Case History: Inspection Systems Ensure Quality, Safety on Cookie Line

La Provence bakery relies on metal and X-ray detectors plus checkweighers to maintain quality and safety.

La Provence is a family-owned wholesale bakery that crafts artisan breads, pastries and cookies with recipes from bakers trained in traditional European techniques. Its retail and coffeehouse customers range from small businesses to large national chains, including six Fortune 500 companies.

In 2016, La Provence purchased a cookie line and grew 25 percent that year to reach annual sales of $7 million. The company added new inspection equipment on the line to maximize final product quality and food safety.

“First and foremost, our inspection systems improve and protect our products, which include both La Provence and private-label brands,” said CEO Philip Dardaine. “From a commercial standpoint, this great equipment helps build our quality-oriented reputation."

The first piece of equipment La Provence purchased was a PowerPhase metal detector from Mettler-Toledo Safeline, installed in 1997. The system currently inspects pastries and breads, both individually packaged and in bulk trays. Its high frequency and advanced head geometry maximize detection sensitivity, while a Faraday Screen filters out interfering signals to reduce false rejects.

“Twenty years ago, it was our customer, Starbucks, that introduced us to the idea of protecting our brand by protecting our quality," explains Dardaine. “We researched metal detectors and spoke with other bakeries working with Starbucks. We choose Mettler-Toledo because of their well-recognized and respected name, and we choose PowerPhase for its sensitivity and consistency. When it comes to safety equipment, we want the best.

“Our first X-ray was a SmartChek, which we’ve had for over 10 years now," he continues. "We’ve been very impressed with its accuracy and ease of use. That’s why we decided to go straight to X-ray for our cookie line. Our sales rep, Kirk Isham at Pacific Packaging & Inspection, added his expertise and helped make the decision easy."

La Provence’s newest X-ray system, an X33 installed on the cookie line in April 2016, inspects 5-16 oz. tubs. As Mettler-Toledo’s next-generation solution, it features the same outstanding detection sensitivity as the previous SmartChek and AdvanChek models but uses a 20-watt generator to consume five times less power, reducing operating costs. With rounded corners and minimal horizontal surfaces, the X33 has a hygienic design for easy cleaning and improved sanitation.

“Detecting metal is imperative when you’re using metal mixers, and the X33 has incredible detection sensitivity," says Dardaine. "Not only can it find metal better than most metal detectors, but a system this powerful can identify any kind of foreign material that is a different density than the product. Any foreign object gives customers a bad taste, both literally and figuratively. I’m a big believer in X-ray detection."

On the same line, La Provence installed an XC3 checkweigher from Mettler-Toledo Hi-Speed to reject under- and overfilled tubs. With an accuracy of +/- 1 g and a compact footprint, the XC3 is an economical solution for 100 percent weight inspection. Its dashboard-style touchscreen provides intuitive, menu-driven access to machine functions and performance statistics.

“We sell cookies by weight, so we have to make sure that what’s in each tub isn’t less than the amount on the label,” he says. “Our checkweigher also rejects overweight packages to help us identify problems before we sell a thousand tubs with too many cookies. This improves our yield and essentially pays for the machine.”

On the processing side of the bakery, La Provence installed two new tank scale systems in 2016 that feature Mettler-Toledo’s IND780 advanced weighing terminals. The scales are used to measure ingredients as they are pumped or conveyed into the kettles. “These systems allow us to make recipes more accurately.

“Typically in the food business, companies react to problems. What we like about our inspection equipment is it allows us to be proactive and find a potential problem before it gets to a customer," Dardaine sums. "We know that a brand can be severely damaged over a piece of glass in a danish. We’ve seen other companies make those mistakes. The most important thing is that our product is safe, for the sake of consumers, customers and ourselves. We take food safety very seriously. That’s why we rely on Mettler-Toledo.”

For more information about Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection Group call 813-889-9500 or see www.mt.com/pi.

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