Title:
CENTER-FILLED CONFECTIONERY PRODUCT AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present disclosure provides a center-filled confectionery product and a method for making the same. The center-filled confectionery product includes a fill portion which may be a liquid and an outer portion composed of a confectionery material. The fill portion is within the outer confectionery portion. The confectionery product further includes a flange composed of the confectionery material that surrounds the periphery of the confectionery product. The center-filled confectionery product may be coated.



Inventors:
Fornaguera, Joan Fabre (Sant Cugat del Valles, ES)
Application Number:
11/556440
Publication Date:
05/10/2007
Filing Date:
11/03/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A23G4/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAWLA, JYOTI
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BELL, BOYD & LLOYD LLP (P.O. Box 1135, CHICAGO, IL, 60690, US)
Claims:
The invention is claimed as follows:

1. A confectionery product comprising: an outer portion; a fill portion in the outer portion; and a flange surrounding a periphery of the confectionery product.

2. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the flange is integral with the outer portion.

3. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the flange surrounds the entire periphery of the confectionery product.

4. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the confectionery material is selected from the group consisting of hard candy, soft candy, fondants, toffee, taffy, gel candy, chewing gum, chocolate, nougat, and combinations thereof.

5. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the fill portion is selected from group consisting of a liquid, a semi-liquid, a syrup, a gel, a paste, a semi-solid, a flowable solid, and combinations thereof.

6. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the outer portion is a chewing gum and the fill portion is a liquid.

7. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the fill portion further comprises a fill material, the flange containing substantially no fill material.

8. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the fill portion is not visible when the confectionery product is viewed by a consumer.

9. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the flange further comprises a sealed edge.

10. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the flange has a uniform length about the entire periphery of the confectionery product.

11. The confectionery product of claim 1 wherein the fill portion is from about 1% to about 16% by weight of the confectionery product.

12. A confectionery product comprising: an outer portion; a fill portion; a flange surrounding a periphery of the confectionery product; and a coating.

13. The confectionery product of claim 12 wherein the coating is from about 1% to about 20% by weight of the confectionery product.

14. The confectionery product of claim 12 wherein the coating is selected from the group consisting of maltitol, sorbitol, erythritol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol, xylitol and combinations thereof.

15. The confectionery product of claim 12 wherein the coating further comprises a sensation producing ingredient selected from the group consisting of a cooling agent, a food grade acid, a flavorant, and combinations thereof.

16. A method for producing a center-filled confectionery product comprising: separating a web of adjoined center-filled confectionery pieces into a plurality of center-filled confectionery products; and forming a flange around an entire periphery of each center-filled confectionery product.

17. The method of claim 16 further comprising extruding an extrudate comprising a plurality of adjoined center-filled confectionery ropes and sealing opposing ends of the extrudate to form the web of adjoined center-filled confectionery pieces.

18. The method of claim 16 wherein the separating further comprises breaking the web along strands adjoining the center-filled confectionery ropes.

19. The method of claim 16 further comprising coating the web with a coating material.

20. The method of claim 16 further comprising coating the plurality of center-filled confectionery products with a coating material.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

This application claims priority to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 60/733,517 filed on Nov. 4, 2005 and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 60/821,373 filed on Aug. 3, 2006, the entire content of each application incorporated herein.

BACKGROUND

Liquid or center-filled gum and other center-filled confectionery products enjoy widespread popular appeal. These products typically exhibit a soft, chewy or pliable outer portion that surrounds a flavored liquid or syrup center portion. The filled candy is often coated with a hard or a soft candy shell.

A problem encountered in the large scale production of such candies is the inability to adequately control and coordinate the flow rate of the center-fill material and/or the confectionery extrudate with the individual piece forming process. Poor control and coordination of these process parameters results in improperly sealed center fill confectionery pieces. Improperly sealed pieces are particularly troublesome as unsealed confectionery pieces leak a sticky, viscous fluid onto acceptable product pieces and/or production equipment. Thus, leaked fill material deleteriously impacts otherwise acceptable confectionery pieces, contributes to material waste, and causes equipment stoppage. Moreover, conventional center fill production systems based on single rope extrusions are inherently limited in product output.

