Producers of cannabis-infused baked goods must weigh many factors when selecting ovens, depositors and other machinery, but equipment manufacturers say size and capacity are among the most important.
As cannabis food and beverage producers begin operations — or establish manufacturing in a new market — they need to dial in their expected output as their business expands, said Lara DaRocha, vice president of Erika Record Baking Equipment, West Caldwell, New Jersey.
“The equipment the client selects must be sized appropriately to their current production needs,” DaRocha said. “We also advise customers to consider their future production goals. This ensures that they are purchasing a piece of equipment that serves their most immediate needs, while also being able to grow with their baking operations.”
In addition to size and capacity, DaRocha suggested monitoring how new equipment affects preceeding or succeeding stages in the production process.
“During this exciting growth process, it is also important to be cognizant of potential production bottlenecks that may occur after their new equipment purchase,” she said. “We commonly observe these bottlenecks during the mixing and baking process, when this new piece of equipment begins to quickly outpace their existing mixing and baking capacities. Future growth considerations tend to include upgrading pre-existing pieces of equipment to avoid and/or resolve such bottlenecks.”
Tony Gonzalez, market development director for Baker Perkins’ Infusent line, also noted that remaining cognizant of all production stages is important. He said the Grand Rapids, Michigan company goes beyond the major stages of baking and confectionery production.
“That’s what we’re really focusing on with the starting of Infusent — it’s to be able to focus on filling the gap on these processes in between cooking, depositing or cutting,” he said. “In the sectors of the cannabis industry, the strong point has been around sugar coating, demoulding — some of these ancillary pieces that are labor intensive.”
Whether producers are infusing brownies, cookies or other edibles with cannabis, batch consistency and dosing accuracy are critical to manufacturing products that are compliant and safe for the end consumer.
“Our cannabis customers are seeking to mass produce edibles in a tightly controlled manner,” DaRocha said. “The goal tends to be achieving higher production rates while also maintaining a consistent and accurate product. For our part, we provide solutions that help edible producers achieve consistent products within an industry-tolerable accuracy range.”
Gonzalez also noted the importance of consistency and accuracy, pointing to the need for food-safe, hygienic equipment design.
“Our equipment is certainly made to be very hygienic, which leads to safety, but also very accurate by piece weight so that you get a lot of consistency in products that are going into packaging,” he said.
Cookie machines and depositors
Depositors allow manufacturers to quickly produce pieces of equal weights and sizes. When selecting a depositor, manufacturers should take into consideration their dough type, product inclusions, piece size and shape, and required production speeds, DaRocha said.
Manufacturers turning to new equipment — or to machinery for the first time — may also need to tweak their formulations and processes, she added.
“For those transitioning from a completely manual to a mechanized forming and depositing process, clients may also find it necessary to slightly modify your process and/or ingredients to achieve a favorable mechanized deposit,” DaRocha said. “This may include chilling doughs prior to forming, slightly modifying ingredient ratios, etc.”
Erika Record offers the Deighton Formatic Cookie Machine, available in models capable of 1,200, 2,200 or 3,000 revolutions per hour. The wire-release cookie machine can process doughs with large inclusions, and the drum system allows for producing cookies in a variety of shapes. The drum’s standard production space reaches up to 4.25 inches in diameter, with custom shapes available.
In 2021, Baker Perkins debuted the Infusent line of laboratory-scale equipment with the goal of serving the infused products market. Before joining Baker Perkins, Gonzalez first encountered the company’s laboratory-size equipment while helping an edibles manufacturer build out its plant.
“We implemented some of their laboratory scale equipment because the size of that unit physically and its capabilities really did align with the market demand and the production needs of the cannabis businesses of that time,” he said.
Among the available Infusent offerings is the ServoForm Mini Depositor, which can deposit batter in addition to confectionery formulations. The starch-free, servo-driven depositor can produce pieces between 2 and 16 grams, with an output of up to 50 kilograms per hour.
Baker Perkins has also introduced the ServoForm Flexi, which allows for outputs between 100 and 1,000 kilograms per hour and longer setting times. The company will introduce the ServoForm Mini+ this year.
Depositors aren’t the only pilot-size equipment Baker Perkins offers. The company’s Laboratory Scale Rotary Moulder features the same arrangement of rolls, scraper and extraction as its larger rotary moulding machines. Its moulding roll has a diameter of 10 inches, and the loading hopper has the capacity to fill two trays.
Erika Record, distributor of Tagliavini ovens, recommends the Termovent convection ovens and Rotovent rack ovens to cannabis baked good manufacturers. These ovens have perforated walls and large fans with five speed variations.
“These features are crucial for even airflow within the baking chamber, providing a consistent and evenly baked product with each and every batch,” DaRocha said.
Baker Perkins offers large-scale ovens including the TruBake HiCirc Convection Oven, TruBake Direct Gas Fired Oven and hybrid ovens combining direct gas fired, direct convection and indirect convection capabilities.
But no matter which types of baking equipment manufacturers seek, Gonzalez and DaRocha emphasized working with suppliers that can support edibles makers’ everyday needs and their continued growth.
“When purchasing equipment, bakers should be looking for a long-term partner that remains dedicated to their success,” DaRocha said. “Often where clients purchase their equipment can be as important as the machine being purchased. It is important the client finds a supplier they can trust, who offers product testing, technical support services, warranty coverage, and critical spare parts.”