilers signal that the reservoir level is getting low, the drum needs to be changed out, or the nozzle isn’t spraying; those are critical items that no longer fall onto plant personnel. Those bodies can be allocated elsewhere. 

Our oilers also can automatically adjust all settings between pan types, again something that used to fall to plant personnel to adapt and monitor manually. The modern technology in our oilers also allows modernized bakeries to tap in remotely to monitor and change all these items from their tablet or computer anywhere in the plant. Remote control and monitoring of bakery equipment by operational and engineering staff is a big focus we are seeing at bakeries. All of these quickly add up to significant reductions in labor requirements.  

How can the bread pan oil work to extend the life of glazed pans?

Release agents are used to extend the glaze life of pans. The precise application of these agents often becomes more a point of focus as the pan life degrades and the pans get in much worse shape. While this is a critical time for bread pan oilers to spray properly to ensure ideal product release, it is equally important to use release agents on newly glazed pans to help extend the glaze life. This helps increase the pan life overall, allowing the plant to get the most out of its investment in glazing and pans.

How does the latest technology promote sustainability for bakers?

Sustainability at the bakery plant level can easily be associated with the removal or reduction of waste.  This can be the waste of the final product, ingredients, energy resources, or labor. Sustainability is something that Vantage takes very seriously, not only for ourselves but for our customers and partners. When new technology is used – in bread pan oilers and cake pan greasers in our case – we can drastically reduce waste in these categories.  

Our new 3001 Bread Pan Oiler with PosiSpray™ Technology is a great example. Last year we launched a complete redesign of our top bread pan oiler, focusing on sustainability and increased operational efficiency. The new technology senses when the release agent is dispensed into the pans, and most importantly, it triggers warning alarms when the release is not sprayed into the pans. This could be due to a clog, empty reservoir, drum, etc.  

The technology in this system then sends direct messaging alerts to plant personnel so they can remedy it immediately, rather than hours later when the loaves are not de-panning properly, causing hundreds or thousands of pounds of lost product. Correctly utilizing enhanced technology at many levels within the bakery will help significantly increase sustainability measures.

What considerations should bakers keep in mind when selecting their release agent equipment?

First, make sure that it is designed specifically for your application. There are many technical considerations that should be evaluated and built into the system, including pan type, cavity shape, line speeds, output targets, nozzle cycles, routine maintenance requirements for cost and line downtime, ease of changeover between pan types, and one of the most significant overlooked considerations – on-going technical field support from the manufacturer. 

There are numerous release agent equipment options out there, but very few of those companies will continue to be vested in the customer and that equipment purchase for years to come. This is what makes Vantage Food genuinely unique. Not only are we the industry leader in release agents and release equipment solutions, but we offer those supporting pillars of in-plant technical support and equipment solutions. We have a staff with decades of experience, often more experience in these plants than many of the bakery’s current employees, who can quickly problem solve, optimize, and keep plants from repeating past errors.