A need exists for an apparatus and method for controlling and coordinating the extrusion process and the piece forming process, particularly in large scale production systems for center-filled confectioneries. A need further exists for a production system that overcomes the limitations of single rope extrusion systems. Still further, a need exists for a center-filled confectionary product that may be mass-produced efficiently and with minimal or no defective product.

SUMMARY

The present disclosure sets forth a center-filled confectionery product. In an embodiment, the center-filled confectionery product may be formed from a plurality of center-filled confectionery ropes that are adjoined or connected to each other to form a single uniform extrudate. The multiple rope extrudate may be sealed to form a sealed center-filled confectionery component which may include a web of adjoined sealed center-filled confectionery pieces. The web may be separated into a plurality of discrete or separate sealed center-filled individual confectionery products.

In an embodiment, the extrudate may further include a fill portion comprised of a fill material that is encased or otherwise surrounded in an outer confectionery material. In a further embodiment, the fill material may be a liquid and the outer confectionery material may be a chewing gum. In an embodiment, each sealed center-filled individual confectionery product may include a peripheral flange that extends around an outer perimeter of the confectionery product. In an embodiment, the peripheral flange may include only the outer confectionery material and be substantially free, or free, of the fill material. In a further embodiment, the fill material may be cooled prior to extrudate formation in order to cool the extrudate from the inside. The fill material may have a temperature of from about 1° C. to about 10° C.

In an embodiment, the center-filled confectionery product may include a coating. The coating may be on the outer surface of the outer portion. The coating may be composed of a coating material and may form a hard shell or a soft shell coating on the center-filled confectionery product. The coating material may be applied to the web of adjoined sealed confectionery pieces, or to each individual sealed center-filled confectionery product.

In an embodiment, the center-filled confectionery product may include one or more sealed ends resulting from a forming process the crimps and cuts the extrudate during the production process.

In an embodiment a method for producing a center-filled confectionery product is provided. The method includes separating a web of adjoined sealed center-filled confectionery pieces into a plurality of individual center-filled confectionery products. As a result of the piece separation, the method includes forming a flange around a periphery of each center-filled confectionery product. In an embodiment, the method may include extruding an extrudate that is composed of a plurality of adjoined center-filled confectionery ropes and sealing opposing ends of the extrudate to form the web of adjoined sealed center-filled confectionery pieces. The separation of the web may include breaking the web along strands of the confectionery material which adjoin the center-filled confectionery ropes to each other.

In an embodiment, the method may include coating the web with a coating material. In yet a further embodiment, the method may entail coating the plurality of center-filled confectionery products with a coating material.

Additional features and advantages are described herein, and will be apparent from, the following Detailed Description and the Figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an apparatus for producing a center-filled confectionery in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an apparatus for producing a center-filled extrudate in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of the apparatus of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a front elevation view of the apparatus of FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged view of area 5 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an extrudate in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a forming device in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 8 is a partially cut-away perspective view of a center-filled confectionery component in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a center-filled confectionery piece in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

FIG. 10 is a sectional view taken along line 10-10 of FIG. 9.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the Figures generally, where like reference numerals denote like structure and elements, and in particular to FIGS. 1-3, an apparatus 10 for producing a center-filled confectionery is shown. Apparatus 10 includes an extruder 12, and a forming device 60.

Extruder 12 includes a manifold 14 that defines a passageway 16 having an inlet 18 and an outlet 20. A plurality of annular conduits 22 may extend through a portion of passageway 14. Although FIGS. 1, 2 and 4 show 10 conduits extending through the passageway, it is understood that apparatus 10 may include from about 2 conduits to about 10 conduits, or about 20 conduits, or about 30 or more conduits, or any number of conduits therebetween. In an embodiment, conduits 22 are substantially parallel to each other and may be disposed in a spaced apart linear arrangement as shown in FIG. 2.

Extruder 12 also includes an exit port 24 having an orifice 26. Exit port 24 may be secured to manifold 14 to provide fluid communication between passageway outlet 20 and orifice 26. Each conduit has an inlet end 28 and a discharge end 30. As conduits 22 may be arranged in a spaced apart manner, so too may discharge ends 30 be arranged in a spaced apart manner in orifice 26. Orifice 26 has a width A (FIG. 4) with sufficient length to accommodate spaced apart discharge ends 30. In an embodiment discharge ends 30 are disposed in a spaced apart linear arrangement in orifice 26 as best seen in FIG. 4.

