Whether your company is moving from small, stovetop batches to your first commercial mixing and cooking vessel, or is a growing specialty food company looking to expand to fill new orders from a large retail chain, there are several important factors to consider as you plan for production.
Most critical are the choices you make when specifying and selecting your first production kettle. These choices will have the greatest impact in helping you maintain your product's quality as you increase your output, while also ensuring food safety for your customers and safe operation for your production team.
Determining the Right Kettle Size
The need for additional capacity may be driving your expansion, but your success in scaling operations is dependent on production quality and consistency. Accordingly, it's important to think about how your kettle’s capacity can impact product integrity.
The “10X Rule:”
One approach commonly used in the food processing industry, called the “10X Rule,” states that, generally, production equipment capacity can be successfully increased by as much as ten times higher than your current equipment’s production capacity.
It is important to note that this rule is a general equipment design and configuration guideline for processing higher quantities in a larger kettle, and is no guarantee of consistent results when applied to every type of food product. Since increasing batch size is highly dependent on your product and process, the 10X Rule must always be carefully tested with your own ingredients and recipe to ensure consistent results in larger batch sizes. Since results can be highly variable, you can utilize the Lee testing lab at our facility in Philipsburg, PA at no additional cost to run test batches in a larger kettle to verify the scalability of your process while maintaining consistent high product quality.
Here are typical examples of how the 10X Rule could generally apply to a small food processing operation:
- From stovetop to first production kettle: If you are currently producing your product in a five-gallon kettle on a stovetop, you can generally scale your product's recipe to a 50-gallon production kettle
- From first production kettle to larger/multiple kettles: If you are already running a ten-gallon kettle, you can often scale up to a 100-gallon kettle and maintain predictable product safety, quality and consistency.
- Increasing batch sizes from larger kettles: If you are currently running a 100-gallon kettle, following the 10X Rule means you could theoretically scale your production to a kettle as large as 1,000 gallons. This can be done when producing relatively simple food products such as low viscosity sauces, but for products that could be crushed or damaged in a larger kettle — like those containing fresh, chunk-like ingredients — a 300- to 600-gallon kettle capacity is usually a better choice for consistent results.
- Variations Using Multiple, Smaller Kettles: Some food processors, especially those producing “home style,” artisanal, clean label and other premium food products, find that using multiple, smaller kettles is the best way to maintain their product's high quality and consistency, and still increase production rates. For example, if you were expanding production from your current five-gallon stovetop kettle, you could add two 50-gallon kettles, which would enable you to expand your production by 20 times, while safely staying at 10X for each production batch. Again, these production decisions depend on your product and should only be made after careful advance testing of your recipe and process on larger equipment, available at no extra cost at the Lee testing lab.
Scaling up your food processing operation may require you to make important changes to your process. There are many more factors to consider when scaling up. Download the complete guide, Going from Small-Scale to Large-Scale Food Processing, and learn how to choose the right production kettle to take your food company to the next level.