Today’s pizza toppings are increasingly diverse. In addition to classic add-ons like pepperoni and sausage, Datassential reported that consumers are increasingly interested in meat substitutes and plant-based alternatives. For pizzamakers, this means equipment must be able to place a wide variety of toppings efficiently and accurately.

“Toppings that are inconsistent in shape and size can be a challenge,” said Tom Trost, sales manager, Quantum Technical Services. “Topping applicator deposits are generally volumetric, so it is important to have ingredients that are similar in size and shape to achieve consistent deposit volumes. For example, broccoli florets and sliced tomatoes can be a challenge to get even coverage across the pizza surface.”

Quantum’s bulk feed conveyors can be loaded with a higher volume of product that is automatically fed to a waterfall applicator via a hopper level sensor.

“This creates a steady state of product entering the system allowing for more accurate and reproducible volumes,” Mr. Trost said.

Additionally, interfacing waterfall cheese applicators with automated cheese shredders can help pizzamakers improve deposit consistency and reduce waste.  

A waterfall system remains the fastest way to apply toppings, but higher priced pizzamakers may opt for a target applicator for improved accuracy, said Ken Hagedorn, vice president, bakery sector, Handtmann. 

AMF Tromp’s Smart Applicator is a target applicator that uses advanced imaging technology and AI to analyze pizzas for correct topping coverage and weight. The Smart Applicator can then adjust in real time to ensure product consistency and improve application going forward, as well as eliminate operator involvement and product waste. 

“We reduce giveaway and ensure the amount of product is always correct,” said Hans Besems, executive product manager, AMF Tromp, an AMF Bakery Systems brand. “That reduces cheese giveaway up to 3% per day. Over time, that’s huge.” 

And at this year’s International Bakery Industry Exposition (IBIE), Gemini debuted its line of precision sauce applicators made in partnership with Foodjet. The depositors use vision technology coupled with high-speed nozzle activation to apply a variety of sauces, even those with large particulates.

Pizza processing advancements are also helping bakers save on energy and costs. AMF, for example, revamped its Powershot sauce depositor to now use a servo motor instead of compressed air to deposit the sauce, which can cut costs for a manufacturer. 

“If you look at the life cycle of this machine, you save a lot of energy, in this case CO2, for the customer,” Mr. Besems said.

Further down the line, AMF’s sustainable oven service monitors gas consumption in a factory and gives energy-saving recommendations to manufacturers. 

“Customers have been able to reduce gas consumption by up to 18% — that’s enormous,” Mr. Besems said. “These are little things that a lot of people don’t see, but once we start monitoring and providing them with that data, it can make them aware and begin saving energy.”

This article is an excerpt from the November 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Pizza Processing, click here.