Rolling-Wave Freezer Gives Pasta Maker ‘Eggstra’ Edge
When Pierino Frozen Foods President Gianni Guglielmetti decided to upgrade his gourmet pasta operation with a new cryogenic freezer from Linde LLC, he could not have foreseen the egg crisis coming to the USA, or fully appreciated the advantage that the freezer now offers.
Based in Lincoln Park, Michigan, Pierino Frozen Foods purchases Grade A eggs in bulk to make pasta noodles, and incoming ingredient quality is paramount to its success. Since last December more than 48 million birds have been lost in avian flu control efforts – all of which has pushed egg prices skywards. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the retail price for a dozen large eggs has surged by 31% to $2.57 during the past year.
Guglielmetti first began exploring a different way to individually quick freeze (IQF) in 2014 after learning about a rolling-wave IQF freezer from Linde LLC, the Cryoline CW, or CRYOWAVE, which had proven successful for individually quick freezing diced poultry, meatballs, mushrooms, fruits, pizza toppings and other high-value foods. The special advantage the freezer now gives Pierino is not just quality and productivity, but competitiveness.
“Commodity prices on eggs have just gone through the roof, so it’s nice to have some efficiencies in the facility to combat that,” said the president.
The patented CRYOWAVE IQF unit uses a proprietary rolling-wave action to keep items on the belt separate as they freeze. This is no small feat when processing thousands of pounds per hour of wet, moist pasta. IQF flighted freezers can easily break fragile products and are prone to carbon dioxide (CO2) snow build up, requiring frequent clean-outs for maintenance. Even with traditional in-line tunnel freezers, IQF items tend to stick to the belt and clump together when blasted with cryogen at temperatures well in excess of 50°F below zero. Sticking, tearing and clumping all contribute to product losses and take a bite out of profits.
“The stuffed pasta market is very competitive. We’ve been working with Linde since we first entered cryogenic freezing more than 15 years ago, and they’ve always stepped up to the plate in trying to make us more efficient. So they’ve helped us grow, and they’ve increased our capacity for further growth – and sometimes that’s more important,” said Guglielmetti, who assumed the helm as president after his father, Pierino, retired last year.
Since the mid-1960s, the family-owned company has built its reputation on quality, and today sells a range of gourmet pasta products across foodservice, industrial and retail segments. Against this competitive backdrop, the new CRYOWAVE freezer helped the plant reduce losses due to tears and breakage, and achieve more consistent product quality, according to Guglielmetti. In fact, the 30,000-square-foot facility became quality certified in June in accordance with Global Food Safety Initiative protocols.
“Not only do you need that certification a lot of times just to bid on a project, but you also have to be the low-cost producer and have the capacity to fill big orders at the right price, and Linde helps us do that,” said the president.
When purchasing new in-line freezers, many processors buy based on rated specifications, only to find the reality falls short, he pointed out. Before installing the CRYOWAVE freezer, a variety of Pierino filled and unfilled gourmet pasta products were tested at Linde Food Labs in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I traveled to the Food Labs three or four times, bringing in different products and working with Linde to see the reality of how the CRYOWAVE freezer could impact our production,” said Guglielmetti.
Linde performs turnkey installations, including cryogen supply (in Pierino’s case liquid nitrogen), vacuum-jacketed piping, process exhaust, safety training, and optimizing the process for each recipe. For the CRYOWAVE freezer, this included temperature, belt speed, and wave frequency of the belt.
For any process, optimizing quality and productivity over time requires vigilance. As part of the service agreement, Linde engineers and technicians perform scheduled maintenance and regularly monitor the process for adjustment.
Equally important, the food contact gases Linde supplies the food and beverage industry must meet strict standards as food ingredients, per new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements going into effect in August. Linde has a food safety management system in place for all bulk carbon dioxide (CO2) plants and air separation facilities supplying the food and beverage industry in North America and beyond.
After six months of running the CRYOWAVE freezer, Pierino Frozen Foods reduced nitrogen consumption by about 16% compared to the existing tunnel freezer, while increasing throughput, on average, up to 25% to 40%. In addition, because the wet incoming items can touch on the rolling-wave belt, the company was able to reduce labor on the incoming side by one person. And all this was accomplished in less space than before (16.4 ft. vs. 20 ft.).
Murray Hill, New Jersey, USA-based Linde LLC is a member of the Munich, Germany-headquartered Linde Group. In 2014 the Group generated revenue of $17.9 billion (EUR 17.047 billion), making it the largest gases and engineering company in the world with approximately 65,500 employees working in more than 100 countries.