Based in Carol Stream, Illinois, flour tortilla chip manufacturer, Donkey Brands LLC, has doubled production volumes by installing a new production line from specialist food processing equipment provider, FOODesign (, a tna company. The investment enables Donkey Brands to meet increased demand and boost growth by replacing an out-of-date manual process with an efficient automated system.

In a bid to optimize its production process, Donkey Brands chose to integrate FOODesign’s immerso-cook® direct-fired continuous frying system to complement its pre-existing FOODesign cutting, conveying and quick-coat seasoning systems. The company now boasts a faster processing line while maintaining its long-standing levels of high product quality.

Customized frying solutions
As a growing manufacturer and snack brand, Donkey Brands was looking to increase production levels with a frying system that optimized color, texture and flavor. To protect their brand legacy for great tasting tortilla chips, Donkey Brands was confident that FOODesign’s immerso-cook direct-fired continuous frying system was the right choice.

The FOODesign immerso-cook features innovations like a state-of-the-art belt feed system. Customizable for a wide range of products including tortilla chips, this feature minimizes the risk of product breakage while optimizing throughput speeds. While breakage is minimized, any unpreventable waste that can result from delicate snack applications like tortilla chips, is continuously discharged from the fryer by the system’s based mounted mesh conveyor. This ensures the product quality is not compromised.

Through its innovative continuous oil filtration process, FOODesign’s immerso-cook keeps oil clean with particulate removal and a fresh oil infeed system. This prevents oil from overheating and prevents harmful fatty acids and free radicals from forming, which contaminate oil and compromise the quality of the product. Increased capacity from the immerso-cook, along with its advanced oil-filtration system, means Donkey Brands can produce more tortilla chips with significantly less downtime from changing oil.

“With demand growing for quantity and quality, we needed a flexible frying system to build on our capabilities and enhance production capacity,” says Robert Tisljar, partner at Donkey Brands. “Our previous line was predominantly manual and included a smaller fryer, as well as more conventional conveying systems. Looking for the best way to step into the world of automation, we saw the answer in FOODesign. The aim, quite simply, was to increase production output while at the same time improving the overall quality of our products.”

Also commenting on the installation, Tim Reardon, group solutions manager – processing for the Americas, said: “Our immerso-cook range offers a heavy duty, highly efficient system that can be customized for a wide variety of applications and processing requirements. Together with our service-led approach, maintenance support and engineering knowledge, we were able to supply Donkey Brands with a reliable and high performance system that meets their exact specification – and we’re confident will continue to do so for many years to come.”

Consistent flavor coverage
Seasoning is vital to a product’s overall taste, texture and appeal. With a strong desire to maintain quality in flavor and provide consistent coverage, Donkey Brands installed FOODesign’s quik-coat® seasoning drum to ensure uniform coating on every single tortilla chip produced. Because each type of snack product has its own set of attributes, unique product structure, surface and topography, the FOODesign quick-coat was designed with flexibility in mind and was a perfect fit for the Donkey Brands range of products. FOODesign’s quik-coat system effectively seasons uneven surfaces and gently tumbles the product, evenly dispersing the right amount of seasoning so that all Donkey Brand tortilla chips have a consistent appearance and taste. As a manufacturer of tortilla chips, it was fundamental that the new seasoning system would be able to handle coating irregular shaped products consistently and with ease.

Where there’s a need to season products, there’s a need to keep equipment clean. With Donkey Brands’ goal to increase productivity, along with their high standards of hygiene, they needed an easy-to-clean solution that also minimized downtime. As part of the FOODesign quik-coat installation, casters were adjoined to the system that can be pulled away from the production line – simplifying and accelerating the cleaning process.

“As a food manufacturer, consistent flavor profiles are naturally a top priority,” says Tisljar. “Without consistent quality in product flavor, consumers would lose trust in our brand. Fully equipped with FOODesign’s expertise, we were able to find the right system to allow for great taste and optimum coverage every time, while maintaining global hygiene standards.”

Onwards and upwards
“Now that the new system is up and running, we are experiencing double the production volumes, consistent seasoning application, reduced product breakage and virtually no downtime,” Tilsljar says. “The whole project ran extremely smoothly and we were especially impressed with FOODesign’s exceptional level of service and flexibility in system design. Immediately, we could see the benefits of their cutting-edge manufacturing solutions which delivered the speed, performance and accuracy we were looking for, while still producing the quality tortilla chips Donkey Brands customers have come to expect.”

Reardon says: “We are delighted to partner with Donkey Brands to help develop a modern, automated system for their tortilla line. Our technical expertise and industry know-how equips us with the ability to create and supply innovative products to our customers worldwide, offering start-to-finish solutions for the entire production line.”