Turning to FIGS. 4 and 5, orifice 26 includes an outer edge 27 having a wavy contour to give orifice 26 a shape that resembles a string of beads. Outer edge 27 defines a plurality of spaced apart wide portions 32 with narrow portions 34 disposed therebetween. Wide portions 32 correspond to the areas of orifice 26 in which conduit discharge ends 30 are disposed. Consequently, wide portions 32 each have an extent or diameter B (as seen in FIG. 5) that traverses discharge end 30 and also traverses a portion of orifice 26. Discharge ends 30 may be considered to be substantially concentrically disposed within respective wide portions 32 so that wide portions 32 substantially surround respective discharge ends 30. In an embodiment, diameter B may have a length from about 1.0 mm to about 10 mm, or about 2 mm to about 8 mm, or about 3 mm to about 5 mm.

Orifice 26 also includes narrow portions 34, the narrow portions disposed between wide portions 32. In other words, narrow portions 34 connect or otherwise adjoin adjacent wide portions 32 thereby forming a single unitary orifice 26. Each narrow portion 34 has a distance interval C that extends between opposing edges 27 of the orifice. As can be seen in FIG. 5, distance interval C does not traverse a conduit discharge end. In an embodiment, extent B may be greater in length than distance interval C. In a further embodiment, distance interval C may have a length from about 0.3 mm to about 1.5 mm, or about 0.5 mm to about 1.0 mm.

In an embodiment, passageway 16 may be adapted to receive a fluid confectionery 36 from a source (not shown) of confectionery material such as a mixer or a hopper for example, as is commonly known in the art. The confectionery material may be any hard candy, soft candy, chewing gum, or other confectionery substance, or compound that has a fluid phase or may take a fluid or a pliable form. In other words, the confectionery material may be heated or melted, form a syrup, or be dissolved in a liquid to become flowable or fluid as is commonly known in the art. The skilled artisan will appreciate that the moisture content (and concomitant viscosity) of the confectionery material may vary greatly. The moisture content of the flowable phase of the confectionery substrate may typically be in the range of about 0.5% to about 20% by weight of the confectionery material. The fluid confectionery material may be subsequently cooled or solidified at room temperature to form a solid or semi-solid confectionery. Nonlimiting examples of suitable confectionery materials that are fluid or may placed into a fluid or pliable state include pastes, gels, syrups, liquids or solids for making hard candies, soft candies, lollipops, fondants, toffees, taffies, jellies (or gel candy), chewing gums, chocolates, gelatins and nougats. The fluid confectionery material may include sugar or may be sugar-free. Coloring may be added to the fluid confectionery material as desired. The confectionery material may also include a pharmaceutical product, an active ingredient, or a medicament. In an embodiment, fluid confectionery 36 may be a chewing gum. Although the present disclosure is directed to confectionery materials, apparatus 10 may be used to form other extrudable center-filled items such as other extrudable foods (i.e., starches, pastas) as well as center-filled polymeric materials and products.

Conduit inlet ends 28 may be adapted to receive a fill material 38 from a fill source (not shown). Fill material 38 may be a flowable solid material (i.e., a granular or powder material), a fluid confectionery material, a liquid, a gel, a paste and combinations thereof. Similar to fluid confectionery 36, fill material 38 may be any hard candy, soft candy, chewing gum, or other confectionery substance, or compound that has a fluid phase, may take a fluid form, or may be flowable. Fill material 36 may include a pharmaceutical product, an active ingredient, or a medicament. Indeed, fluid confectionery 36 and fill material 38 may be the same or different material. Fill material 38 may be heated, melted, dissolved, form a syrup, or become flowable or fluid as is commonly known in the art. Consequently, fill material 38 may be a liquid, a semi-liquid, a syrup, a gel, a paste, a semi-solid, or a flowable solid such as a granular solid or a confectionery in powder form at ambient conditions. In an embodiment, fill material 38 may be a liquid with a viscosity that may be adjusted as desired. The liquid may be further sweetened, flavored, and/or colored as desired. In a further embodiment, fill material 38 may be a thixotropic fluid—i.e., a fluid or gel that becomes a fluid when agitated, stirred or shaken, and returns to a semisolid state upon standing. One of ordinary skill in the art would understand that the viscosity of a thixotropic fluid lowers the longer the fluid/gel undergoes shear, with viscosity increasing when the fluid/gel is at rest to return the fluid/gel to a stable solid or semisolid state at rest.

