November 2011/Prepared Foods -- Imagine a category of snacks with the advantages of enhanced texture and low-fat content that can be applied to grain-based products, such as corn and rice. With a new, proprietary micro-pellet extrusion technology, all this and more is possible.
J.R. Short has developed the foundation for such a new snack category, with its micro-pellet extrusion technology. After pressure popping, the result is a crisp, rather than a chip or rice cake. Best known for its application to potatoes, the company has extended the micro-pellet “crisp” category to include whole grains and whole, multi-grain combinations.
The advantages of working with micro-pellets are numerous. A pellet is shelf-stable for up to a year in its “raw,” or unexpanded, form. Pellets offer unique economies in shipping, because until expanded, no air is shipped or stored. Pellet-based snacks can deliver a wider variety of healthful properties, compared to traditional fried snacks. For example, when pellets are fried, they can have a fat content of 15-25%; if air-baked, 0-5%--while traditional, fried chips have about 35% oil absorption.
The company recently introduced two legume-based crisps--chickpea and black bean, which are tasty ways to deliver the high-fiber and -protein content of beans. The black bean crisp delivers 3g of fiber and 3g of protein per serving.
A selection of pellets developed by the company can help snack manufacturers develop the healthier alternatives now demanded by schools. Three varieties of rice-potato-corn-based ripple fries feature the ability to blend vitamins and minerals into the base; calcium can be added for a credible fortification claim, as well. The flavors of these varieties are plain, spinach and tomato; they all carry clean ingredient decks.
Terry Gieseke, director of sales and marketing, says, “We can incorporate a wide variety of vegetables, from spinach to carrots to lycopene-rich tomatoes, as well as vitamins and minerals that appeal not only to school lunch programs, but individual consumers, as well.” In addition to flexible formulations, the ripple-fry pellets can be air-popped or fried for expanded product development possibilities.
Tortilla Snack with Texture and Taste
In addition to the above-mentioned snack applications, the company has also developed a new, low-expansion tortilla pellet. This unique crinkle shape, formulated with 100% whole grains, delivers the texture consumers expect from traditional, high-fat content tortilla chips in a whole new look. Fiber content can be boosted for potential “good source of fiber” claims. In addition, the tortilla snack delivers more texture and “bite” than baked tortilla snacks, the company says.
For snack manufacturers targeting baked chip consumers, these tortilla pellets are also available in a medium-range expansion that can be air-popped and are very low in fat. The flavor innovation and healthy appeal are further boosted by incorporating vegetables, such as black bean, red bean or sweet potato, in the formulation. 
For companies looking for entry into the rapidly growing crisp category, the tortilla pellet formulation can also be produced as a micro-pellet for pressure puffing. Finished chips can be marketed as a standalone product or as part of a snack mix. 
J.R. Short currently has 10 base series of shape families and a wide range of ingredient combinations available. They can also develop custom formulas and help design custom shapes, resulting in a pellet product solution to meet specific business and application
--Barbara T. Nessinger, Associate Editor

For more information:
J.R. Short • Kankakee, Ill.
Terry Gieseke • 815-263-5344