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So, you’ve decided you’re ready to scale up your small food production business. Those homemade cookies, jams, or jars are simply flying off the shelf, and you’re itching to make more for your adoring fans.
But, when you’re talking to companies that may be able to make your product, or trying to figure out what you’ll need for your first big batch you run into a major hurdle: your recipe. Unfortunately, those scribbles you’ve fot in the back of that old notebook – a pinch of salt here and a teaspoon of spice there – no longer work.
It’s crucial you write your recipe down in a way that makes it easy to scale it to different quantities. To do so, you’ll first need to get rid of those volumetric units (if you’re using those) and start using percentages. Luckily, it’s not that complicated, and once you’re done, it makes a big difference.
- The most basic way to scale a recipe
- Converting from volumetric to weight-based
- Converting from mass to %
- Getting the recipe to work
- Let's scale up!
The most basic way to scale a recipe
No matter how big or small your business is, you’ll likely do some sort of scaling of recipes. Some days you might only need 10 pancakes, whereas other days you need 30, or 25. You can adjust your recipe to these different volumes in quite a simple manner.
- Step 1: Write down your basic recipe and determine how much that recipe makes.
- Step 2: Divide the quantities of that recipe by the number of portions it makes.
- Step 3: Multiply those numbers with the amount of portions you need.
In the table below, we’ve done this for a two-portion pancake recipe that we wanted to convert to nine portions.
|Original||One portion||Nine portions|
|Baking powder||1/2 tsp||1/4 tsp||2 1/4 tsp|
The downside: inconvenient quantities
You can do this type of conversion with any recipe. However, the downside is that you might end up with some very inconvenient quantities of ingredients. In the example above, we need to use 4,5 eggs – not ideal. But at least that’s better than having to use 1/5 of an egg, or needing 5/7 tsp of something.
If you want to scale this recipe to significantly larger quantities, say 80 pancakes, you don’t want to have to weigh out over 20 teaspoons of baking powder. Or need to crack 40 eggs.
It’s why recipes such as the one above will need further refinement when deciding to scale up.
Converting from volumetric to weight-based
Factories, big and small, all tend weigh the ingredients that go into their process. Weighing is very simple to do, precise, and can easily be done hygienically.
Often, equipment sits on scales. When you add an ingredient, its weight is automatically registered and the addition can be measured directly.
That’s why it’s best to write a recipe using weight-based measurements if you want to scale up. It’s time to convert cups and teaspoons, or milliliters and liquid ounces, to weight-based units.
Note, we prefer using grams for our weight measurements. However, feel free to use other units such as pounds, or ounces if that feels more intuitive to you. Do make sure that you use the same unit for each ingredient in your recipe – don’t use ounces for one, and pounds for the other.
Make a conversion chart
To make this conversion, start by making a conversion chart in which you write down how much a certain volumetric unit weighs. Weigh the weight of a cup of flour, that of a tablespoon of salt, or 150ml of water. Write these down so you only have to do it once. You can then use these conversion factors for all of your recipes. As an example, you may find that:
- 1 cup of flour = 125 grams
- 1 teaspoon of salt = 5 grams
- 1 egg = 50 grams
- 100 ml of milk = 100 grams
For our pancake recipe that would translate as follows.
|Baking powder||1/2 tsp||2,5g|
See how much easier it was to calculate the overall weight with our weight-based figures?
Keep in mind that these are just examples. There are a lot of online convertors for volumetric to weight-based units. However, it is best to do this yourself. Your cups and teaspoons might be different sizes than the ones those online calculators use. Cups and teaspoons are not standardized.
Note: It will be helpful to know that 100ml of water weighs 100g. That is because the density of water is 1g/ml. That is, 1 ml weighs 1g.
Converting from mass to %
Now that you have a weight-based recipe, it becomes very easy to scale it. To make it even easier, most large-scale manufacturers will convert their recipe one more time: from mass into percentages. That way, the total amount of the recipe you’ll be making no longer matters at all.
Having a recipe written down in percentages is great for another reason: comparing recipes. It’s hard to compare a recipe that makes 100g of muffin batter with one that makes 650g. However, if you’d convert both recipes to percentages, their totals will always add up to 100%. It becomes very easy to see how recipes are different!
