How to scale up a recipe for manufacturing?

You’ve made that perfect bread at home 100 times by now and have only heard super enthusiastic reaction from your friends and family who ate it. So you decide, it’s time to take the leap and start producing 100 of breads a day and start a little business!

That’s where the fun starts: how on earth do you scale up your recipe?

Every food manufacturer or aspiring food manufacturer will face the challenge at least once, but more probably, very often: scaling up a recipe that was made in a test kitchen.

As a part of our scaling up series (which I like since I have a chemical engineering background, chemical engineers like scaling things up 😉 ) we’ll go through some of the challenges you might face.

Small scale scaling up

If you’re looking for help on scaling up a recipe from 4 to 6 people or from 10 to 50 cookies this is probably not the best post for you. We’ll dive into a lot more details regarding all the different considerations you should take into account when really going big.

However, since the answer to your challenge is the start of any recipe scale up, stick with us for a little longer and you might just find your answer.

Recipe conversion

Any scale up will actually start with some sort of recipe conversion, pretty similar to the one you’d do when deciding to make 30 instead of 3 muffins. The very basic recipe conversion goes as follows:

  1. Write down the quantities of all the different ingredients.
  2. Divide all the quantities by the number of people the recipe is for. You now have the quantity of each ingredient for a 1 person recipe.
  3. Multiply these quantities by the number of people you want to cook for.

Table shows an example: using a pancake recipe, written for 2 people (to keep it simple) that is converted to one for 8 people.

Recipe quantity Divided by two Required for 8 people
Flour 150g 75g 600g
Egg 1 0,5 4
Milk 200ml 100ml 800ml
Baking powder 0,5 tsp 0,25 tsp 2 tsp

This is one of the most basic conversions you can do with any recipe. The only disadvantage occurs when you have to start using things like one quarter of an egg of 2/7 cup of flour. But luckily, there’s a solution for that which you’ll really need when looking to go bigger!

Large scale recipe conversion

Since you don’t want to end up with 100tsp of baking powder in your scaled up recipe the method described above has to be slightly adjusted. Again, it’s not too complex. But, it is by far most convenient to have the weight (e.g. in grams) of all the different ingredients. So convert those cups and spoons and ml to weights.

This might be hard for the ingredients of which you only need very small amounts, good chance you’re weighing scale is not accurate enough. In that case, try weighing out slightly larger amounts (e.g. 5 tbsp) and convert that back to 1 tsp (or less).

From grams to %

Once you have these weights calculations will become a lot easier. If you want to make a 100kg, all you have to do is make sure that the total weight of all the ingredients adds up to that 100kg.

This becomes even easier if you convert these weights into percentages. It’s not complicated math, but it will make it a lot easier to scale up or down. Once you have percentages you can calculate any required weight of an ingredients, based on the total weight you have to start with.

Let’s demonstrate with another example, using the same pancake recipe as used before (I’ve estimated some of these numbers, always check the weight of your ingredients).

Recipe (2 pers) Converted to weights Converted to %
Flour 150g 150g 37,3%
Egg 1 50g 12,4%
Milk 200ml 200g 49,7%
Baking powder 0,5 tsp 2,5g 0,6%

Now if we want to make 415kg of pancakes we can easily calculate how much we need of each ingredient! For example, we’d need 0,124*415=51,46kg of eggs.

Want some more info, have a look here: a great calculator that does the work for you & some help from Modernist Cuisine.

Decide on 1 portion

Now that you’ve got your weight sorted out, it’s time to figure out how much you need to make one of your products. How much do you need for your final bread, muffin, sausage or salad? This step is the first to getting an overall product specification which you’ll need to have at the end of scale up. In such a product specification all the characteristics of the product will be defined.

Loss of ingredients along the way

When deciding on what you need for one portion, it is important to start taking into account losses of your ingredients (let’s start calling them raw materials from here).

There are a lot of ways in which you can lose raw materials. Several of these are strongly related with the process used so will be discussed there.

One example is the loss of moisture during baking. A bread will always be lighter than the dough you put in the oven. So if you’re planning to sell 1kg bread loaves, you’ll need to know how much water you lose during baking.

Gathering all the losses of raw materials will take some time, but is essential for you to end up with a good cost calculation, purchasing of goods, etc. This is where a lot of the work starts!

Change ingredients?

At this point in time you’re probably not able to answer this question. But chances are that several steps ahead in the process, after deciding on your production process, doing a cost calculation, etc. you’ll need to see whether you have to change ingredients.

There are a lot of reasons you might need to change your raw materials:

  • Too expensive
  • Not available in the quantities you need them
  • Don’t work in the process you’ve chosen
  • Not stable enough
  • Hard to handle/dose
  • Etc.

At the end of this process you should have a nice sheet (e.g. made in Excel or another calculation software) which has your recipe written down. It should include at least: a list of the ingredients (raw materials), the quantities and percentages of each raw material, a first indication of losses throughout production (e.g. moisture loss), if possible the quantities you need for 1 portion.

The next step: scaling up the production process.


Want more handy data sheets or help with doing what I described above? Send me a note and we’ll see how I can help!

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