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Into the Kitchen
Fatronik joins other companies and
research centers in taking advantage of
Spain's culinary acclaim. Spanish food
machinery companies supply not only the
Spanish market but the global one, garner-
ing fans as they continue innovating to
meet consumer needs.
One factor driving innovation has been
the change in the way people eat. "Family
meals have been reduced, at best, to once a
day, and that's dinner," says Josep Mon-
fort, director of food technology at the
Food and Agriculture Research and Tech-
nology Center (IRTA in Spanish). "And the
average time dedicated by the whole fam-
ily to that meal is about 20 to 35 minutes.
Companies need to adapt to the new needs
and attitudes of consumers. Ready-to-heat,
ready-to-eat---those types of foods are
growing in the market."
IRTA, located in a rural area near
Girona, opened in 1985 with funding from
the government and local businesses. Its
spare white halls and cavernous rooms
house machinery and labs to test different
aspects of food production. In one, a huge
x-ray machine allows the center to perform
noninvasive tests on animals for genetics
companies. Another series of rooms pro-
vides the means to evaluate drying meth-
ods. The natural light flooding the space
feels cold, and it is: heat is removed from
the light so as not to affect any of the heat-
Monfort cooperates with food process-
ing companies in the area to create new
technologies. In a recent successful col-
laboration, researchers at the center worked
with the local company Metalquimia, which
produces machinery for meat processing, to
develop a new system that could vastly
increase productivity in meat curing.
Josep Lagares, whose father founded
Metalquimia, explains that the current sys-
tem of curing and drying meat for products
such as chorizo and salami hasn't changed
significantly since the time of the Romans.
The ground meat is salted and infused with
spices. It ferments for a short time to fuse
the mass together. Then the meat hangs and
slowly dries before the final product is
ready to be sold.
Today, though, many people around the
world buy meat pre-sliced, instead of
whole. "So why don't we turn the process
around? Why don't we slice it first and then
dry it?" continues Lagares. "If you pre-
slice the produce, you have a much smaller
surface to dry."
Metalquimia partnered with IRTA and
a local meat processor. For three years, the
company has been perfecting the machin-
ery to optimize the taste, safety, and stabil-
ity of the system. "Unless you're an expert,
a professional in the field, the taste is
almost indistinguishable [from the stan-
dard]," he says.
The company has a small industrial
machine at the factory and is putting the
finishing touches on a large-scale machine
that will be tested at the nearby meat pro-
ducer. Once Metalquimia is fully satisfied
with the results of scaling up the system, it
will market the machine to its international
customers, many of whom are already
clamoring to buy one.
Lagares says the company's creativity
began with his father, who invented
machines that "simply didn't exist before."
For instance, he developed a machine that
would inject the meat with brine, allowing
for even distribution and curing. Encourag-
ing this type of innovation has become a
systematic part of company culture.
Rather than taking advantage of the
trend toward increasingly fast food, NC
Hyperbaric profits from the growing inter-
est in natural, minimally processed foods.
A spinoff of Nicolás Correa, the company
began operations in 2000, industrializing
a heat-free pasteurization method.
"Traditionally, foods were processed
by thermal methods to make them safer for
NC Hyperbaric's high-pressure chambers pasteurize food without heat.
"Traditionally, foods were processed by thermal methods to make them safer
for longer. But the heat has an impact on the quality of the foods and the integ-
rity of the ingredients."
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NC HYBERBARIC
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