Extruder 12 includes a drive mechanism (not shown) as is commonly known in the art to drive, force, or otherwise push fluid confectionery 36 into passageway inlet 18 as shown by arrow D of FIG. 3. Fluid confectionery 36 proceeds through passageway 16, through passageway outlet 20 and through orifice 26. At orifice 26, fluid confectionery 36 fills the entire area of the orifice, filling orifice wide and narrow portions 32, 34. In so doing, fluid confectionery 36 surrounds or otherwise encases conduit discharge ends 30 at orifice 26.

In an embodiment, passageway 16 may include a bend 40. Bend 40 changes the flow direction of confectionery 36 through manifold 14 as indicated by curved arrow E of FIG. 3. Bend 40 may alter the confectionery flow angle from about 1° to about 90°. In an embodiment, bend 40 may have an angle of about 90° as shown in FIG. 3.

Extruder 12 may also include a flow regulator 42 to control the flow of fill material 38 from the fill material source into and through conduits 22 as shown by arrow F in FIG. 3. Each conduit 22 may have a dedicated flow regulator. Alternatively, a single flow regulator may control the flow of fill material 38 into all conduits 22. Fill material 38 continues through conduits 22 and is discharged from discharge ends 30 at orifice 26. Confectionery 36, surrounding each discharge end 30 at orifice 26, subsequently surrounds or otherwise encases the flow of each respective fill material 38 upon exit from orifice 26. Extruder 12 thereby forms a continuous extrudate 44 that includes a plurality of center-filled confectionery ropes 46, the number of ropes corresponding to the number of conduits 22. Each rope 46 includes an inner portion 48 of fill material 38 and an outer portion 50 of the fluid confectionery 36, the outer portion 50 surrounding or wholly encasing inner portion 48 of fill material as shown in FIG. 6. Extrudate 44 flows from extruder 12 in the direction of arrow G as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3. FIG. 6 shows strand portions 52, corresponding to fluid confectionery 36 extruded from narrow portions 34. Strand portions 52 extend between adjacent ropes 46 adjoining or otherwise attaching ropes 46 to each other. Consequently, extrudate 44 may be considered an integral extrudate.

Continuous extrudate 44 may be received by a transport device 54, such as a conveyor, for example. In an embodiment, transport device 54 may be a belt cooler that receives and transports extrudate 44 away from extruder 12 and simultaneously cools the extrudate. In an embodiment, apparatus 10 may include sizing rollers 56 to reduce the diameter of one, some, or all of confectionery ropes 46 as is commonly known in the art.

In an embodiment, transport device 54 transports extrudate 44 to forming device 60 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 7. Forming device 60 may include a first forming member 62 and a second forming member 64, forming members 62, 64 disposed on opposing of extrudate 44. Each forming member 62, 64 may be constructed or otherwise shaped to form half of finished product, forming members 62, 64 mating to form a full or complete confectionery piece or web, when forming members 62, 64 are placed in registration with each other. Forming members 62, 64 may cooperatively engage extrudate 44 in order to crimp and cut extrudate 44, thereby forming a sealed center-filled confectionery component 66.

In an embodiment, forming device 60 may be a pair of opposing rotating drums 68, 70 disposed on opposing sides of extrudate 44, drums 68, 70 contra-rotating to form sealed center-filled component 66. In this embodiment, first forming member 62 may be disposed on a circumferential surface of rotating drum 68. First forming member 62 may extend along substantially the entire length of drum 68 in order to accommodate the entire width of extrudate 44. In a further embodiment, rotating drum 68 may include a plurality of first forming members 62, the forming members extending around substantially the entire circumferential surface of drum 68 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 7.

