Since the mid-‘60s, family-owned, Lincoln Park, MI-based Pierino Frozen Foods, Inc. has built its reputation on quality. It now sells a range of gourmet pasta products across the foodservice, industrial and retail segments.
But when Gianni Guglielmetti, the president of the company, decided to upgrade its gourmet pasta operation, he could not have foreseen the 2015 egg crisis. Pierino purchases Grade A eggs in bulk to make pasta noodles. Because eggs have become increasingly expensive since the avian bird flu crisis began, improving processing efficiency is more important than ever for Pierino Frozen Foods.
Guglielmetti first began exploring a new way to individually quick freeze (IQF) after learning about a new rolling-wave IQF freezer from Linde LLC. The CRYOLINE CW (CRYOWAVE) IQF freezer had already proven successful at individually quick freezing diced poultry, meatballs, mushrooms and other foods. However, stuffed pastas are far more fragile than, for example, diced chicken or shrimp. The question became: Could this freezer handle gourmet pastas with little or no breakage?
Fully cooked pastas are still moist from the boiler, so they tend to stick together and to the belt while entering the tunnel freezer. Since appearance is a hallmark of quality in gourmet pasta, any pieces locked together, clumped or broken during quick freezing have to be scrapped. Pierino’s existing freezer used steam injection to minimize these problems and required at least two inspectors upstream to keep the pieces apart on the belt.
The CRYOWAVE IQF freezer uses a rolling-wave action that agitates the moist pasta on the belt to keep the pieces separate, prevent them from sticking to the belt and improve the flow of cryogen around them. The result is more rapid heat transfer, a much higher throughput and lower operating costs.
In addition, the CRYOWAVE IQF freezer, which uses either liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide, doesn’t produce the snow buildup associated with other types of cryogenic freezers, reducing the need for frequent cleaning. Guglielmetti says the CRYOWAVE freezer gives Pierino Frozen Foods the advantages of quality, productivity and 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,” he states.
The new freezer has helped the plant reduce losses due to tears and breakage, and achieve more consistent product quality. In fact, the 30,000-sq.-ft. 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, you also have to be the low-cost producer and have the capacity to fill big orders at the right price. Linde has helped us with these issues,” Guglielmetti explains.
Before Pierino installed the CRYOWAVE freezer, a variety of its filled and unfilled gourmet pasta products were tested at the Linde Food Labs in Cleveland, OH. During commissioning, the Linde Food team optimized the process—the belt speed, temperature and wave frequency—to maximize productivity for each pasta recipe and noodle size.
The five-meter freezer has an incoming belt that can be layered, allowing 25 to 40 percent more product to be quick frozen per hour. Plus, the new IQF freezer line only requires one worker on the incoming side, instead of the two required by the previous method.