© Vernon Coelho, 2020

Chemical Applications in Small-Scale Bakeries

The bakery industry is the largest of the food industries with an annual turnover of Rs.1,000 crore. The industry has traditionally been and largely continues to be in the unorganised sector. It contributes over 70 per cent of the total production. Bakery products, once considered a sick man’s diet, have now become essential food items. Though the bakery industry has been in existence for a long time, recognition came only in the latter part of the 20th century.

The contributing factors were urbanisation resulting in an increased demand for ready-to-eat items at a reasonable cost. The per capita consumption is increasing everyday. The growth rate for bakery products is estimated to be 9.8 per cent on an average per annum.

Even at this rate, the per capita consumption is only about two kg per annum. There are around 75,000 units of small-scale bakeries in India, which are producing different varieties of bakery products and they account for 90 per cent of the total number of units.

The progress and development in the science and technology of baking has resulted not only in increased awareness of the intrinsic nature of ingredients which the bakery uses, but also the chemical and bio-chemical interactions that take place during processing. The present day bakery uses a number of chemicals and ingredients enabling them to produce a wide variety of quality bakery products. The use of chemicals play an important part in determining the quality of the end products. In today’s world, science has overtaken art in bakery. They test aspects such as physical tests, moisture test and maltose value tests to know how to derive an excellent quality product. This has led to conducting researches on various chemicals used in commercial bakery.

Baking means the cooking of food in dry heat, which includes conversion of doughs and batters into palatable and nutritious products such as breads, cakes and other bakery products. Under the influence of heat, the gases generated by leavening expand from the semi-dry form i.e. the crumb enclosed within a harder crust.

Bakery products not only serve as ready-to-eat convenience food but also form an everyday meal. The bread and biscuits turnover is increasing at a high rate. The use of chemicals has increased but there are some bakeries who still follow the traditional method of producing products without chemicals. There is a belief that the freshness and natural taste of the product is hampered due to chemicals. Another common belief is that the chemicals also affect health. The advantages of using chemicals are:

There are no disadvantages of chemicals as they are certified by the Government of India and the chemicals used or dosage is as per PFA Act 1954. There are no side effects of chemicals if used in the prescribed manner and stored as per recommendations. The bakeries using chemicals have obtained better results in standard products been manufactured. They have helped in standardising the recipes.

However, it has been seen that the awareness of using chemicals has been limited due to the belief that chemicals can affect health by in-house bakery units. The negligence is much due to unavailability of technical expertise in the area. The expertise is not available in India as the courses offered are still only applicable to small cottage industry. The chemicals available in the market are limited to few manufacturers while the others are imported. The marketing of bakery chemicals is also to a very small extent. The chemical traders are basically suppliers to the pharmaceutical industry.

The improvement of quality control of finished goods is also very inefficient as appropriate technologies are not adopted. It is also seen that the storage of chemicals is not done in the prescribed manner suggested by the manufacturers which leads to contamination. There are only a few institutions teaching bakery technology. The training programmes are still using conventional methods, which need to be upgraded.

The demand for bakery products will continue to increase in the coming years. The estimated growth rate of 9.8 per cent is on the lower side considering the present potential of the bakery product. The total requirement of bakery products in 2001 is about 5.6 tonnes – that is twice the present production. The future growth of the bakery industry depends on the capability of the small-scale bakery industry which will allow it to rise to the occasion to meet the demands and requirements of the consumer. This could only be achieved by modernisation of the small-scale bakery unit with respect to use of chemicals.

There is a need to increase the knowledge of using chemicals effectively, the small scale and in-house bakeries have to start using chemicals as it has a lot of advantages.