Field Reports: No short shrift for snack food production

New shortening system bulks up profits for J&J Snack Foods.

WCB’s Votator II scraped surface heat exchangers were part of J&J Snack Foods’ shortening system upgrade to ensure that products such as TIO PEPE’S® Churro were of the highest quality at the lowest production cost. Source: WCB.
When consumers take a break to enjoy crunchy churros, they usually don’t give a second thought about the ingredients used to make them. But the manufacturer of these Mexican treats, J&J Snack Foods, upgraded its entire shortening system to ensure that the churro, along with its other products, were of the highest quality at the lowest production cost.

In addition to TIO PEPE’S® Churro, J&J’s Vernon, CA, facility manufactures SUPERPRETZEL® Soft Pretzels, MRS. GOODCOOKIE® and CAMDEN CREEK® brand cookies, and frozen raw cookie dough for food service and retail distribution.

Since the facility opened 16 years ago, J&J bought cubed shortening from an outside vendor. The cubes were manually loaded from two tempering tanks into the mixers and fryers, a time-consuming, labor-intensive task. Gerry Law, J&J’s general manager, and his team needed to streamline the process.

With a desired capacity of 5,000 lbs., the sheer size of the proposed shortening system presented a particular engineering challenge. The primary change in J&J’s shortening processing line involved installing a bulk oil system. Instead of cubes of shortening, the company loads truckloads of oil into two, 10,000-gallon bulk oil tanks located outside the plant. The oil is pumped, using Waukesha Cherry-Burrell (WCB) Universal positive displacement pumps, into the plant and distributed to two different processing lines.

Some of the oil is pumped directly into the fryers. The remaining oil is converted into shortening using WCB’s Votator® II scraped surface heat exchangers. By making the shortening in house, J&J Snack Foods saves about three cents per pound of shortening, Law reports.

Once the shortening has been processed, it is pumped into one of two tempering tanks that hold 15,000 pounds of shortening each. The shortening is then tempered for four hours to ensure a proper crystalline structure, critical to producing a quality end product. While the shortening in one tank is tempering, the shortening in the other tank is sent to the mixers to make product.

One of the project challenges was metering the correct amount of shortening to eleven different mixers. “Shortening is a little bit tricky; it’s a tough product to measure,” Law points out.

WCB looked at several different metering options and conducted flow metering trials. Mass flow meters were installed to provide the measuring solution. “We were surprised by the solution that WCB came up with. But as a result [of installing the flow meters] we have an accuracy rate of plus or minus one-tenth of a pound on a 300-pound draw, which is very good,” Law said.

By automating its shortening processing line, J&J Snack Foods has seen a significant savings in labor costs, according to Law. An unexpected benefit J&J Snack Foods realized by making its shortening in-house and controlling its composition is a better quality cookie. “Before we used cubes and we were at the will of the manufacturer making an all-purpose shortening that was used for more than just cookies,” Law says. “Now we’ve been able to tailor our shortening to exactly what we need.”

For more information:

Scott Dillner, 262-728-4934,

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