Similarly, second forming member 64 may be disposed on a circumferential surface of rotating drum 70. In an embodiment, a plurality of forming members 64 may cover substantially the entire circumferential, peripheral, or outer surface of rotating drum 70. Rotating drums 68, 70 may rotate in contrary motion as indicated by arrows H and I, to bring forming members 62, 64 into cooperative registration with each other. First and second forming members 62, 64 are configured to matingly form the shape of the final confectionery product when brought into cooperative engagement with each other. Rotation of drums 68, 70 brings forming members 62, 64 into contact with extrudate 44, whereby continued drum rotation crimps or otherwise squeezes opposing sides of outer portion 50 into contact with each other to form a seal around inner portion 48 (i.e., fill material 38) of each confectionery rope 46. Further rotation of drums 68, 70 brings forming members 62, 64 into further cooperation with each other to perforate or otherwise cut extrudate 44 and form sealed center-filled confectionery component 66. The shape of each forming member 62, 64 may be varied as desired to yield a confectionery component having an spheroidal, polygonal, elliptical shape as desired. Although FIG. 7 shows extrudate 44, a plurality of center-filled extrudate ropes, passing through forming device 60, it is understood that forming device 60 may be used to form a sealed confectionery piece from a single center-filled rope extrudate.

In an embodiment, sealed center-filled confectionery component 66 may include a web 72 of adjoined sealed center-filled confectionery pieces as shown in FIG. 8. Segments of strand portion 52 adjoin the center-filled pieces. The number of pieces may correspond to the number of individual center-filled ropes 46 of extrudate 44. Outer portion 50 surrounds or otherwise wholly encases inner portion 48 as shown in FIG. 8. Each individual sealed center-filled confectionery piece may be identified by its pillow shape as seen in FIG. 8.

Alternatively, apparatus 10 may include a cutting device (not shown) positioned upstream of forming device 60. The cutting device may cut extrudate 44 along strand portions 52 to form a plurality of discrete or individual center-filled confectionery ropes prior to passage into the forming device. Consequently, when the plurality of individual center-filled ropes are exposed to the crimping and cutting process upon passage through forming device 60, a plurality of discrete sealed center-filled individual confectionery pieces may be formed.

In an embodiment, apparatus 10 may include dispenser (not shown) upstream of forming device 60, the dispenser positioned on either or both sides of extrudate 44. The dispenser may be used to apply or spray an adhesion reducer onto some or all of the exterior surface area of extrudate 44. Nonlimiting examples of suitable adhesion reducers include oil, food grade oil, talc, calcium carbonate and combinations thereof. In an embodiment, the adhesion reducer may be a food grade oil. Application of an adhesion reducer onto extrudate 44 prior to passage through forming device 60 advantageously reduces the occurrence of adherence of extrudate 44 to the forming device and improves the releasability of component 66 from first and/or second forming members 62, 64.

As is known in the art, adhesion of freshly extruded confectionery material processing equipment and components downstream of the extrudate is a constant problem. In an embodiment, extrudate 44 may be cooled upstream of forming device 60 upon contact to transport device 54 that may be a cooling belt. In a further embodiment, fill material 38 may be delivered through conduits 22 at a reduced temperature. In an embodiment, the temperature of fill material 38 upon exit from orifice 26 may be from about 1° C. to about 15° C. or about 3° C. to about 10° C. Provision of cool fill material advantageously cools outer portion 50 (i.e., fluid confectionery 36) of each rope 46 from the inside. It is understood that a cooling belt, alone or in combination with chilled fill material, may be used to cool extrudate 44 upstream of forming device 60.

In an embodiment, apparatus 10 may include a cooling system in operative communication with rotating drums 68, 70. The cooling system may be used to introduce a flow of cool or chilled fluid (i.e., cold water, liquid nitrogen, and the like) into and out of the interior of rotating drums 68, 70 in order to cool the circumferential surfaces and correspondingly cool forming members 62, 64. In an embodiment, the forming members 62, 64 may have a temperature from about −78° C. to about 25° C., or from about 0° C. to about 20° C. Cooled forming members advantageously reduce the occurrence of adhesion between the forming members and extrudate 44 and/or confectionery component 66.

