The recipe for a successful dry food product begins with the right ingredients, carefully blended. Adding the ingredient blend to the right package produces a product ready to give its flavor and functionality to its consumer. Retailers, foodservice and industrial customers for dry products have diverse needs as far as ingredient types, package sizes and styles, and barrier protection.

GSC Blending, formerly Georgia Spice Co., Atlanta, offers a full range of blending services for all types of food grade, dry ingredients. Its sister company, GSC Packaging, packages the mixtures in its nearby plant. An integral part of these companies' efforts is the staff of food technologists and a culinary chef who assist with product and package development in their full scale laboratory.

The company formulates and blends spices and seasonings, dry sauces, breadings and batters, bakery mixes, nutritional supplements and industrial ingredient blends such as dough conditioners and processing aids.

"The purpose of blending is to create an even mix, so that everything is integrated and incorporated consistently through the mix," says Brian Lusty, director of technical services for both companies.

A seasoning blend might contain a relatively heavy ingredient like salt and a relatively light ingredient like dehydrated onions. There is a chance that the salt might fall to the bottom of the mixture. Adding a little vegetable oil helps hold the salt in the exact mix.

An essential oil or a high intensity flavor must mix in evenly, or flavor will be inconsistent. If the essential oil or flavor is plated onto salt or onto a salt and sugar blend, it is easier to blend with other ingredients in the right proportions.

Cheese ingredients may clump together because of their oil content. The technical workers blend flow agents with such ingredients to get the right consistency. When they fill the product, they test the flow rate and make small modifications. Tricalcium phosphate or silicon dioxide are the flow agents used for their moisture/oil retaining ability.

"Most formulas require very small amounts of flow agents, decimal parts of 1%," Lusty says. "The changes are nominal, but worth making to get the right rate of flow. Our machines can handle a wide range of flow rates, but some machines require small changes."

GSC Packaging has vertical and horizontal packaging machines in its 20,000 square foot plant. It can produce flexible pouch packaging from one gram to multiple pounds in a wide range of configurations from conventional pouches to stand up pouches. Individual pouches can be produced or they can be supplied bandoleer style for a customer to run through its packaging line.

Pouches can be perforated and supplied with zipper openings for resealability, and can be produced "two up" with or without perforations for multiple ingredients. An example is companion pouches of seasoning mix and dry sauce mix. Multiple fill stations can place two types of products in one pouch, such as dry beans and dehydrated vegetables for soup mixes. Packaging materials include paper, plastic, laminates and foil.

Pouches are printed with code dates and product identification codes. "We offer traceability from receipt of ingredients to final packaging," says Robert Shapiro, president, GSC Packaging, and vice president, GSC Blending.

Quality checks of seals, package size, print registration and weight accuracy are performed to the customer's specifications. Samples are retained according to customer requirements.

"We can do product development, custom blending and custom packaging," says Shapiro. "We offer a complete service that meets the customer's needs."