Voted Best Plant Tour: GKI Foods’ Facility for Candies

Voted best 2015 Plant Tour by Packaging Strategies!

With chocolate candies making up 90% of the company’s products, GKI manufactures a variety of confection types. During the plant tour we got to see several chocolate varieties being dipped, enrobed, cooled and packaged. We also saw the pouch filling line where candies are packaged in 8-ounces bags at speeds of 42-45 bags per minute. The candies are visually inspected at each step of the packaging process and then ran through a metal detector from as a final inspection.

At its 100,000 square foot operation in Brighton, Michigan, GKI Foods produces granola products and premium confections for many national companies, including upscale retail stores and major pharmacy chains. The 43-year-old company offers bulk and private label packaging and provides bulk products to companies that repackage products under their own brands. Additionally, the company recently launched its own brand, Kensington Confections.

On the plant floor, the first step is to learn the difference between panned and enrobed candies. Panned candies are coated, such as chocolate-covered cherries or raisins. The fruit is dumped and pulled apart in the panning drum, which is constantly moving as a fine spray of chocolate is applied on and off for two hours to perfectly coat each piece. After panning, the candies go to the glazing area of the plant. It takes an additional one and a half to two hours for the panned candies to be glazed with a food-grade glaze, giving the pieces that shiny look and feel.

In the enrobing area of the plant, chocolate-covered pretzels are made on one of the seven enrobers on-site. Enrobing is like a chocolate fountain, covering the fruit, cookies, clusters, or in this case, pretzels. The pretzels are hand arranged on the conveyor with proper space between each one and are conveyed under the flowing chocolate, which is at 80 to 90 degrees. Chocolate is poured over the pretzels, and the excess flows right over the product through a grate where it is collected and eventually re-poured. Small heat blowers remove any excess chocolate before the coated pretzels go through a cooling tunnel, cooling them to about 65 degrees. They are then conveyed right into the box for a bulk customer.

At the packaging line, we saw candies being filled into eight-ounce stand-up pouches for a customer. Product is poured onto the feed table where a worker visually inspects the candy for any foreign matter. The candy goes up the vertical lift from the Weigh Right machine to the area's vibratory feeder, which adjusts the product flow and ensures that the candies move at a constant flow for controlled movement. The candies make their way to the Yamato fourteen-head scale, which measures eight-ounce portions. The Toyo Jidoki TT-8DN pre-made pouch filler and sealer blows open the pouches, fills them with the candy, and seals them, all operating at speeds of about 42 to 45 bags per minute. The candies are visually inspected at each step of the packaging process and then run through a Safeline metal detector from Mettler Toledo for final inspection. Pouches are then conveyed to the manual case packing station. Because of the high changeover and multiple brand runs on the packaging line, doing things by hand allows for faster changeover, more control, and more efficient operations for the company.

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