Ten years ago, wet cleanable equipment in a bakery facility was practically unheard of. Today, it’s still uncommon, especially in older processing facilities whose operations are limited to bread and other low-moisture foods.
But we expect the picture will be much different ten years from now. Washdown is becoming much more common in bakery facilities, and we believe that, in the future, most bakery operations will use wet cleanable equipment.
The reason boils down to a combination of consumer preferences, the diversification of production, and regulation.
On the consumer preference side, people simply don’t want plain bread anymore. While sliced bread made a comeback early in the pandemic as people stockpiled food in their freezer, the pre-pandemic trend toward artisanal, more functional products is still continuing. This has led bakers to add in-demand ingredients, like nuts and seeds, to their products.
On the diversification side, companies are looking to be more flexible in their operations, rather than making just a single product. For example, many bread makers are expanding their lines with innovative flavors that require additional ingredients (e.g., seeds, olives, cheeses) or looking to get into the booming frozen pizza market, which often involves using meat.
Both of these trends change the regulatory landscape for bakery processors. Of course, bakers have always had to follow food safety guidelines, just like all other food processors. But, in practice, facilities that just make plain bread aren’t often subject to surprise USDA or FDA inspections because of the low risk associated with the products.
However, as soon as you start to process ingredients including nuts, cheese, and meat, the regulatory landscape shifts. That’s when USDA and/or FDA inspectors start showing up. As a result of this increased regulation, the bakery industry is slowly transitioning to be on par with the meat industry when it comes to things like sanitary design and sanitation procedures.
Another contributing factor is that the industry is starting to become more informed about the food safety risks associated with its products. As Richard Brouillette and Thomas Haley note in their article “The Evolution of Sanitation and Hygienic Design in Bakeries,” there’s growing awareness that the oven is only effective at killing some microbial hazards and that, in certain conditions, illness-causing pathogens can survive the oven. “For processors of products in which these organisms can flourish, hygienic design and cleaning and sanitizing procedures for their equipment before the oven are as critical as the ones for the equipment after the oven,” they write.
Bakery equipment OEMs are responding to these needs by designing their equipment to withstand increased sanitation procedures. The Naegele equipment portfolio includes industry-leading designs for wet cleanable equipment for breadmaking. For example, our sanitary dough sheeting line designs, which enable processors to make artisan-style bread on an industrial scale, while allowing for complete washdown. In the future, we expect washdown design to be standard across the industry.
If you’d like to learn more about wet cleanable baking equipment, contact us. We can help you determine the best sanitary solution for your application.