To convert a recipe into percentages, use the following formula:
weight-% of ingredient A = weight of ingr. A / total weight * 100
For our pancake recipe that would look as follows:
|Baking powder||1/2 tsp||2,5||0,6|
Using weight-% to make your recipe
Now that you know what fraction of a recipe is made up of a specific ingredient, you can start converting it into any recipe you want. To do so, take the following steps:
- Determine how much of your product you want to make by weight, for example 400kg or 30kg.
- Don’t know the weight, but do know how many you need? Multiple the number of products with the weight of a single product to get the overall mass.
- For each ingredient, calculate how much you need from that ingredient:
- Percentage of ingr. A / 100 * Total mass of recipe
|Original||Weight-%||Small batch (kg)||Large batch (kg)|
|Baking powder||1/2 tsp||0,6||0,06||1,8|
Taking losses into account
So far, we’ve only looked at the weight of the ingredients, also referred to as raw materials, to calculate the overall weight of the product. However, you will lose some ingredients when making your product. Whereas on a small scale those losses may have seemed minor, they can add up at a larger scale.
1% of 1kg is a mere 10 grams. However, 1% of 10.0kg is 10 kg of ingredients. Also, chances are your losses may go up when scaling up, depending on how easy it is to clean your systems and how easy it is to re-use scraps.
Then there’s another type of loss that is common for a lot of products: loss of water.
If you bake bread, muffins, or a steak, you evaporate moisture during the process. A baked bread will weigh less than the original bread dough. This is mostly due to water that evaporates. If you want to have 1kg of bread, you’ll need to account for these losses when deciding how much dough you need to make.
As an example, let’s assume we lose 5% moisture when baking our pancakes. 402,5g of batter will then only make:
(100-5) / 100 * 402,5g = 382g of pancakes
So, if we want to make 5 kg of pancakes, we will need:
5 / 95 *100 = 5,26kg of batter
Getting the recipe to work
So far, all we’ve done is some simple math to write down the recipe in a different way. For some products this is all you need to do when scaling up the recipe. You simply decide how much you want to make, do the math, and you’ve got your recipe. For other products though, there may be some more work to do.
Check your financials
Often, when scaling up, using particular ingredients may become too expensive. They might only be available in small quantities, or they may simply make your margins too small to become a sustainable business.
If that’s the case, you’ll need to do some work on trying to find proper substitutes. Sometimes, you may even simply leave out the whole ingredient. For example, in work we did with a small-scale bakery, we realized that the malt powder they were adding to their bagels didn’t have any impact on the quality of the bagel. It had always been there, but when we dug deeper, we found we might as well take it out. This led to a tremendous cost-saving.
Can you source the ingredients?
If you started out at home, you probably bought your ingredients at local specialty stores in small quantities. But are your ingredients also available in larger (bulk) formats? If not, things may get very expensive, and inconvenient.
Can you use the ingredients?
This may seem like an obvious question: of course you can use the ingredients, you’ve always used them!
But when you’re scaling up, your process changes. You won’t use a scoop or a spoon to measure out ingredients. Instead, you’ll use automatic feeders and other equipment, especially if you’ve decided to use a continuous process.
Some ingredients will struggle to pass through these pieces of equipment. They might clog it up for instance. It might mean you’ll have to change ingredients. Sometimes that means just finding a different type, or a different supplier; other times you may need to leave it out entirely.
Do you need to account for losses?
In calculating the recipe, we already accounted for some losses such as moisture during baking. When you actually start making the recipe in your new scaled-up process you may find out you’re losing more ingredients in certain steps.
Make sure you’re aware of these losses, by doing trials and keeping track of your product. Account for them in the recipe when deciding to make a certain amount of product.
Are ingredients stable enough?
If you’re making 5 muffins, you probably whip up a batter in a matter of minutes, and have them in the oven a few minutes later. However, if you’re making 500, things start to look a little different. Some ingredients may have to sit for a while before they’re used in the process. And your ingredients need to be able to handle that!
Some good examples of this are natural colors. That beautiful red beetroot color, or the green from broccoli may look nice. But, they aren’t very stable over time or under all conditions. Beetroot can get brown, broccoli can get yellow. This might not be a problem if you make a small batch, but can become problematic when making large quantities.
Let’s scale up!
By following these steps and taking into account these considerations, you should now be ready to start scaling your recipe for larger-scale manufacturing. Let’s make those 55, 250 or even 2500 jars of jam!
Still not fully comfortable getting started yourself? We offer 1:1 advice and consulting to get you started with that first recipe. Because once you’ve done one, the next few will only get easier!