Food Engineering

Advancing the 'hollow' holiday

August 31, 2005
Lubricants help novelty candy company combine aesthetics with food safety.

At its Reading, PA plant, R.M. Palmer molds about 300,000 lbs. of chocolate each day to keep up with demand for its seasonal candy products.
With their chocolate ears, big candy eyes and decorative button noses, hollow chocolate Easter bunnies have captured the hearts and taste buds of children and adults since the 1950s. In fact, innovation in the design and creation of these chocolate novelties was at the heart of Richard M. Palmer, Sr.'s launch of the R.M. Palmer Co. in 1948. Since then, R.M. Palmer has expanded its line of candy creations to include several additional holidays (Christmas, Valentine's Day and Halloween) and produces a number of other private label products for year-round consumption.



Although the company molds solid and hollow chocolate products, its hollow bunny line, in particular, continues to be its signature product. Which is why, when it came time to institute Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) as a general, plant-wide policy, making changes to the hollow production line was critical. "It's our most popular line," says Charlie Trois, R.M. Palmer maintenance manager. "So, it's important that any change we make to the line be successful and not impact our overall efficiency."

At the company's 80,000-sq.-ft. plant in Reading, PA, the hollow mold machine runs 24 hours a day, anywhere from five to seven days a week depending on the time of year and demand. Chocolate is heated and deposited into each mold; the mold spins and cools the chocolate. As it cools, the chocolate solidifies on the two halves of the mold, creating a hollow chocolate shape. On average, the company molds about 300,000 lbs. of chocolate products per day.

To create the caricatures and other designs for which R.M. Palmer is known, molded chocolate bunnies then move through decorator depositor units. Here, each bunny is accessorized with the items appropriate to its design (i.e., eyes, ears, nose, bowties, etc.). The company uses four decorator depositor machines, and each machine deposits a different color on the candy. The molds are held in place and positioned by the depositors while a barcode on the tray tells the machine which color should be deposited. To quickly and efficiently decorate the chocolate and keep product moving, the depositors feature a number of gears, pumps and clamps. "The depositors require a large reservoir of oil to allow for all the different functions of the machines," says Trois.

Given the elaborate functions of the depositors, there is the chance, however slim, that oil from the units may come into contact with the chocolate. For that reason, and as part of its overall GMPs, R.M. Palmer uses Keystone's Nevastane food grade lubricants. "The Keystone lubricants have been helpful in the hydraulic units of the decorating depositors," says Trois. "We use the lubricant in these machines because it is non-toxic and further increases the safety of our operation."

Initially, during the changeover to the Keystone lubricants, there were some issues with foaming. To solve the problem, Brown Engineering, a longtime partner of R.M. Palmer, sent samples to the manufacturer, which added a higher level of anti-foaming additive to the oil to fit R.M. Palmer's specific application. "We've been very happy with the performance and durability the lubricants offer," says Trois. "They help to keep us running smoothly."

For more information:

Gary Frizzell, Keystone Lubricants,
gary.frizzell@total-us.com,
908-862-9300 Ext. 5052