In yet a further embodiment, the forming members 62, 64 may include orifices whereby a jet of air may be blown to assist in the release of confectionery component 66 from the forming members.

In an embodiment, apparatus 10 may further include transport device 74 for receiving and transporting sealed center-filled confectionery components 66 as shown in FIG. 1. Transport device 74 may transport web 72 to a separating device 76 that separates web 72 into a plurality of individual discrete sealed center-filled confectionery products 78. In an embodiment, separating device 76 may be a breaking drum. Individual center-filled confectionery products 78 may be transported by transport device 80 for further processing. For example, center-filled confectionery product 78 may be transported to a coating device to coat the product, center-filled confectionery products 78 may be transported to a curing device for curing, and/or products 78 may be transported to a packaging device for packaging.

In an embodiment, a coating may be applied to products 78. Products 78 may be coated with a coating material to form a soft shell coating or a hard shell coating as is commonly known in the art. The coating process may include a repetitive powder charge/syrup charge pan coating process to build, layer by layer, a coating upon each individual center-filled confectionary product 78. Nonlimiting examples of suitable coating materials include sugars, polyols, or combinations thereof, in powder and/or syrup form. In an embodiment, the coating may be a crystalline or a glassy coating. The sugars or polyols may be, for example, a component of a syrup that is sprayed onto products 78 in a pan coating device. Dry charges of the sugar/polyol may be applied between syrup applications. The coating may also include a sweetener, a flavorant, a film forming agent, a colorant, a sensation producing ingredient, and combinations thereof. The sweetener may be sugar, sugar-based, or sugar-free. Non-limiting examples of suitable sweeteners include, maltitol, sorbitol, erythritol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol, xylitol and combinations thereof. High intensity sweeteners may also be utilized in the coating. Nonlimiting examples of suitable sensation producing ingredients may include a cooling agent, a food grade acid, a flavorant, and combinations thereof.

FIGS. 9 and 10 depict sealed center-filled confectionery product 78. Center-filled confectionery product 78 includes a fill portion 82 that is surrounded or otherwise encased by outer portion 84. Portions 82 and 84 may be any confectionery material as previously discussed herein. In an embodiment, fill portion 82 may be a liquid such as a flavored and/or sweetened and/or colored syrup and outer portion 84 may be a chewing gum.

Sealed center-filled confectionery product 78 may also include a flange 86 that may extend around the periphery R of the center-filled confectionery product 78. In an embodiment, the flange 86 may extend around or surround the entirety of the periphery R. In other words, the flange 86 may surround the entire perimeter or circumference of confectionery product 78 as shown in FIG. 9. In an embodiment, flange 86 may have a length S as shown in FIG. 9. The size or extent of length S may be uniform or otherwise consistent about entire periphery R. The skilled artisan will appreciate that portions of flange 86 correspond to strand 52 that adjoined adjacent center-filled confectionery ropes in extrudate 44. The remaining portions of flange 86 may be the result of the crimping and cutting process of the forming device. For example, sealed edges 79 (shown in FIG. 10) are a component of the flange 86, edges 79 being formed as a result of the crimping and cutting of the extrudate that occurs during the forming process. In an embodiment, fill portion 82 may be wholly encased within outer portion 84 resulting in no, or substantially no, fill material being present in or within flange 86. Thus, in an embodiment, none, or substantially none, of fill portion 82 is visible when a consumer views a product 78. It will be recognized that a crimping and cutting process which first moves fill material away from the opposing sides of outer portion 84 before the outer portion opposing sides come together for crimping, attachment, and cutting may contribute to the provision of a substantially fill-free, or fill material-free, flange 86.

In an embodiment, center-filled confectionery product 78 may include a coating 88 on an outer surface of outer portion 84 and as shown in FIG. 10. Coating 88 may be a soft or a hard coating as previously discussed. The coating may be from about 1% to about 20% by weight of product 78. In a further embodiment, fill portion 82 may be present from about 1% to about 16%, or from about 5% to about 15%, or from about 10% to about 12% by weight of product 78. The coating 88 any include any coating material and/or coating component as previously discussed herein. The coating 88 may be applied as previously discussed herein or as otherwise commonly known in the art.

