Mixum AB is the largest producer of cooked pasta in Sweden, much of which is supplied to Picadeli AB, the salad bar chain popular in Sweden, Scandinavia and much of northern and western Europe. Mixum provides pasta-based salads to almost 3,000 Picadeli locations.
The company’s success is due largely to its meticulous attention to product quality, food safety and streamlined manufacturing initiatives. Mixum operates in compliance with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and is certified through FSSC (Food Safety System Certification) 22000 and ISO 14001.
In 2012, Mixum rebuilt its entire production facility into a model food processing plant, with some emphasis on energy efficiency. One of the key systems installed was a line of continuous-process blanching and cooling equipment for pasta, which replaced a batch processing system being used for more than a decade.
“We were cooking our pasta in batch vessels,” explains Magnus Franzen, CEO of Mixum. “This did not give us much control of our cooking and cooling times. We were looking for a solution that could both cook and cool the pasta, maintain better control over the entire process and get more consistent product quality.”
Mixum also needed to increase its production throughput to keep pace with growing demand for its pasta products. It needed shorter runs of a wider selection of pasta to be processed, with increasing need for quick changeovers and faster clean-up and turnaround times.
“After reviewing many process options, we decided on a continuous-process Clean-Flow XT blancher, from Lyco Manufacturing, and a continuous-process Easy-Flow cooler, also from Lyco,” says Franzen.
The Clean-Flow XT blancher addresses Mixum’s need for more consistent pasta quality, and faster clean-up and changeovers. The blancher utilizes a 40-in. diameter auger with flights to move the pasta through water, fully submerged, from input to output. It is equipped with Hydro-Flow agitation, a Lyco development, which enables more uniform cooking and cooling. Hydro-Flow uses water flow to create turbulence, so it keeps the pasta moving to achieve a more even cook – eliminating under- and over-cooking of the pasta and losses from sticking and clumping.
Faster sanitary cleanup time is key with Clean-Flow. What would normally take several hours for a thorough sanitary cleaning, can now be done in 30 minutes, reducing labor hours and increasing flexibility for more frequent changeovers to accommodate shorter production runs. A clean-in-place system, utilizing spray manifolds, cleans 98 percent of the auger and tank by itself.
The pasta exiting the blancher is gently deposited into the Easy-Flow cooler via a flume, where it is quickly and evenly cooled to bring it down to the required 40°F final temperature.
Traditionally, pasta products take 12 mins. to cook and another 5-10 mins. to cool to 40°F. Mixum’s Easy-Flow cooler receives the 180-200°F pasta and chills it to 40°F or less in under 30 seconds.
When the pasta enters the cooler, it is pulled into a damage-free, Venturi-action water plenum and mixed with cold water where the heat begins to be removed. The cooler consists of four zones, or chambers, for cooling the pasta. Each zone submerges and mixes the pasta in chilled 33°F water where it rapidly discharges heat. The first stage cools the pasta to below 70°F in under 10 seconds. The second stage cools the pasta to 55°F, the third and fourth stages bring the pasta temperature down to 40°F or less.
Automatically controlling the pasta cooking and cooling, with consistent parameters for temperatures, process times and recipes, has completely outperformed the batch method used formerly by Mixum.
“With the batch method, we were running about 650 lbs. of pasta per hour,” Franzen explains. “With the new blancher/cooler, we are processing about 2,200 lbs. per hour and still not running at full capacity. We can achieve more exact process temperatures and times, and the pasta quality is much better.”
For more information contact Jeff Zittel at Lyco Manufacturing, 920-623-4152, firstname.lastname@example.org.