How Your Favorite Condiments Are Made

A plate of meaty, juicy burgers hits the table. What’s your go-to condiment to put the delicious finishing touch on your meal? Is it the rich tomato flavor of ketchup? Do you prefer the smooth tanginess of mayo? Perhaps you’re more of a mustard person, or maybe the condiment of choice depends on the menu.

Condiments are the icing of the savory food world. They enhance the flavors of the other ingredients in your favorite recipes. Life would be quite boring without condiments.

Whatever your favorite condiment is, it’s always there waiting to be used with a consistent texture and flavour, but how does it get to that perfectly thick state? Condiments go through very controlled, very specific manufacturing processes using industrial food mixing equipment designed just for the purpose. That reliable process creates the consistent flavors and textures in each bottle you buy of your favorite condiments. Keep reading to find out what goes into your favorite condiments and how those ingredients get mixed together to create the final product.

How is Ketchup Made?

Learning how manufacturers mix ketchup together reveals the mysteries of one of the most popular condiments. Ketchup is a widely acceptable condiment with a distinct yet not overly strong flavor. You know ketchup is a tomato-based product, but how do they turn meaty, squishy tomatoes into that consistent tangy sauce? It’s not magic. It’s the power of commercial condiment production.

Ketchup takes about two to three hours to process. The specific recipe may vary somewhat from brand to brand, but most ketchup sticks with several key ingredients to produce that consistent taste. Those ingredients include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Sweetener, usually granulated cane sugar or beet sugar
  • Water
  • White vinegar for preservation
  • Salt
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Other spices and flavorings, such as allspice, cinnamon, cayenne, pepper, ginger and paprika

The specific ratio of ingredients affects the consistency of the finished product. For example, more sugar and spices in the mix renders a thicker sauce. The quality of the tomatoes plays an important role in how the ketchup turns out. Companies look for consistency in the properties of the tomatoes to control the color and flavor of the finished ketchup.

Tomatoes go through processing before the actual ketchup mixing begins. This can happen in the ketchup manufacturing plant or at another location. The process steps are:

  1. Wash and chop the tomatoes.
  2. Precook the tomatoes.
  3. Run the precooked tomatoes through pulping machines to remove the seeds, skin and stems, which can cause bitterness and inconsistency in texture.
  4. Separate the remaining tomato pulp and juice using screens.

With the tomatoes prepared, the ketchup mixing phase is set to begin. Some ketchup manufacturers skip the tomato preparation phase by using a premade tomato paste as the base for the ketchup. No matter where it originates, the tomato pulp goes into large tanks or kettles used for cooking the mixture. These special tanks feature mixing equipment, allowing the bulk of the ketchup processing to take place in the same container. The tanks heat the pulp to boiling, and use anti-foaming compounds or compressed air to minimize foaming of the mixture.

The sweetener, vinegar and any seasonings and flavorings go into the tomatoes during the cooking process. The precise time depends on the type of ingredients used. For example, the sweetener sometimes goes in near the end of the cooking phase to prevent burning. Spice oils and vinegar may also go in later, as those ingredients may evaporate excessively if added too early, which affects the strength of the flavor.

The ketchup mixture cooks for approximately 30 to 45 minutes in these large kettles, with careful temperature regulation to prevent overcooking while allowing the ingredients to fully absorb.

Rotating blades keep the tomato mixture moving throughout the cooking process. A custom mixing system to work with the viscosity of the ketchup is important for consistent, efficient mixing of the ingredients. This specialty equipment is particularly important for combining ingredients with much different viscosities, such as the tomato pulp and water. Conventional equipment is often unable to accurately sense the viscosity and make proper adjustments.

Using mixing equipment specially designed for ketchup production offers many benefits, including:

  • Shortened Mixing Times: Specialty equipment is able to mix the tomato sauce and other ingredients quickly and efficiently, even as the viscosity changes with the addition of new ingredients. This makes the entire manufacturing process more efficient, which saves time and money.
  • Efficient Hydration: Ketchup-specific equipment helps hydrate the added ingredients quickly and consistently, preventing them from clumping or building up on the sides of the ketchup vat.
  • Thickener Break Down: Some ketchup recipes use thickening agents to get the desired consistency. If the mixing equipment can’t mix those ingredients efficiently into the ketchup, it forms clumps. A special impeller works through those clumps efficiently.
  • Uniformity: Specialty mixing equipment produces a uniform product before it continues through the manufacturing process. This is essential for additional processing steps.

How does ketchup turn out so smooth? After cooking, the ketchup goes through a finishing machine designed to flush out larger particles and fibres. Some companies use high temperatures and pressure to ensure a smooth, homogenous finished product. Excess air is also removed from the ketchup to prevent bacterial growth or changes in the color.

After processing, the ketchup is ready to go into bottle for distribution. Manufactures bottle ketchup hot and seal it right away to capture the fresh flavor. Bottling takes place on an automated conveyor belt, with predetermined amounts of the condiment going into prepared bottles. The ketchup then cools while in the bottle, either with the help of cold air or water, to retain its flavor. If the ketchup stays too hot for too long after cooking, it can start losing flavor. The last step is to label the bottles, complete any final inspections and prep the bottles for shipping.

