According to SF&WB's 2019 State of the Industry analysis, the frozen retail pizza segment increased by 4.8 percent from 2018 to 2019 and has hit $5.0 billion in annual retail sales, per IRI (see “State of the Industry 2019: Pizza offers more options, healthier crust alternatives”).
In early 2019, Unifiller Systems was acquired by Linxis Group, the group that now includes competencies related to mixing and ingredient dosing. Linxis Group now brings significant production capabilities to pizza manufacturing. In order to learn more about these capabilities, we reached out to Sonia Bal, director of marketing.
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What are the different companies currently operating within Linxis Group?
Sonia Bal: Primarily based in North America and Europe, the Linxis Group consists of leading companies focusing on mixing technologies (Diosna and VMI), portioning technology (Unifiller) as well as ingredient dosing systems (Shick-Esteve). The group of companies offer efficiencies in industrial and craft production in baked goods, food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, among other industries. Our portfolio ranges from compact systems to fully automated lines, with a focus on simple and cost-effective operations.
DJP: What are the different pizza production capabilities across Linxis Group companies?
SB: Both Diosna and VMI offer mixing technology for dough production. Diosna offers in-house dough specialists who visit customer sites to make recommendations for flour, mixing time and process based on the customers recipe and preference. Diosna strives to provide expertise in complete dough production, from the dosage and dough preparation, to the mixing process, and up to hand-over logistics. Diosna’s unique DIOStart bio and engineering technology for pre-dough and mixing, results in better taste, consistency and a far more efficient mixing process, ensuring all the right conditions for the best crust. Diosna offers a variety of mixers which all have a different impact on pizza dough.
Shick Esteve automates the delivery of the ingredients, dry and liquid, for dough production. Their systems provide highly accurate, reliable, and repeatable results benefitting producers in the forms of labor reduction, quality and consistency.
Unifiller offers pumping and depositing technology for pizza sauce. Depositors are used to plop, spread, or spray pizza crusts with accurate portions of sauce to reduce product waste and optimize production. Ingredient costs are increasing globally, so remaining competitive is vital—that’s why efficiency gains at the plant level by using portioning equipment either to increase production yield, reduce production time or streamline labor offer a competitive advantage. Accurately portioned pizza dough or sauce is very important since product waste can impact profitability, create labor inefficiencies, impact the environment and consumer attitudes.
DJP: What are the unique benefits of working with Linxis Group to source pizza production equipment and technology?
SB: The group of companies offers integrated solutions that can work for the pizza production process—from flour, recipe and mixing development to accurate sauce dosing and depositing to ingredients handling. It’s why brands like Domino’s have trusted Diosna, particularly, for over 30 years. Diosna offers more than just mixing equipment. They offer training courses on the topics of operation, cleaning and maintenance, best settings for core product lines and opportunities for fine-tuning. Its Diosna’s mandate to help improve the dough process to increase the quality of customers’ baked goods permanently—for example, they provide comprehensive flour analysis, which focuses on protein content, water binding capacity and more.
DJP: What do you see as current trends in the retail frozen pizza market?
SB: People love pizza—it’s always in demand, so retail and commercial pizza production is on the rise, everywhere. Internationally, we see the middle class growing in developing countries so the demand for convenient (frozen -ready to eat) western food like pizza is flourishing. North American segments are looking to create interesting menu items by taking the classic pizza and adding a “diverse” twist.
According to Diosna’s sister company Shick Esteve, a current trend is the proliferation of alternate crusts, i.e., gluten free, plant based, etc. Gluten free pizza has been on the rise for years. Gluten free dough can be very liquid; and we see our sister company Unifiller utilizing depositors to portion crusts that look more like cake batter (pre-bake). Some gluten free brands use cauliflower or broccoli mixture for pizza crusts. When it comes to gluten -free, safety requirements are even stricter—i.e., the need for separate equipment lines and stringent cleaning protocol. Organic and vegan pizzas are also in demand. Vegetarian pizza offers unique toppings like broccoli, corn, mayo and spicy flavor profiles using sweet and hot chilies. Shick Esteve provides the similar capabilities to customers who need to automate the addition of ingredients for alternate crusts as they do for traditional. Their new technology center located in Kansas City provides proof of concept to those customers interested in automation.
DJP: Do you see customers utilizing unique ingredients in their dough? Or needing their dough to withstand certain new standards or situations?
SB: Safety standards are always in play when it comes to food production. There’s not a lot of variety in pizza dough—it’s very simple. Mostly, made up of a few ingredients—flour, salt, yeast, water and oil. It’s also common to see reducing agents added to doughs to either reduce mixing time for frozen pizza doughs or to increase the stretch or spread of the dough. The combination of ingredients, hydration level, combined with the mixing style, the fermentation process, rolling, baking (time and temperature) and freezing process will impact the taste, thickness and chew of the crust.
Most companies that produce pizza are looking for efficiency gains like those that can be achieved by Diosna’s Wendel Mixer, which can knead dough faster for reduced mixing time.
DJP: How can Linxis Group pizza competencies help frozen pizza manufacturers align their production with those trends?
SB: The first step is to contact us. The Linxis group is a big believer in win-win outcomes. We want to ensure that the customers’ requirements are met, while leveraging unique ideas and innovation that come from our global experience of supporting food brands across the world.