I am a home-based manufacturer of Lactation Cookies for breastfeeding mothers. I am now slowly scaling up my business and am in need of some help increasing shelf-life of the product as I have now started supplying to retailers. Currently the shelf-life is around two weeks. The ingredients that I use are Wheat Flour, Cake Flour, Eggs, Butter, Margarine, White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Oats, Vanilla Essence, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Semi-sweet dark chocolate chunks, nutritional yeast and flax meal. The product is packaged in a resealable laminated kraft pouch and heat-sealed.
Another point is that I live in Sri Lanka, a tropical country, with an ambient temperature of around 30C and humidity of around 80%.
Since my product is sold to lactating mothers I am not really willing to add any chemical preservatives, would anyone be able to give me some tips on where to begin?
A few ideas I have been given are to reduce water activity by substituting butter and margarine with shortening, but the shortening available here is quite horrible. Any suggestions are welcome.
Thank you in advance!
You don’t mention if the product you are making is a biscuit or a cake ? and looking at the ingredients you use it could be either, but the different moisture content in the two categories has a major impact on shelf life.
Biscuits have a dry crunchy texture because they are baked to a low moisture content (normally between 2 and 4% moisture). This low moisture content results in an extremely long shelf life which can be measured in months (maybe up to 12 months) if wrapped in a high moisture barrier film to prevent moisture absorption from the atmosphere.
Cakes are classed as intermediate moisture products which have a soft eating texture due to the presence of much higher moisture contents (between 15 and 20% moisture). If this moisture is "free" (not bound) yeasts and moulds will grow resulting in a very short shelf life of a few days to a couple of weeks. To reduce the “free” water we can rebalance the recipe by adding ingredients such as sugar or glycerine as both form strong solutions with water effectively binding the free water and extending shelf life. Changing the butter/ margarine to shortening only marginally reduces the added water in the recipe and will have little effect on water activity.
A few recommendations to help extend the shelf life are:
1. Bake to the lowest moisture content you can, preferably less than 4% .
2. Wrap the product in a high moisture barrier film, you don’t mention the moisture barrier of the current craft/laminate.
3. If your product has a high moisture content which can’t be lowered by baking, the water activity could be lowered by increasing the sugar content and adding glycerol.
4. The addition Flax seeds can also increase the level of off flavours in your product, this can be minimised by using wrapping materials with a high oxygen barrier