How Is Mayo Made?

If mayo is your condiment of choice, keep reading to find out how mayo comes together. While ketchup and mayo are both great on burgers, the manufacturing process is somewhat different for these two condiments. Mayo requires a stable and continuous process to disperse the particles throughout the mixture.

Let’s start with the ingredients. The following items go into your typical batch of mayo:

  • Oil, often soybean oil
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Eggs or egg whites
  • Salt to enhance flavor: about 1/16 teaspoon per serving
  • Spices and seasonings
  • Preservatives, such as calcium disodium EDTA

Low-fat mayo usually only contains egg whites, while full-fat mayo contains the whole egg. Modified food starches take place of the egg yolk in the lighter versions to make the low-fat mayo creamy and thick.

The FDA regulates the amount of particular ingredients in mayo. To sell under the term mayonnaise, the mixture must contain at least 65 per cent oil based on weight. Most mayo contains even more oil, with some recipes using up to 80 per cent oil. The egg goes in at a much smaller ratio, typically about four to six per cent.

Salad dressing products that are similar to mayo have a similar ingredient list with slightly different oil requirements. Salad dressing must have at least 30 per cent oil and four per cent egg yolk. The ingredient list also contains vinegar, lemon juice and spices.

Mayonnaise is an emulsion, which is a combination of two liquids. As they are blended, one of the liquids turns into tiny droplets, which must disperse evenly throughout the other liquid to form the emulsion. Emulsions are tricky to manufacture, as even a small mistake in the process can cause the emulsion to break.

Creating the mayo emulsion requires special equipment to get just the right degree of emulsion and maintain it throughout the process. The continuous blending system employs several positive replacement pumps in cavities with rotary impellers. The impellers move the mayo as it gets blended.

Mayonnaise starts with the egg and water. Either powdered or liquid eggs work in the mayo manufacturing process. These two ingredients mix together to form the emulsifying agent. The remaining ingredients are then added on a continuous phase basis to get the proper emulsion. Oil goes into the mix quickly, rapidly increasing the viscosity of the ingredients.

The mayo manufacturing process requires precisely measured ingredients to form a consistent product. This happens by pre-measuring the added ingredients and adding them in one at a time. Those ingredients enter the mixing system by pumping them in through the sides or dropping them in from overhead spigots.

A mixing system engineered to thoroughly and effectively mix the mayo ingredients is necessary to get a consistent product. Because the degree of emulsion is critical to making the mayonnaise, an accurate, effective mixing system is necessary. If the equipment can’t properly mix the ingredients and handle the rapid change in viscosity, the emulsion can break down. This often happens as machines add the oil, due to improper dispersal of the previous emulsifying ingredients.

Once the ingredients are fully combined into the emulsion, the mayo gets pumped out of the mixer and into the bottling system. The automated bottling process is mainly sterilized jars on conveyor belts. The machine dispenses the exact amount of mayo needed to fill the bottle. The filled bottles move down the conveyor belt, where they receive lids to seal in the freshness.

How Is Mustard Made?

Most people have a strong stance on mustard: either they love it or they hate it. The strong, distinct flavor is the cause of this heated debate over whether or not to use mustard. Yellow, Dijon, spicy brown, German, coarse: no matter what type of mustard you prefer they all follow a similar manufacturing process.

Mustard is a plant-based condiment, made from the seeds of mustard plants, with black, brown and white mustard seed varieties available. White and brown mustard seeds are the most common ones used in commercially produced mustard. You feel a little more heat or mustard tang from brown seeds than you do with white mustard seeds, which have a more mellow taste.

The color of the seeds used affects the color of the finished product. Black and brown mustard seeds create a golden to brown color. The addition of wine can make the same color changes. So where does the bright yellow color come from in the Americanized version of the condiment? It’s actually due to a yellowish spice known as turmeric.

Most mustard seeds come from North Dakota, Montana and Canada — about 85 per cent of all mustard seeds come from those areas. To make eight ounces of mustard, you need roughly 1,000 mustard seeds.

An enzyme in all those mustard seeds creates the classic mustard flavor. The extra ingredients and the liquids that are added to the ground seeds that determine if a particular mustard variety is mild, hot or somewhere in between.

The planting process starts in March or April, with plants flowering in June and ready for harvest in September. The mustard pods containing the seeds pop open when fully ripe, so growers must harvest them before they reach that point to prevent loss of the seeds.

Before we go into how mustard comes together, let’s discuss the ingredients. Mustard is a little different from other condiments because there are several different types of mustard, including different flavored varieties. While the core ingredients remain the same, the extra seasonings and spices often vary significantly from one style of mustard to the next.

