Hi - I realize there are a few threads about this already, but they all seemed to be concerned with keeping an unrealistically low budget. I'll probably have several follow-up questions, so here is the first batch!
We manufacture and sell (to consumers and B2B) organic body wash (a gel-like body wash as is typical), and a foaming applicator compatible hand & body wash (which as you know has a consistency closer to water).
The business has taken off. Our commercial division supplies businesses across a variety of sectors (typically they fill their own soap dispensers, gel or foaming format, or purchase our smaller portable foaming pump 500ml bottles), and our consumer division sells directly to customers online, and B2B to retail locations in wholesale amounts.
So - really there are 2 formulas that it boils down to: gel and foaming formulas. But they're essentially identical except for thickening.
We're scaling. Our amateur start-up equipment won't do the trick for long.
We have some problems with our foaming soap - separation occurs quite quickly. With the gel soaps, it happens much more slowly, but it happens eventually. Much less of a concern though.
The water-like foaming version, though.. because of the texture, it is much less forgiving of our inferior process. Stuff floats to the top. We have a silly process where we 'only use' the bottom 95% of a batch after a period of settling. The gel soaps don't suffer from this problem because of the thickness. Well, it takes a long long time at least, and isn't even noticeable.
All-natural. Yes, we're one of those companies that will NOT introduce an ingredient that sounds scary. So, not so much looking for any changes that would involve changing ingredients across 7 SKUs and all of the re-labeling that that would involve.
Because of this image, customers are actually very forgiving with any imperfections in the product. In fact, just like all-natural peanut butter, they see the imperfections as VALIDATION that we are, in fact, an all-natural superior formulation without additives.
1) For a company looking to seriously improve the EMULSIFICATION and HOMOGENIZATION of its 2 products, what would be the natural entry-level step in terms of equipment? I've seen so, so many recommendations. A lot of you have pointed to the Lee Trimix High Shear Mixer. Boy it does look nice. But is it overkill as we scale from home-to-small-facility for the first time? We're not against spending a thousand or two on an intermediate Chinese machine.
2) Before we acquire such machinery, the only thing at our disposal is a Waring Big Stix immersion blender. We use this primarily during tracing/saponification. Is it possible, in the meantime, to use this machine for product emulsification / homogenization (and reducing particle size)? Can we possibly use this as a poor man's version for the time being? I figured that the blender head made it inappropriate for such an application.
3) Definition question: I understand that 'emulsification' means to mix ingredients (and keep them that way) that are normally un-mixable (water and oil, for example), and that 'homogenization' means to make the product have a very uniform texture (and perhaps reduce particle size), but they often seem to *come together* in equipment: does a homogenizing machine ALWAYS, as a consequence, also act as an emulsifier? I almost treat these 2 things as the same process in my head, although logically I understand that they have separate definitions.
4) What is the positive consequence of reducing the particle size of our product? Would it have any effect on how smoothly our product goes through a foaming dispenser (the foaming compatible formulation), for example?