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Innovation directions

Posted: 13 June 2008 | Francesco Pantò, Roberto Ranieri and Renzo Rizzo, R&D, Barilla G. e R. Fratelli | No comments yet

Pasta is recognised as a family menu staple because it offers a number of unique benefits that other foods do not, such as a broad taste appeal, the versatility of usage, the convenience of preparation and being an inexpensive alternative to other main entrees.

Pasta is recognised as a family menu staple because it offers a number of unique benefits that other foods do not, such as a broad taste appeal, the versatility of usage, the convenience of preparation and being an inexpensive alternative to other main entrees.

Pasta is recognised as a family menu staple because it offers a number of unique benefits that other foods do not, such as a broad taste appeal, the versatility of usage, the convenience of preparation and being an inexpensive alternative to other main entrees.

Any innovation in pasta that aims to be relevant should start from the core of pasta, which, as a product, is the exclusive durum wheat semolina usage and the variety of shapes. From a technological standpoint, the pillars of pasta making are: gluten formation, extrusion and drying.

A new approach to pasta making is to offer durum wheat, as a usable product in the same preparation way of pasta or rice: this gives people a new opportunity of consumption that builds on current habits, leading them towards unconventional directions.

A more traditional product that had to face a quality perception gap to become successful is whole wheat pasta. Now the segment is growing strongly, thanks to a positive trend in healthy products, and objective improvements in product quality: this has been obtained by combined research efforts and investments in different areas of the whole wheat pasta supply chain, including durum wheat variety development, appropriate milling technology developments specific for whole wheat semolina production and progress in pasta making, specifically applied to whole wheat pasta context.

Regarding variety development, Barilla’s approach is to know, in-depth, the whole production chain, and to understand the critical points to study and develop research projects. Often, the answer is conventional and molecular assisted breeding. Adopting breeding in durum wheat, Barilla has been able to differentiate some of its products in terms of texture, nutrition, taste, aroma and appearance.

A tough challenge is to develop new language possibilities for products: the language of pasta is mainly related to the texture dimension, the one of “al dente”. An intense and ambitious technology and innovation program is aimed at creating new contents of pasta – different colours and texture, different ingredients and preparation methods.

Pasta is a perfect carrier of any type of ingredient, benefit and component, better than other foods which are more difficult to process and to incorporate functional ingredients. For pasta, the challenge is to direct innovation and value creation processes into enabling new languages and new associations of form and functions.

Applying this approach to durum wheat, the objective is not to add different and valuable durum fractions to semolina, but to apply pasta technology to everything that is durum wheat, except semolina. This brings traditional pasta making to the technology of ‘gluten-scarce’ products, using extrusion-cooking techniques or thermal pre-treatment of ingredients and dough. A product could be thought as combination after kneading and pre-extrusion of two parts:

  • One made without semolina and with durum wheat specific bran fractions technologically treated with a technology developed for gluten-scarce ingredients
  • One made with traditional semolina through more conventional technology of ‘gluten-rich’ products

Durum wheat itself can be seen as a powerhouse of new product proposals and not as a semolina product. These are new products where the durum wheat derivative, rich in soluble fibres or arabynoxilans or minerals or vitamins, is used as much as possible as the main component of a product extruded and shaped like pasta. This is a much wider approach, since the ingredients and their nutritional or technological features become the product base itself.

Two essential traits have to be combined to succeed in this innovation path:

  1. a deep mastery and understanding of the how and why of traditional pasta making
  2. a daring innovative attitude to overcome the comfort zone with the courage of breaking the rules which took so long to set

References

De Ambrogio E. and Ranieri R. 2002. Durum Wheat Breeding aiming at Yield Stability and High Pasta- Making Quality, in From Biodiversity to Genomics: Breeding Strategies for Small Grain Cereals in the Third Millenium, Salsomaggiore, Italy. November 21-25, 2002.

De Ambrogio E., G. Ferrazzano, R. Ranieri, M. Silvestri, F. Sestili, A. Saliola Bucelli and D. Lafiandra. 2006. Manipulation of starch composition in wheat breeding in Italy. World Grain Summit: Food and Beverages. September 17-20, 2006, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Milatovic Lj., Mondelli G. 1990 pp. 1-67. Pasta Technology Today. Chiriotti Ed.

Kruger J.E., Matsuo R.B., Dick J.W. 1996. pp. 13-74 Pasta and Noodle Technology. American Association of Cereal Chemists, Inc.