Common ingredients on a mustard bottle label include:

  • Mustard seeds
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • White wine
  • Spices, including turmeric, garlic, paprika and salt
  • Additional ingredients depending on the flavor, including lemon, honey and horseradish to name a few

The mustard seeds go through processing before becoming the main ingredient in mustard. The steps in that process include:

  1. The harvested mustard seeds undergo a thorough examination to check the quality.
  2. Machines wash the mustard seeds to get rid of dirt and debris. This process happens by passing the seeds under water sprayers via conveyor belt.
  3. A drying period occurs before the mustard seeds go into silos for storage. They stay in the silos until needed to make mustard.
  4. Before making the mustard, the seeds sometimes get soaked in vinegar or wine to soften the outer layer for easy removal of the hulls. This soaking period can last a few hours or a few days.
  5. Roller mills crush the mustard seeds into a flour-like substance. This is the same product you can buy in the spice aisle, called mustard powder. You can use it in recipes if you want the mustard flavor without the actual texture or moisture of mustard. The amount of grinding and crushing depends on the desired fineness of the mustard. Finer mustard goes through more cycles of grinding.
  6. The hulls and bran of the mustard seeds set separated with sieves unless the type of mustard calls for a coarse texture. Those styles of mustard keep the hulls with the mix.

The seeds are then ready for the mixing process. The flour powder created from the seeds goes into a specialized mixing vat designed for the process. Liquid goes into the flour to create a paste-like texture. That liquid also helps cause the chemical reaction that releases the flavor-creating compound in the mustard seeds. The liquid used can be any combination of water, wine and vinegar, depending on the particular recipe.

Seasonings and flavorings go into the mustard seed paste at this point. These additions are carefully premeasured so that each bottle of mustard turns out the same from every single batch. The ingredients go through thorough mixing using specialized impellers to ensure a consistent, efficient blend.

Once blended thoroughly, the mustard goes through a heating process. The target temperature varies depending on the specific manufacturer and the mustard variety. The mustard simmers at that temperature for a specific amount of time to allow the ingredients to meld to create the particular flavor profile required of that mustard.

The mustard must cool down before going into bottles. Room temperature is usually the target temperature. Depending on the variety, the mustard may go through an aging process before being packaged. Other varieties go straight to the bottle once cooled sufficiently.

Just like mayo and ketchup, the bottling process for mustard is an automated one. Machines deposit a specific amount of mustard into sterilized jars or bottles, which move on a conveyor belt. Those bottles are vacuum-sealed with lids in preparation for shipment.

Conventional commercial mixing equipment can cause difficulties in the mustard manufacturing process. Some of those issues include:

  • Clump Formation: When mixing the mustard powder with the water, wine and/or vinegar, clumps can sometimes form. Convention equipment may not have the ability to break down those clumps efficiently.
  • Efficient Mixing: As the mustard thickens, conventional equipment may lack the power or technology to effectively mix those ingredients to reach the desired consistency
  • Processing Time: Traditional equipment can increase the mixing time to ensure even dispersal of the ingredients.

Non-Newtonian Mixing Process

These top three condiments all have something in common (besides going great on your favorite sandwich): they all fall into the category of non-Newtonian liquids. Newtonian liquids maintain the same viscosity, or flow, even when stress or forces act on them. Water, for example, remains the same viscosity even if something impacts it.

Non-Newtonian liquids do change with applied stress. The viscosity of the liquid changes with the application of force, by either thickening or thinning. Take ketchup, for example. Sometimes the bottle needs a good shake before the thick, red condiment pours easily from the bottle. The force of shaking the bottle thins the ketchup, taking it from a thick, lumpy state with stuck-together tomato particles to a thinner consistency that flows easily onto your burger and fries. This is a shear-thinning fluid. When the fluid becomes thicker with force, they are shear-thickening substances.

What does Newtonian versus non-Newtonian status have to do with the processing of condiments? It turns out, it can have quite an effect. In commercial mixing applications, the agitator impeller senses the viscosity of the material to determine the rotational speed.

With ketchup and other shear-thinning materials, the viscosity of the fluid appears to decrease as the impeller rotates faster. If mixing system relies on only one viscosity measure, the mixing process of the non-Newtonian substance is not always reliable.

A mixing system designed to account for the differences in non-Newtonian fluids can improve the process and the resulting products. Benefits of specialized non-Newtonian mixing include:

  • Shorter mixing time because the mixture reaches a homogenized state faster
  • Consistent, efficient incorporation of all ingredients
  • minimized clumping of ingredients
  • Efficient heat transfer throughout the liquid
  • Accurate adjustments of impeller speed based on actual and changing viscosity of the mixture
  • Efficient movement of the impeller

Streamline Your Commercial Mixing Process

What’s your commercially produced specialty? Whether you produce ketchup, mustard, mayo or something else, Philadelphia Mixing Solutions Limited has a specialized solution for your industrial production facility. Our mixing text lab and our mixing expert engineers use actual samples of your product to build an optimized mixing solution for you. We measure the properties of your non-Newtonian fluids to design custom in-tank mixing equipment for your facility. Once your custom mixing solution is in place, we provide training and education so you can implement the technology effectively.

Contact Philadelphia Mixing Solutions to learn more about optimising the food mixing processes in your facility. Let us worry about what happens inside your tank so you can focus on what goes into the tank.