Fermented sausages, particularly dry sausages and semi-dry snacking items continue to show strong growth in the meat and poultry sectors. Drivers of this include, among several others, a growing consumer interest for convenient snack items high in protein often viewed as nutrient-dense healthy foods, an increase in foodservice utilization for items such as pizzas, quick-serve sandwiches, etc. and an overall trend where consumer interest for unique retail-available fermented products continues to develop.
Typically, fermented sausages fall under one of three different production categories:
- Niche, specialty or “premium” products
- Normal or standard products
- Low input or least cost formulated products
All product categories offer tremendous possibility for successful business models, all follow the same fermented sausage manufacturing principles, and all can result in highly acceptable finished products.
However, several subtle to significant to differences do exist between these products and are critical to recognize and understand as they can readily impact product success. Understanding what impacts these differences is not only useful, but often essential.
- Raw materials play one of the greatest roles in impacting all facets of fermented sausage manufacture. Raw materials impact everything from manufacturing efficiency (e.g. processing problems, fermenting, thermal processing, drying, slicing, etc.) to finished product sensory attributes, and even shelf life. As a general rule, the higher quality (i.e. more expensive) the raw material included in formulations, the less likely a variety of problems ranging from small nagging ones to catastrophic failures will arise during and after manufacture. Juggling risk with reward requires constant rationale and compromise. Raw materials with a low quality of fat, low protein functionality, or lack of uniformity will regularly contribute to a higher incidence of problems. So…it’s important to pay close attention to raw materials. As products move closer to those with lower input costs, awareness and consideration of potential negative raw material quality impacts must be elevated.
- Most equipment utilized in fermented sausage establishments is well-equipped to do a reasonably good job. However, not all equipment is designed to handle all formulation and all product types. Equipment which does a great job on “standard” products may routinely contribute to product failure with least cost formulated product manufacture. Yet, the cause for failure isn’t necessarily the equipment itself but rather the failure to align the right equipment for job. Determining what equipment is most appropriate, however, can be a task in itself.
- All products, regardless of type essentially follow the same set of rules regarding manufacturing technologies. However, the “rules” need to change a bit when different categories of products are produced. Raw materials and equipment often impact the product as it works through the process. Adjustments to temperatures, mixing times, and even holding times are common as a means to provide compensation to what is being gained or given up due to the attributes (and shortcomings) unique to the different product categories.
- It should go without saying that product performance should be expected to be different amount different product categories. Textures, slicing performance, greasiness, and so forth all will be different…which is inherently expected by the nature of the differences among the product categories themselves. Consideration for changes in both color and oxidative shelf life also must be addressed.
Through careful consideration, planning and execution, any product within the three categories aforementioned can be successfully manufactured. However, the gage of success is reliant on meeting the customer’s expectations and needs.