Lake Champlain Chocolates blends creativity and craftsmanship with fresh, local ingredients to make its gourmet chocolates. To support its commitment to excellence, Lake Champlain reportedly installed a Mettler-Toledo combination checkweigher / metal detector on its new chocolate bar line last year.
“Lake Champlain has a reputation for exceptional quality, so we needed top-tier inspection equipment that would uphold our high standards,” said Jason Antkowiak, plant operations manager at Lake Champlain. “In addition to protecting our customers and consumers, metal detection is essential for our SQF food safety certification, and checkweighing helps us reliably meet net weight. Since the Mettler-Toledo combination system has both metal detection and checkweighing on a single frame, it has a smaller footprint and was more cost effective than buying two separate units.”
The Mettler-Toledo combination system identifies and rejects ferrous and non-ferrous metal, as well as under- and/or over-weight products at an accuracy of +/- 1 g or better, depending on the application. Products that don’t pass inspection are automatically removed from the line with Mettler-Toledo’s pneumatic reject device.
“The accuracy of this metal detector is the best we’ve seen – it’s able to identify metal so small you’d never be able to see or taste it,” said John Weishaar, production manager at Lake Champlain. “The checkweigher rejects overweight products to eliminate product giveaway and help guarantee our nutritional statements are accurate. It rejects underweight products to ensure we’re providing the amount of product we promise.”
Lake Champlain’s combination system inspects 126 chocolate bars per minute, although it’s designed to run up to 200 bars per minute to provide room to grow. The chocolate bars, which are available in 24 flavor combinations and weigh 3 oz. or 3.25 oz., are sent through the combo unit before being packaged in heat-sealed foil wrap and then glued paper wrap. Lake Champlain changes over the system multiple times a day, which may include just a simple setting change or a full washdown, depending on the products being inspected.
“Sanitation is a big deal for us. The unwrapped bars of chocolate can create a sticky, sugary mess, plus we need to eliminate cross-contamination of nut and peanut allergens,” said Antkowiak. “The combo system has an open design that gives us easy access, and the belts come apart quickly when we need to do a full washdown. It makes sanitation incredibly simple and effective.”
“Mettler-Toledo customized our combination unit in a couple of ways,” said Weishaar. “Since this line runs at high speeds, they added two extra spacing conveyors to ensure only one chocolate bar is on the checkweigher at a time. Also, since chocolate bars can skew at those speeds, they installed guide rails on the conveyors to keep the bars oriented.”
“In addition to protecting product quality, the combo system collects helpful data,” noted Antkowiak. “It alerts us if the equipment upstream is producing under- or over-weight bars, so we can make adjustments. Also, we use the data to provide quality assurance documentation to our private-label customers.”
“Overall, this system is very intuitive. Our operators find it easy to use with just a little training. Mettler-Toledo provided us with a straightforward user guide, so we rarely need to get anyone with deeper technical skills involved,” said Antkowiak. “All the recipes are pre-programmed in the control panel and saved to memory so they can be accessed at the push of a button during changeover. When we introduce a brand new product, it only takes ten minutes to create and save the new settings. We’ve set up password protection to make sure there aren’t any unintentional changes by unqualified personnel.”
“Mettler-Toledo has incredible attention to detail in their engineering, equipment functionality and support. We’re grateful that our sales rep, Don Stewart of Flo-Dynamics, recommended this combo system. It’s one of the most reliable pieces of equipment we have,” concluded Weishaar. “Our combination checkweigher / metal detector is a cornerstone for protecting our product quality and provides a foundation for our growth into new channels, like club stores and national retailers.”
For more information, visit www.mt.com/pi.