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Seafood Processing



The art of crumb coating: Why controlling the crumb is crucial to convenience. Two out of three consumers globally1 are looking for simple and convenient ways to ensure the intake of nutrients on a daily basis. They want clean ingredients, impactful flavours and textures – more choice in a burgeoning market is crucial in adapting to market trends. It’s no wonder that the convenience foods sector is booming, set to grow by 7.2% CAGR by 20332.

So how are convenience food producers innovating to stay ahead of the curve? And why is crumb coating so significant in meeting demand from all generations of convenience food consumers?

New trends demand new solutions

Over the last 12 months, consumer trends for convenience crumb-coated products have cited visual appeal and texture as two main drivers behind a purchase. Crispy/crunchy coatings in particular are experiencing consistent growth in demand. The meat substitutes category is seeing the highest growth for “crispy, crunchy and cracking” claims at 21.9%, while the meat, fish and eggs category is seeing 7.0% (CAGR 5 years ending Q2 2022)3. It could be something as simple as adding crunchy salad leaves to a takeaway burger, or a light & crispy breadcrumb coating with flax and sunflower seeds.

The makeup of modern crumb coating is a mixture of small and large particles and multiple colours – particularly with speciality crumbs. There are four key attributes to a crumb coating: colour, appearance, texture and flavour, and innovative new crumb coatings provide all four along with enhanced mouthfeel. Key to success in crumb coating is the triangle between food manufacturer, ingredients supplier and machine engineering: understanding the relationship and working together maximises success4.

Minimising breakage and contamination

Crumb coatings bring diversity to a rapidly increasing range of food products – a contrast to its basic start with seafood nearly 100 years ago. All the new variations (ancient grains, seeds, nuts, and carbs) create challenges for producers and make it necessary to consider a more controlled production process. It’s vital that the machine used to coat the substrate, whether that be fish, poultry or alt-proteins, presents an even spread on the finished product to maintain visual appeal and texture.

GEA’s new breading technology produces these premium results with less dust, crumb loss and minimal crumb breakdown. GEA Product Owner (Coating), Erik Wijnhoven, explained:

“We tested many prototypes of the CrumbMaster Gen 2 with many companies throughout Europe, and in many cases, they proactively asked us when the machine was going to market. Some even asked to keep the prototype there and then! They saw extremely promising performance with specialty crumb and chaotic crumb mixture which is a key indicator for producers wanting to meet consumer demands.”

A delicate touch – even at high volume

Imagine a high-volume manufacturer of crispy coated nuggets producing anywhere from 1 ton to 6 tons of product per hour, with various combinations of substrate and crumb coating to cater for modern consumer demands and habits. They need to be confident the coating mixes will stand up to continued stress in order to minimize breakage and contamination, both of which lead to substandard output.

“We wanted to understand how the machine handled the most delicate of materials in the most stressful of environments,” says Technical Service Manager at Newly Weds Foods, James Powell. “The other purpose was to understand how the machine compares to the previous version and the equivalent competitors’ machines. It’s important to say we’re not affiliated with GEA in any way. The stress test was fully transparent and unbiased, it’s how we work and our customers really appreciate that we work with companies the size of GEA and honestly appraise their machines.”

Stress free environment

To reduce the risk of crumb breakage, every aspect of the CrumbMaster’s design is aimed at generating as little mechanical stress on the crumbs as possible. Slides transport the crumbs without the use of conveyors or screws and a special frame design avoids crushing the crumbs. There’s a new, patented sieve system and an added bonus that, by exchanging divider plates, it is also possible to apply different crumb compositions to the top and the bottom of the breaded products.

Erik Wijnhoven added:

“We developed a patented sieve system (which is controlled from the outside of the machine) that ensures the coating is spread evenly over the top, side and bottom of the products. It’s a big challenge, especially on new food and alt-proteins. Meat substitute products with “crispy or crunchy” crumb coatings are the highest growth market, and some of these can be pretty oily, so we did many tests on those substrates and the Gen 2 simply dealt with them exactly the same as meat, poultry and fish.”

The machine has the latest industry hygiene standards, many low or no-maintenance components, and is simple to clean, with no harsh chemicals needed, and it uses much less fresh water.

Looking to the Future

Economic pressures haven’t dulled consumer appetites for convenience foods that offer flavour and texture, enhanced mouthfeel and super sensory experiences – in fact, convenience foods often feature in some of the more affordable retailer ranges.

33% of global consumers say health aspects have become more important over the past 12 months, while 30% say nutritional content/benefit is at the fore. Nevertheless, an impressive 78% of consumers5 said that enjoyment is a primary factor behind food purchases, so healthier food still has to excite.

Consumers are redefining value and seeking out affordable nutrition from both familiar and emerging brands. It’s a sector to watch – and GEA has set a new bar for technology innovation in crumb coating that will help manufacturers keep up with emerging trends in convenience foods across the world for years to come.


  1. Innova Trends Survey 2023 (average of Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, UK, US)
  2. https://www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/global-convenience-foods-market
  3. Newly Weds Foods 2023
  4. Griffith Foods 2023
  5. Newly Weds Foods 2023