Ettore Accenti, international director for Italy-based Essedue System, is on the hunt in the US for a partner interested in producing all-natural gnocchi using the company’s processing
method.

Accenti, who was recently dishing out cooked samples of the company’s own gnocchi product at PackExpo in Chicago, claims Essedue‘s system is the only one in the world that begins
the production process with whole potatoes. Other systems currently in use begin with potato flower or flakes and have to use additives, preservatives and coloring agents, he told
FoodProductionDaily.com.

With the growing consumer demand for more natural and preservative-free foods and the current craze for the Mediterranean diet, the company believes it could sell the rights to its
proprietary system in the US without undermining its market in Europe.

Essedue owns the only version of its high-volume production system, developed by the group’s founders 10 years ago. The company began life as a packaged gnocchi manufacturer, after Fabio
Scattolin and his sister Nadia Scattolin decided to develop an industrial-scale machine that could replicate the Italians’ traditional method of making gnocchi at home.

The company’s current system is based in Trevisto, northern Italy. It is in the process of building an updated ?1.5m version to meet the growing demand for its product.

The company currently holds a 10 per cent share of Italy’s gnocchi market. About 90 per cent of its production is sold in Italy, due to the short shelf life of the fresh packaged product.
Essedue also sells the gnocchi as a private label products to supermarkets in Italy and Germany.

The demand for fresh, natural foods without preservatives is mushrooming, Accenti said. There is so much demand for our product in Europe that we are sold out to the fall of
2007.

Gnocchi is a traditional Italy food, essentially a dumpling made mostly of potato. Essedue product is 70 per cent potatoes, wheat flour, eggs, salt and a sprinkling of sunflower oil.

By using fresh potatoes, and steam cooking them before moulding into the tradition gnocchi shape, Essedue claims it is able to keep the traditional texture, while preserving all the important
vitamins and nutritive content in the potato as well as starch and calcium.

Accenti says many other industrially produced gnocchi in the world are composed with surrogates such as potato flour, semolina or potato flakes, eggs and salt. These production processes not
only change the taste but also the nutritive content and the consistence of the gnocchi, he claims.

It tastes like shit, he said, referring to the other products. To manufacture gnocchi industrially in large volumes so it tastes like it was made traditionally is a tremendous
challenge.

The Essedue system involves a 20-stage machine that requires 4,000 sq. ft. of space. It produces about one tonne of gnocchi per hour and requires about 15 staff to man over 1.5 shifts. Accenti
said the company’s updated machine will only require about eight staff to run.

There is more automation and electronics in the new system, he said.

The process starts with whole fresh potatoes. The potatoes are first soaked, then washed and brushed. A third stage involves manually removing any low quality potatoes before the rest are moved
into the cooking section. There the potatoes are steamed with the skins on, a way of keeping the texture, taste and nutrition, Accenti said.

The cooked potatoes are then crushed, then smashed. The resulting puree is then cooled before being mashed again. An impasting section mixes in the wheat flour, eggs and salt. Other ingredients
such as mushrooms can be mixed in at this stage.

The mix is then shaped into traditional gnocchi through an extrusion process, before being cooked again. The shaped gnocchi is then cooled before being oiled. The oil lubrication helps the
gnocchi shape to survive while being packaged in the next stage.

The product then goes through metallic impurity control, pasteurisation, breakdown, quality control, labelling and final packaging before being released from the plant. The product, which must
be kept chilled at between 6C to 8C, has a shelf life of 60 days.

Gnocchi must be manufactured where it is consumed, Accenti said. If it is frozen, 50 per cent of the taste and texture is lost.

Essedue sells its gnocchi at a slightly higher price that other competiting products. Accenti believes a company in the US can sell at three times the current price in that market due to the
higher premium put on the all natural product category.

He adds that a US company would find it much easier to source potatoes than if they were in Europe.

The US has the best and cheapest potatoes in the world, he exclaims.

by Ahmed ElAmin