The new machinery consists of a dedicated batching/blending system to make the Choccie Dodger, which is made of chocolate biscuits with chocolate cream in the centre.
Earlier this year, Burton's Biscuits, which operates three plants across the UK, announced a £4.6M investment at the Llantarnam factory, bringing the amount spent at the plant since 2012 to £7M.
The cash is reportedly part of £13.5M being spent across the firm this year. Llantarnam employs more than 700 people and makes Cadbury's Fingers, Wagon Wheels, Maryland Cookies and Jammie Dodgers.
The batching/blending system, supplied by Flexicon (Europe), comprises flexible screw conveyors that transport cocoa powders to a horizontal paddle mixer, and pneumatic conveyors that deliver finely milled sugar to the mixer.
Programmable logic controller
A programmable logic controller (PLC) manages the gain-in-weight batching/blending process, in which the cocoa powders, milled sugar, palm oil and liquid chocolate are added in sequence to the mixer.
Load cells supporting the mixer transmit weight gain signals to the controller, which starts and stops the conveyors and the mixer, and opens and closes valves to batch and blend the chocolate cream.
Cocoa powder has a bulk density of approximately 560kg/m3 and is non-free-flowing. It has a tendency to pack, cake, and form deposits on conveying equipment surfaces, particularly if exposed to moisture since it is also hygroscopic.
It also fluidises readily, and generates dust. To move this troublesome material consistently while containing dust, the firm installed two flexible screw conveyors with screw geometry.
The chocolate cream recipe calls for 15kg of one type of cocoa powder and 25kg of another, both of which are manually dumped from 25kg bags into a twin-floor hopper that keeps each separate.
Unlike cocoa powder, the sugar powder needed for the process is free-flowing (when dry) and sourced from a distant plant location, leading Burton's to specify a Pneumati-Con pneumatic conveying system from Flexicon.
The plant receives granulated sugar, which is milled to a fine powder, and then fed from a hopper through a rotary valve into a 200m-long, 75mm diameter stainless steel pneumatic line.
Once palm oil and liquid chocolate are added to the batch, the PLC cycles the mixer, opens a discharge valve, and pumps the chocolate cream blend to the sandwich production line.
Meanwhile, earlier this year news emerged that the owners of Burton’s Biscuits, which employs around 2,000 people in the UK, were considering selling the business. Some reports suggested a price tag of £350M.
A number of buyers were predicted to be in the frame.