Oil, Moisture and Seasoning Measurement in Snack Foods with NIR

The snack food market is a large and potentially profitable segment of the food industry, with global market size of almost USD 500 billion. A number of companies small and large contests for a slice of this consumer discretionary spending. There is a large variety of sweet and savory snack food flavors that have been created to tap this lucrative market.

Oil and Moisture Measurement in Snack Foods with NIR

To maintain and increase market share in this competitive environment, effective process control of production is vital to ensure the consistent product quality needed. For most snack foods, seasoning and moisture are the two most critical parameters, and both have a large effect on product quality and production costs.

For food manufacturers, this is a challenge because multiple seasonings and flavors are added as coatings or tumbled on with the final seasoning load variable. Improper seasoning load can result in poor consumer acceptance and increased raw ingredient costs, as seasonings are often the costliest part of the product.

For instance, adding 1 – 2% more than the target seasoning amount will add thousands of dollars per week to manufacturing costs in a medium sized plant. The moisture content of snacks influences mouth feel, shelf life, and production costs.

Procedures and strategies for quality control in a snack plant vary a lot. As they trust their application hardware to work correctly, some manufactures do not measure at all.

As applicators often get clogged or fail, this is very dangerous. In addition, simply calculating how much seasoning is used based on how many pounds of chips are made does not reflect the amount of seasoning applied to the chips accurately. 

To estimate seasoning loads some manufacturers use color or salt titrations.  Salt titrations take time and require costly chemicals, and these methods do not work with many seasoning types.

In the snack food industry, near-infrared technology (NIR) is utilized for measuring both oil and moisture content in finished snacks. Instruments such as the Unity Scientific® SpectraStar™ XT are also able to measure the seasoning content of the final product. 

Oil and Moisture Measurement in Snack Foods with NIR

NIR Analyzers in the Snack Food Plant

In under 30 seconds, the Unity® SpectraStar XT NIR analyzer can measure oil, moisture and seasoning content with no dangerous chemicals. The accuracy of the instrument enables the plant to control its seasoning application to better than 1 %, and the instrument is sealed and designed for use at-line close to production where results can readily be used to control production.


The SpectraStar is calibrated by running a set of known samples that are utilized in order to train the instrument. Calibrations are developed on each type of seasoning and product type. Once it is calibrated, any operator with minimal training can grind samples and get reliable oil, moisture and seasoning results in less than a minute. The results can then be used instantly on the production floor to adjust the seasoning application for the optimal quality.  

An example of a BBQ seasoning on potato chips is shown below with NIR values plotted against the reference values:

Oil and Moisture Measurement in Snack Foods with NIR

Complete Visibility to Moisture and Seasoning Content in Snack Food Production

The Unity Scientific SpectraStar XT is a quick analytical instrument that can analyze a snack food sample for both seasoning content and moisture in under 30 seconds at-line. The analyzer does not use any chemicals and employees can be trained to operate the instrument in under 15 minutes.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Unity Scientific.

For more information on this source, please visit Unity Scientific.


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