Tomasso started out over ten years ago as a neighborhood pizzeria in Buenos Aires with door-to-door delivery. It has grown over the years thanks to a franchise business model and frozen pizza business and began eying international exports in Spain, Italy and the US where demand for empanadas is on the rise.
Scaling up the SME to become an international exporter of empanadas and pizzas required action in three different areas: product formulation, more efficient processing and ISO certification to meet European and US export norms.
It asked Argentina’s National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI), which is mandated to help Argentinian SMEs develop and accompany them in their search for new markets, to help.
"We plan on expanding both nationally and internationally [and] we are working on both challenges with INTI", said Diego Giavarini, Tomasso owner and general manager of Tomasso.
Working with INTI researchers has allowed Tomasso to more than triple output, going from 9,000 empanadas each day to 30,000.
Smoothing the cracks
One of the first challenges in scaling up was the recipe itself: the dough was cracking during the cooking stage.
INTI looked at several different steps of the production process, from the dough preparation to assembling the empanadas, from refrigeration to the transport steps. At each step, it identified the critical parameters and potential areas for improvement, said Mariana Sánchez, coordinator of industrial processes and technical innovation at INTI.
This allowed Sánchez’s team to identify several faults in Tomasso’s production process that were responsible for cracking dough.
“The fault was associated with the deviations in the production process and to the formula of the dough. High temperatures in the kneading, short resting time of the dough and a high percentage of the scraps used were identified as the causes leading to the fault," Sánchez told FoodNavigator-LATAM.
"Furthermore, the exposure of the product to low moisture and the air flow [caused the surface to dehydrate] and increased the cracking of the ‘empanadas’ during the baking process.
“The standardization of the critical parameters of the process was worked on. The elasticity of the dough was increased by adjusting the percentage of emulsion. […] By decreasing the surface tension, [this] raises the dough flexibility and prevents the formation of big water crystals during the freezing process.”
Frozen foods are 'a growing trend'
The manufacturer is still undergoing compliance audits to meet US and European export standards and its staff is currently receiving training on GMP. But the Argentinian SME is feeling bullish about the opportunities in the frozen food sector.
"The presence of frozen foods in homes is a growing trend every day, especially in countries like the US where per capita consumption exceeds 20 kilograms per year," it said.
Tomasso empanadas are available in nine flavors: meat; meat sauce; cheese and onion; corn; vegetable; ham and cheese; Roquefort; chicken; and margarita cheese.