When Gianni Guglielmetti, the new President of Pierino Frozen Foods, Inc. decided to upgrade his gourmet pasta operation with a new cryogenic freezer from Linde LLC, he could not have foreseen the egg crisis coming, or fully appreciated the advantage that the new 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 remains paramount to success. But there is no controlling commodity pricing. Since December, more than 48 million birds have been lost in avian flu control efforts — all of which has pushed egg prices skywards.

Guglielmetti first began exploring a new way to individually quick freeze (IQF) in 2014 after learning about a new rolling-wave IQF freezer from Linde LLC, the CRYOLINE® CW (CRYOWAVE®) IQF freezer, which had proven successful for individually quick freezing diced poultry, meatballs, mushrooms, and other foods. The special advantage the CRYOWAVE freezer now gives Pierino Frozen Foods though is not just quality and productivity, but competitiveness, he says.

“Commodity prices on eggs have just gone through the roof, so it’s nice to have some efficiencies in the facility to combat that,” says Gianni Guglielmetti.

The patented CRYOWAVE IQF Freezer 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 50oF below zero. Sticking, tearing, clumping — all contribute to product losses and take a bite out of the bottom line.

Cryogenic Competitiveness 

“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,” says Gianni who assumed the helm as president after his father, Pierino, retired last year.

Since the mid ’60s, the family-owned company has built its reputation on quality, and now sells a range of gourmet pasta products across food service, industrial and retail segments. Against this competitive backdrop, the new CRYOWAVE IQF Freezer helped the plant reduce losses due to tears and breakage, and achieve more consistent product quality, Guglielmetti said. 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, 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.”

When purchasing new in-line freezers, many processors buy based on rated specifications, only to find the reality falls short, he says. Before installing the CRYOWAVE freezer, a variety of Pierino filled and unfilled gourmet pasta products were tested at the Linde Food Labs in Cleveland, Ohio. “We’re in the Detroit area, so I travelled 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.”

New Wave of Advantages

· Proprietary ‘Rolling-wave’ Action Ideal for Many Hot Pasta Products

· Helps Keep Wet Items from Sticking and Clumping on the Belt

· IQF Products Can be Pre-Tested at Linde Food Labs

· Linde Optimizes the New Freezing Process for Productivity

· Service Agreements Help Maximize Operating Efficiency

Linde performs turnkey installations, including cryogen supply, in this case liquid nitrogen (LIN), 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 & 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 & beverage industry in North America.

Crises may come and go, but competitive advantages can extend well into the future. After six months running the CRYOWAVE IQF Freezer, Pierino Frozen Foods reduced nitrogen consumption about 16 percent compared to the existing tunnel freezer while increasing throughput, on average, up to 25 to 40 percent. 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.).