The snack giant filed patents for the same process in Europe, Canada and China but they remain pending. Since the US patent grant, Frito-Lay has filed a request to patent a corn-based snack made following its method.
“Recently, as the consumer becomes more health conscious, baked snack foods have been developed as a healthier alternative to fried snack foods. However, many baked snack foods have been unable to mimic the texture and taste associated with traditional fried products,” it wrote.
Therefore, Frito-Lay said there was a need to manufacture a low-fat baked product that resembled a traditional fried snack food.
Hydration is the secret
A hydration step, introduced after mixing and extrusion, was the vital step, the snack firm said.
“…The hydrating step has a surprising effect on the texture of the baked product,” Frito-Lay wrote. “Applicants discovered that as the moisture content of the collet before baking increased, the crunchiness of the baked product likewise increased.”
Hydration fluids could be a mix of water, oil, additives and surfactants and added immediately after extrusion or days, even weeks, after.
However, findings showed there was an optimal level of hydration - 30 g of water per 100 g of product. Once over this, the product significantly reduced in size.
This increase in hydration changed the surface cellular structure from porous to a closed cell structure and promoted more heat transfer in the baking stage, Frito-Lay said. Used at the hydration step, the oil also improved taste.
Benefits? Better seasoning with a healthy twist
Frito-Lay said the increased moisture content led to stickier collets, which had benefits when flavoring the product.
“One such benefit is the ability to better adhere ingredients such as spices or seasonings to the surface of the collet. This increased adherence also provides for the addition of starches, seeds, or other ingredients that can enhance the taste or nutritional qualities of the snack food,” it wrote.
In addition, the hydration fluid could be used to lower oil use – enabling manufacturers to better control the fat content – and incorporate flavors and even nutritional ingredients like protein fractions.
“The hydrating step provides for a way to control texture and size of an extruded starch product without adversely affecting the nutritional value of the product. Put differently, the hydrating step allows the textural attributes of the baked snack food to better resemble the textural attributes of the fried snack food,” Frito-Lay wrote.