“The testing laboratory is flexible enough to simulate almost all production processes. This allows us to test various enzyme systems for the customer until a complete and accurate product is determined, and the customer does not have to split his routine production to carry out his own tests. As it is clearly seen, this saves great amounts of time and money. It also assures the customer not to encounter any major problems when they change their production system according to the new recipe.”
Dr. Lutz Popper
Head of R&D, Mühlenchemie
Mühlenchemie, expert in enzyme compositions for pasta flour, has expanded his work in this field and set up a testing laboratory. The German company sees the combination of key expertise in raw materials, operations, and equipment as a promising way to push forward product optimizations and innovation efforts for the pasta market. Dr. Lutz Popper, Head of Research and Development at Mühlenchemie, shared his thoughts on this global actor's vision for the future with BBM Magazine.
Dear Dr. Popper, Mühlenchemie is known for its expertise in enzymes and additives. Now your company is getting more interested in pasta production. What made you decide to invest in pasta equipment?
Our portfolio has been including products consisting of active ingredients that are used to improve pasta flour or semolina for years. We have now created the ideal working environment on the production part of the equation, so that we will be able to develop practical solutions to the challenges in this industry. The pilot plant allows us to monitor the impact of the product throughout the production process, so that when the product is used at the customer's facility, we can fine-tune it until each additive works as best as possible. This gives a new dimension to our range of services.
Accordingly, you are reducing the gap between the laboratory and the industry-scale. What is this facility special?
This is a small, highly flexible facility from Pavan with only a few models around the world. The hourly production capacity with continuous work is 70 kilograms and the minimum amount of final product obtained in a test is around 10-15 kilograms. For example, one of its special features is the vacuum implemented in the mixing and extrusion stages. This prevents oxidative side effects and color changes. But what really matters to us about this facility is that it has a wide variety of uses and options.
Drying is also one of the sensitive phases of production. Quality can easily be damaged at this stage, and the result may be discoloration, cracks, and breaks. Which feature was the most important one in terms of the drying part?
Time, temperature and humidity have a major impact and they also affect the efficiency of our enzyme systems. Therefore, it is very important to be able to control this precisely. The new, fully automatic air-conditioning cabinet can be adjusted variably to control heat, air currents, and humidity. In this way, various drying and resting stages of production of pasta -let's say spaghetti- can be adjusted independently.
What is the apparent benefit of your new test laboratory to a pasta manufacturer?
The testing laboratory is flexible enough to simulate almost all production processes. This allows us to test various enzyme systems for the customer until a complete and accurate product is determined, and the customer does not have to split his routine production to carry out his own tests. As it is clearly seen, this saves great amounts of time and money. It also assures the customer not to encounter any major problems when they change their production system according to the new recipe.
Can you talk about the implementation part of this customer support? What steps does the product development include?
First of all, the client sends us his raw material and we analyze protein and gluten content, water absorption properties, ash, and many other parameters. We also make inquiries about the customer's pasta production process: how long is the dough mixed, what is the temperature, how much water is added, what are the drying process parameters? And, of course, we need to know what the customer wants to achieve. Although, sometimes this is an issue to reduce losses in the cooking phase, sometimes it can be about ideal baked product texture or a different color.
What are the criteria for the establishment of test series?
Preparation tests are carried out with our laboratory-scale facility using the customer's prescription. Then, our team discusses what additives may be suitable for this specific procedure. If the flour has lower than 10 percent protein content, we use compositions from, for example, our EMCEdur series, but if the protein content is higher than 11 percent, our choice may be products under the Pastazym Plus scale. Then, two or three days pass by testing and applying selected additives in different dosages using our laboratory-scale facility. After that comes the high-scale process where full-scale tests can be performed and which takes a few days. At the end of the tests, each customer receives a precise interpretation based on the results from the trials and analysis data.
May the customers come to your laboratories in Ahrensburg and personally observe the tests?
We will be pleased if our customers participate in the tests in our laboratory. In fact, this is the ideal situation. Usually, the best solution is achieved when a project is carried out in direct contact with the customer.
Based on your observations, could you tell us what is the most important problem for pasta manufacturers?
Flour quality! Durum is the ideal type of wheat used for pasta. However, due to the unstable prices and scarce supplies, many manufacturers have to use soft wheat or blends of hard and soft wheat instead. And this often causes problems.
Does Mühlenchemie have solutions ensuring processability?
For years, we have been at the forefront of developing innovative functional systems in order to convert flours that do not have the ideal qualities into durum pasta. Our goal is to help food manufacturers become more independent from the raw material markets. As a result, it is crucial to combine quality with profitability. Otherwise, companies will not be able to withstand global competition in the long run. This is what we work for, and our new pasta facility is a substantial element of our determination.