Less than 1 billion of the 6.5 billion people in the world eat pasta, and that's good news for the Italian manufacturers of dry pasta equipment.
"Pasta is the cheapest food available," says Luigi Fava, managing director of Fava S.p.A. Moreover, pasta is nutritious, versatile, easy to prepare and long-lasting. Dry pasta can be stored up to a year. As a result of these attributes, pasta consumption is growing globally, including areas such as Africa and the Middle East. Population growth is helping to fuel pasta consumption, notes Fava, as five markets for pasta will double in population by 2050 -- Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Iran. All told, approximately 11.7 million tons of pasta is produced annually, according to the Union of Italian Pasta Manufacturers (UNIPI).
Pasta primarily is made from durum wheat semolina(though other grains can be used) that is mixed with water, kneaded and formed into shapes, then dried. Processing continues as the pasta is cooled, cut if necessary and packaged. Commercial pasta plants feature production lines that can be as much as 900 feet long.
Fava S.p.A. is a third-generation company headquartered in Cento, near Balogna, Italy, that produces pasta-making equipment. In 2008, sales were 72 million euros. The firm does custom manufacturing to customer specifications. Output from these machines ranges from 500 kg/hour to 8,000 kg/hour for long and short cut pasta, and up to 2,000 kg/hour for nest shapes. Fava says his company strives to produce simple and reliable technical solutions because pasta plants work around the clock, and often are staffed with unskilled workforces.
Drying pasta during the production process requires precise control of both temperature and humidity. During the drying phases of a production line, dough that is more than 30% water is quickly reduced to a maximum moisture content of 12.5%. Machinery must adapt to not only the moisture and temperature of the product, Fava notes, but also the ambient humidity and temperature.
Research and development is also a critical ongoing activity at Pavan Group, based in Galliera Veneta, Italy. At the company's Pavan Research Center, 30 people, including process technologists, analysts and mechanics, have three pilot plants and 4 production lines available to develop and test new products. For example, says Luciano Mondardini, the R&D director, the company was the first to introduce a vacuum in the mixing of dough, which prevents oxidation and subsequent discoloration of the dough. About 20 years ago, the company developed TAS (Thermo Active System) dryers which reduced drying times for pasta dough from 6 to 8 hours to 2 hours. Through such activities, the company is pursuing a strategy of providing a complete solution to customers from process or product development to the design and installation of a turnkey plant.
Founded in 1946, Pavan Group has six brands for its process machinery and equipment: Pavan, Mapimpianti, Toresani, Montoni, Stiavelli and Dizma, and Pizeta. In 2008, the company had sales of 90 million euros and did 95% of its sales in exports to 118 countries. Some 58% of the companys business was associated with dry pasta, while 18% was extruded and special products, 12% was packaging equipment, 8% was fresh pasta and ready meals and 4% of sales was in dies and accessories.
One of Pavan's markets experiencing constant change and growth is turnkey plants and machines for the production of snacks. Company officials note that there is an evolution occurring as consumers want the speed of snack foods, but also want healthier snacks. That is requiring machinery that can deal with a range of raw materials and shapes. Pavan is applying some of its pasta technologies to the production of snack pellets, a semi-finished product often made from corn. Snack pellets, for example, can be forced through dies such as stars or wheels, cut and then precisely cooled to maintain the shape. The pellets are dried and can later be expanded during frying or toasting.