Alternatively, web 72 may be coated. Web 72 may be coated with any coating material and/or coating component as discussed herein, the coating applied to web 72 may be a pre-coat or a final coat as desired.

In an embodiment, the forming process (i.e., formation of web 72 with forming members 62, 64) may be coordinated with the filling of the confectionery ropes with fill material. A controller (not shown) may be operatively connected to flow regulator 42 and forming device 60. Upon initial engagement of forming members 62, 64 with extrudate 44 (initial crimping), the controller may direct flow regulator 42 to initiate flow of fill material 36 into confectionery ropes 46 simultaneously with the crimping and/or cutting. The flow of fill material may occur intermittently, for about 0.1 seconds to about 3 seconds, for example. Alternatively, the flow of fill material into the ropes may be continuous. Nonlimiting examples of suitable controllers may include a timing device, a programmable logic control, and the like.

In this context, the controller may direct a pulse pumping of fill material 38 whereby the fill material may be intermittently introduced into the confectionery ropes simultaneously with the crimping of extrudate 44 by the forming device 60. This intermittent introduction of fill material into the extrudate coordinated with the crimping and cutting action of forming device 60 may advantageously prevent backflow of fill material 36 in extrudate 44 and/or conduits 22. Backflow may be considered a flow in a direction opposite of the extrudate flow (extrudate flow shown by direction arrow G). Prevention of backflow beneficially contributes to the formation and maintenance of ropes 46 having a uniform size and diameter along the length thereof and the provision of a uniform amount of fill material with each rope and along substantially the entire length of the extrudate.

In an embodiment, the center-filled confectionery product 78 may be produced by an apparatus and method as disclosed in commonly-owned, co-pending patent application entitled “Apparatus for Producing Center-Filled Confectionery and Method,” Attorney Docket No. 0112703-1292, and/or commonly-owned, co-pending patent application entitled “Apparatus for Forming Center-Filled Confectionery and Method,” Attorney Docket No. 112703-1297, each of which is concurrently filed herewith and each of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

Further advantages of the multiple rope extrusion process provided by apparatus 10 are many. First, provision of straight conduits 22 permits greater flow control of the fill material. Straight conduits 22 provide a more precise fill and consistent flow rate of fill material into each rope 46. Moreover, the flow rates between the multiple conduits may be controlled with a high degree of precision to provide a uniform fill material flow rate between the conduits. In an embodiment, each conduit 22 may be operatively connected to a pressure regulator that detects the fluid pressure of the fill material in each rope 46. Any inconsistencies in pressure between the ropes, resulting from flow blockage for example, may be readily detected and addressed.

Second, the capability to form web 72 of 2, 5, 10, 20, or 30 or more adjoined sealed center-filled confectionery pieces increases the per-run output capacity when compared to conventional single rope processing equipment. This increase in per-run capacity by apparatus 10 permits the flow rate of extrudate 44 to be decreased without the a loss in per-run output, particularly when compared to production systems based on a single rope extrusion process. Apparatus 10 thereby provides a slower extrudate flow rate which enables greater control and precision of 1) filling of fill material 36 into ropes 46, 2) extrusion of fluid confectionery 38, and 3) the crimping and cutting of extrudate 44 with forming device 60. Improved control of flow and process parameters translates into increased production yields—i.e., the reduction or elimination of leakers. Leakers may be considered unacceptable product resulting from a faulty seal of outer portion 50 (fluid confectionery) around inner portion 48 (fill material). Leakers exhibit leaked center-fill material present on the exterior surfaces of sealed center-filled confectionery component 66 (either web 72 or products 78). Leakers may result from improper forming, uneven filling of fill material, and combinations thereof.

In an embodiment, apparatus 10 may provide an extrudate flow rate from about 2 m/mm to 20 m/mm, or about 10 m/min with a product output of 8200 individual center-filled confectionery pieces per minute. This stands as a marked improvement over conventional center-filled confectionery production systems that typically operate with an extrudate flow rate of about 45 m/min and a product output of about 2600 individual center-filled confectionery pieces per minute.

It should be understood that various changes and modifications to the presently preferred embodiments described herein will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Such changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present subject matter and without diminishing its intended advantages. It is therefore intended that such changes and modifications be covered by the appended claims.





 
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