— Panned Candy may be ready to make a significant comeback in bulk vending. According to industry experts, new color formulas, technology and the fact that candy still offers one of the highest profit margins, have set the stage for increased popularity.
“It’s the appearance that’s drawing operators to panned confections,” said Dave Nudelman, director of operations for Koko’s Confections, a division of A&A Global Industries. “Panned products just have a lot of appeal to the consumer; they’re bright and more colorful than standard candies.”
Presently, Koko’s is offering a host of its candy products, such as its pressed dextrose “Sour Bears,” “Pop Bottles” and “Candy Clowns,” in both regular and panned varieties, Nudelman reported. The panned versions, which are more expensive to produce, eliminate the phenomenon called “dusting” in bulk machines. Dusting occurs when dextrose powder begins to rub off from “unsealed” candy, fogging the machine’s globe and getting into the unit’s gears. Conversely, panning a candy seals the item and keeps the machine looking clean.
There have also been recent developments in the panning process itself that hold promise for the future. New colors and color combinations are currently hitting the market on the supplier level. “There are a lot of new ingredients that make panning easier than what it used to be,” said Koko’s director of R&D, Lisa Mazzitti. “[Companies] are getting more inventive in what they are coating. Even in the last year you’ve seen companies come out with products that never seemed possible, like all the colors for M&Ms. The color technology has come a long way. In the future you’ll also see more layered products with different flavors in one product.”
Technology, according to Mazzitti, is also moving the industry forward. Panning essentially involves slowly tumbling product in large rotating bins while adding colors, often by hand. An art and a science, according to those familiar with the process, panning has long been an “old world” skill in which color consistency, flavor and even time in the rotating bins were best accomplished by those with years of experience.
“It does take awhile to learn; it’s not for everyone and it requires a good set of hands, a good sense of touch,” said Mazzitti. “And conditions can change every day. Humidity, for instance, can change the way a product is panned. It’s not a steadfast formula that you can adhere to, which is why you have to have a good feel for it.”
And, of course, as Nudelman pointed out, panning is more expensive because of the process, which can add almost two full days of additional production for a whole run.
However, things are changing with the candy industry. New panning technology, though not yet widespread, is coming on line. This new generation of equipment, according to Nudelman and Mazzitti, eliminates the need for long training periods for employees and provides more consistent coatings. Interestingly, this hi-tech equipment – though still prohibitively expensive for most candy manufacturers – comes from the pharmaceutical industry, where pills are often panned with a film-like coating. Apparently the same exacting requirements used in medicine may find their way into the candy industry. Among the popular candy items being panned today are mints; the selection is growing and will probably continue to grow, according to Nudelman. “A lot of these products can be either panned or unpanned, which will also allow them to be vended through bulk machines more easily. There are also new items, which won’t necessarily push out the old ones, but will create new sales opportunities. We make innovations everyday.”