Serving a pasta-craving market

by Arvin Donley
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The Island of Sicily is one of Italy’s most populous regions, and pasta is the main staple food. While Italy by a wide margin ranks number one in the world in annual per capita pasta consumption at 28 kilograms (Venezuela is second at 12.9), the consumption level in Sicily is even higher at an astounding 39 kilograms.

Located at the southern end of Sicily is Molino San Paolo di Paolo Gallo S.p.A, a family-owned milling company that since 1955 has produced semolina and other types of flour used to make pasta and bread.

The company, which has been owned and operated by four generations of the Gallo family, has made numerous improvements to its facilities and added production capacity over the years. In 1974, the company increased its daily milling capacity at its Molino San Paolo mill, at that time located in the town of Palazzolo Acreide, to 100 tonnes of durum semolina.

Then, in 1983, in the town of Cassibile, the Gallo family began operating a second mill called Molitoria San Paolo, which produces soft wheat flour for making bread, pizza and bakery products.

The Gallo family’s latest capacity expansion and milling technology upgrade was completed in the spring of 2009, when it opened the new Molino San Paolo mill between the towns of Palazzolo Acreide (its original location) and Noto.

Interestingly, the area in which these cities are located — Val di Noto — features late Baroque churches and palaces and has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This declaration led regional authorities to try to relocate industries from the cities.

Paolo Gallo, who plays the role of "supervisor" in all important company decisions, said there were two main reasons for building the new mill.

"The first reason is that the old mill was located in the center of the city, so the transportation logistics were very difficult," he said. "The second reason is we wanted to increase the technology of the mill."

The building that houses the Molino San Paolo mill was completed in 2005, and the Gallo family awarded Uzwil, Switzerland-based Buhler AG the contract to supply the equipment for the durum mill in February 2008. Installation began in June 2008 and was completed earlier this year.

LATEST TECHNOLOGY

The first section of the plant consists of the raw material receiving plus the pre-cleaning and cleaning systems, which includes the Sortex Z3+ color sorter. The unique Buhler pearling technology, which involves processing the wheat prior to the first break, assures low specks and high semolina yield, said Gallo. The milling section includes 16 new Antares roller mills, Buhler’s latest model which was introduced to the market in 2008, as well as an Antares MDDT-eight roller mill. The grading system features Novastar plansifters and Puromat purifiers.

Molino San Paolo, which became ISO 9001 certified in 2001 and uses the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) quality management system, notes on its website that "the quality of incoming grain and flour produced are analyzed daily."

Equipment used in this process, Gallo said, includes the Buhler entoleter to prevent insect infestation as well as other Buhler equipment designed to help the mill meet the highest hygienic standards.

The company said it guarantees traceability of its products with the use of special software that collects all necessary information and is able to reconstruct the history of each batch of finished products, including the substances and materials used to produce it.

Gallo said the Molino San Paolo mill processes durum wheat from nearby fields and other Sicilian provinces. For products that require grain that is particularly high in protein, the mill brings in durum wheat from other countries including the United States, Canada, France, Greece and Spain.

Most of the products made at the Molino San Paolo mill are shipped by truck to domestic customers, Gallo said.

The good news for semolina producers in Italy is that the domestic demand for pasta has continued to grow in recent years, even when the price increased by more than 30% in 2007 and 2008, when the global commodity boom sent durum wheat prices soaring. According to data from the Italian Farmer’s Confederation, after a slight decrease in pasta consumption in 2007 in response to the price increase, consumption in Italy increased by 2.5% in 2008.

"Currently, the Italian pasta market is very important for our company because most of our products are allocated to the pasta factories," Gallo said. "We hope to increase our sales with the production at our new mill."

MOLITORIA SAN PAOLO

The company’s other mill, Molitoria San Paolo, located about 40 kilometers from the Molino San Paolo facility, has also been expanded and improved on several occasions since it was built in 1983. Initially built with a 24-hour milling capacity of 50 tonnes, it became a 100-tonne-per-24-hour mill in 1992. In 1994, it was fitted with two grain storage silos at the nearby Port of Siracusa, making the plant independent of the port terminal silos in the city. During the past decade, a new automatic bagging system was added and wheat bran storage capacity was doubled.

Grain storage capacity at the Molitoria San Paolo mill is now 7,200 tonnes, finished product storage capacity is 500 tonnes and warehouse storage capacity is 250 pallets.

As with the Gallo’s Molino San Paolo facility, the Molitoria San Paolo mill also puts a strong emphasis on quality control with an experimental bakery that uses a wide range of testing equipment including an alveograph, farinograph, and SDmatic to ensure that the end product meets customer specifications.

While the Molino San Paolo mill primarily makes semolina for the domestic pasta market, the Molitoria San Paolo mill produces flour that is used to make everything from biscuits, pizza and breadsticks to confectionary products such as donuts, croissants, panettone and pandoro. The mill also produces whole wheat flour.

"Our company produces 10 kinds of flour and semolina and we hope to increase that number in the future," said Gallo.

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