Pizza Processing: Pizza Progressions

by Shane Whitaker
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Frozen and refrigerated pizzas appear to be recession proof, as sales in both categories increased despite the current economic downturn. According to The Nielsen Co., US frozen pizza sales climbed 8.5% in 2009 to more than $4.2 billion in annual sales. Refrigerated pizza is a smaller category, with annual dollar sales of approximately $328 million in 2009, yet this was a 16.3% increase from the previous year. And in 2008, refrigerated pizza sales increased nearly 30%.

Looking at the local supermarket freezer case, it is obvious that a wider variety of pizzas are available, featuring different crust styles and new toppings. Equipment manufacturers offer many different equipment options that can be used for processing pizza. The technologies discussed here are just some of the many that can be used on industrial pizza lines.


Continuous mixing is becoming much more popular for pizza crust lines whether they are produced using die-cut sheeting lines or with dough ball and presses, according to Mark Rosenberg, of Gemini Bakery Equipment Co., Philadelphia, PA. “The newest continuous mixer technology has been designed to accommodate the special needs of these style doughs,” he said. “These multistage mixers allow the blending, mixing and kneading times to be independently controlled. A specially designed hydrating zone will normally allow the client to add a higher volume of water as well.”

The Soba Tech continuous mixing system offers multistage dough development. The first stage is a blending and hydration station, next comes mixing and then last a kneading system. The continuous mixer delivers a consistent dough to operations and eliminates the ongoing problem of doughs ageing during the processing cycle, according to Mr. Rosenberg. Even though continuous mixers do not have excessive heat buildup during final mixing, the units can be equipped with jacketed kneading zones for improved dough temperature controls if needed.

High-speed batch mixers are also viable options for mixing dough and, in fact, are advantageous in operations with a variety of formulations.


When it comes to makeup systems, pizza manufacturers can choose from a variety of systems. They can use dividers and rounders to create dough balls and then hot or cold press the shells, or sheet the individual balls, or sheeting lines can be used and then diecut the pizza shells from the dough sheet.

One trend, according to Mr. Rosenberg, is smaller pizza shells weighing 5 to 14 oz. “We have successfully sold and delivered several systems during the past year that allowed clients to run these different sizes at 80 to 300 pieces per minute depending on product weight,” he said.

The updated line of Werner Pfleiderer divider/rounders available from Gemini provides excellent scaling accuracy and an ideally shaped dough ball for both cold- and hot-pressed pizza shells, according to Mr. Rosenberg. The combination divider/rounders are available in 2-up to 8-pocket units. The inline system offers highalignment efficiencies, reducing the problem of having the die on the press not properly filled, he added. “The inline system is much more efficient than commonly used individual dividers with separate rounders,” Mr. Rosenberg observed. Whereas traditional sheeting lines for making pizza crusts create scrap dough, Kaak Group North America, Lithia Springs, GA, now offers crosssheeters for dough balls, which produce no scrap while making the pizza base. “The cross-sheeting line is the best way to get artisan-style pizzas,” according to Bob Marraccini, vice-president of the company.

When cross-sheeting dough balls, the dough may be sheeted up to four times — two times in both directions — depending on how little stress the manufacturer wants to impart on the dough. The process helps the product look as if it were made by hand, according to Mr. Marraccini, yet it also is able to achieve a consistent size for packaging. These lines can produce between 6,000 and 8,000 pieces per hour.

Rademaker USA, Hudson, OH, offers low-stress sheeting options for creating artisan-style crusts. The supplier manufactures a Cross-Relaxer that is designed to replicate the action a baker may use by pulling the dough with his fingers.

RONDO North America, Moonachie, NJ, offers a sheet and cut process that allows the processor to form many different types of pizzas. The desired from can be stamped or cut out of a dough band. “Accessories can be easily and quickly changed without tools, so the changeover from one product to the other takes only minutes,” said Jerry Murphy, president of RONDO North America.

The supplier also developed a stamping device that allows processors to produce an artisanal rim on the pizza shell to look like an “Italian bistro-style” pizza that is more valuable in the market. “It looks more handmade and not like an industrialproduced pizza,” Mr. Murphy added.

Capway Systems, York, PA, offers the Capstep resting zone to rest/ relax pizza dough between presses. The compact, inline system lifts pans and transfers them over the top and back down. These are the same units the company uses for retarding, proofing and product and pan cooling, according to Frank Atcherberg, president of Capway. Gemini supplies intermediate proofers with any proofing/rest time a client may need. Proof times on its systems have ranged from five to 75 minutes. Products requiring oiling before proofing are equipped with automated oiling and oil reclamation options.

Equipment manufacturers have been challenged to develop topping units that are able to deposit a wider variety of ingredients to the top of pizzas, as well as to do it accurately because of the cost of ingredients. Raque Food Systems, Louisville, KY, offers scaled toppings systems, so processors are able to control weights for expensive ingredients such as meat and cheese. It also uses servo drives to help lines achieve higher throughputs.


C.H. Babb pizza ovens offer a faster, more efficient bake with increased production and lower emissions, according to Charles Foran, president of the Raytham, MAbased supplier. “Using green technology, our pizza ovens can provide 30 to 50% fuel savings compared with other style ovens,” he said. “For manufacturers that require a hearth bake, steel or stone, we use our hybrid-style oven that incorporates convective air above the hearth.”

C.H. Babb’s pizza ovens feature reduced oven footprints, saving valuable floor space. “Our ovens also include complete humidity and moisture control,” Mr. Foran added. “Controlling the moisture of the product helps provide a proper and consistent bake along with an extended shelf life. We also use trending through the PLC to ensure we are consistently delivering a perfect product.”

Pizza manufacturers prefer a direct-fired stone-hearth oven because it helps retain the moisture, according to Mr. Marraccini.

Fritsch developed a system to make American-style pizza produced without pans. Its characteristic “crust frying effect” is achieved by oiling the conveyor belt.

After baking, a depanner has to have an accurate vacuum control system to ensure that the par-baked and or topped pizzas are not damaged during the depanning process,” Mr. Atcherberg said. “The vacuum belts can be replaced quickly for sanitation and maintenance purposes. The depanners are constructed so they can be cleaned easily and can be provided in full wash down construction.”

Because frozen and refrigerated pizzas are consistently growing categories, suppliers are continually looking at upgrading and improving their equipment to help manufacturers meet the latest trends.

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