The circus peanut is a baffling and polarizing confectionary mystery. Nobody seems to know why an orange candy, shaped like a peanut, should taste faintly of banana. One thing, though, is certain: if the moisture isn't right, the circus peanut goes south. Too high, and they all stick together in the bag and turn mealy. Too low, and they become a rock-hard adhesive that has welded my jaws together on more than one occasion. So what's the best way to monitor water in moisture sensitive candy?
Most candy tends to have relatively low moisture - a fruit chew has only about 7% by weight. It's tough to measure that moisture precisely enough to control it. But when moisture changes in products that don't have much to start with, the water activity reading changes a lot. Using water activity, you can monitor the moisture in your product tightly. If you still want a % moisture reading, the new AquaLab Duo Moisture Analyzer can give you that too.
Many candies have a distinctive texture - chewy, crunchy, smooth, grainy, sticky, or soft. Confectionary flavors are similarly distinctive. Combined, these are what consumers experience when they eat your product. If your product moisture isn't in the right range, this can ruin entire batches of candy, costing you time and money. Water activity is closely tied to product texture, making it easy to set specs that relate to important characteristics.
Just because your product has the right taste and texture when you box it up doesn't mean it will stay that way. As soon as it's wrapped, a product starts to degrade. Chemical reactions like lipid oxidation hurt products while they sit. How fast this happens is a function of water activity. If you want to hit your shelf life target, water activity can help.
If you can solve all these problems in your candy, the next challenge is making sure they stay solved. Many quality control instruments are only useful in the lab - they're either too complicated or delicate to use anywhere else. AquaLab is different. It gives you +/-0.003 aw accuracy no matter where you are. The instrument is solid and easy to use, and doesn't require any special training or sample preparation. Water activity is as easy to measure on the factory floor as it is in the lab.