Chocolate rarely needs help getting off the shelf, but special days associated with chocolate (Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc.), dramatically increase chocolate sales and gifting. In the case of Valentine’s Day, the increased interest is acute. Globally, more than $14 billion in chocolate sales occur around February 14 (with $1 billion of those sales in the United States). Smaller, often specialty chocolate shops do solid business in these special periods, but the lion’s share of chocolate sales stem from larger chocolate manufacturing operations. These companies provide, for example, the majority of the heart-shaped chocolates found in grocery stores and the boxes of multiple flavors and filled candies sold in department stores. At Easter, the vast majority of chocolate given out comes from large operations.
The production processes used to produce this safe, steady supply of chocolate rely often on compressed air.
Compressed air is essential to many modern manufacturing, processing and packaging operations. High-quality compressed air provides energy for pneumatic conveyer and handling systems that transport liquids and powders (such as cocoa) during the production of chocolate products as well as influences the safety of wrapping, sealing, labeling and palletizing these products for shipping or storage.
Air quality systems utilizing compressed air help prevent microbial growth, desiccation, and the unwanted transfer of odors and oils. High-quality compressed air prevents contamination from particulates and hydrocarbon gases. Refrigeration systems, for example, cool compressed air for the removal of water, as humidity control is essential for food quality and safety.
Chocolate manufacturing operations (great and small) must tightly control the dew point in the production environment. Air quality in this regard is influenced by various regulatory or guidance sources, such as the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) enforcement of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and cGMP.
To determine what constitutes good compressed air quality to maintain food that is both safe for consumer health and food with the proper sensory experience to that ultimate end user (perhaps your sweetheart), manufacturers use compressed air testing. Routine sampling of compressed air quality helps ensure the safety of the chocolate being produced and packaged, the employees in the production facility, and the energy efficiency of the facility itself.
So while compressed air quality may not be on your mind this Valentine’s Day, it has certainly been on the minds of chocolatiers—as well as champagne bottlers, fragrance producers, and the many other manufacturing industries that depend on February 14‘s traditional recognition and celebration of love.
TRI has developed guidelines for direct and indirect product contact to assist facilities in fine-tuning their compress air operations. Plant engineers may also need to create a facility- or application-specific standard, one that brings together the specific needs of the facility with existing compressed air quality specs, such as ISO 8573 (Class 1 and Class 2), USP, OSHA, FDA and cGMP.
Air Testing in the Food Industry (web page)
ABOUT TRI AIR TESTING
TRI Air Testing provides independent laboratory support for many food and beverage companies and offers 24-hour turnaround time and online access to testing reports. Plant engineers throughout the United States use testing equipment and media provided by TRI to collect compressed air samples as part of their facilities’ air quality compliance, safety and energy efficiency assurance measures.