by Roger Gilbert, Milling and Grain

The writing was on the wall! It clearly stated the company was formed in 1800.

The full-wall image proclaimed the formation of this long-established Italian miller on Via Pana at Faenza, just south of Imola, in Northern Italy – was 1800, making it over 200 years in the hands of one family, the Naldoni family.

That's what brother's Alberto and Walter Naldoni and their cousin Piero Naldoni believed when they did a brand re-launch and the opening of the milling site for the new Molino Naldoni Flour Mills.

However, the truth is much different.

At the launch, local historians informed the company that it has found documentation that dated the company cooperation in milling from 1705, making this family company over 300-years-old and yet still in the hands of one family. This must be one of the oldest, family-owned flour mills on record anywhere.

Local historians had researched the family's milling operations back to water mills in the area to 1705.

'A lot of people have asked about this difference since then,' says the company's General Manager Alberto Naldoni, with a smile. It was Alberto and Pier's fathers who took over the milling operation of the main mill in 1954 and introduced roller mills to the family business the first time. It is their picture on the wall of the company's board room on the new Faenza site.

That mill is situated some 13km from the new mill at Faenza. The original 1954 mill, with its eight-stages of rolls, was built by a local company and produced 15 tonnes of flour per day. It replaced the original stone mill of 1800 which had itself been modernised in 1935.

Some 13 years later, in 1977, the company expanded again and installed a 16-stage roller mill to produce 45 tonnes per day. This time the milling equipment and build was carried out by Golfetto Sangati of Quinto de Treviso.

It was not long before this mill had reached capacity and was being run '24-seven.' By 1999 it had to be expanded, this time adding a cleaning section and taking the mill up to 150 tonnes per day.

The modernised mill of 1999 is still operating and it too reached capacity some five years ago and today is working 24 hours-per-day and seven-days-per-week.

Alberto is quick to point out that the mill is only stopped once per year in May for two or three days for cleaning purposes.

The 1999 mill is operating according to organic standards and over the past four years has been using heat-treatment as a cleaning measure for various mill sections, rather than using chemicals or fumigants.

'We are heat-treating processing equipment at 55°C for 48 hours, which protects but does not damage product quality while maintaining our organic accreditation,' he adds.

 

The new Faenza mill

The company purchased the new site for its Faenza mill in 2013.

'It had proved difficult to find the right location,' says Alberto.

'Previously, this was a ceramics production facility of 20,000 square metres. We had to dismantle buildings and restore the area before we could begin construction of our mill. Clearing the site was a major task. It was an abandoned area that was industry related and had not been used in food production,' he adds.

The land's location is right next to the A14 Autostrade Adriatica highway and gives them excellent transport connects for both wheat raw materials coming onto the site by truck and product dispatched to retail.

The mill, which was commissioned last month, was constructed in three separate and distinct steps, he says.

The first was logistics that included the 700-square metre packaging area and 2,500-square metre warehouse, mill office and company's main offices which were completed early. The packaging area was being used as warehousing and distribution for flour coming from its existing mill some 13km away and utilised the location to the A14 for distribution of product throughout the region.

The second step was to accommodate incoming wheat and the construction of silos and unloading bays for receiving vehicles. A bank of silos contain five 650-tonnes silos and five 320-tonnes bins, are all provided by Technobins of Reggio Emilia Province in Italy.

The third and final step is the construction of the 3100 square metre mill itself spread over four stories and supplied and built by Pavan-Golfetto Sangati.

When Milling and Grain visited in the week leading up to Christmas 2018, the outside cladding was being applied to the bank of silos at the front of the mill while the mill itself had been equipped by Pavan-Golfetto Sangati which is now part of the worldwide GEA group.

'We would have built the mill over a three-to-four year period but with the support of the local government and new orders coming in for their increased range of organic flours - some 60 different varieties in total are manufactured by the company - meant we could start construction earlier than originally planned.

'In this market it is important to diversify your product range. It's not just about total capacity and it's important to be flexible in your production as possible. We will add smaller silos to maintain a greater range of products.'

The new mill will produce 250 tonnes per day based on 24 hours processing soft wheats and complement the existing mill, while at the same time relieving pressure and introducing a wider range of products.

'From a single source of wheat we can obtain at least 30 different grades of flour.'

Mr Naldoni is very proud to says that his family's company is one example of a miller who doesn't have to use enzymes or chemicals to create different types of flours.

'Using enzymes can help you to produce a complete range of flours from all types of cereals, however, this company can produce the full range without using them,' he adds.

The grain in the mill's silos are turned around within 15 days of reception and there is no difficulty in purchasing and receiving grains.

'There's a lot of wheat production in this region and particularly within 50km of the factory. The port is only 40km away for when we need imported grains.'

In 2017, the company used 76 percent of its wheat grown in Italy and within a 100km radius of the mill. Of that, 36 percent came from within 10km of the mill.

'We are using local and national grain with imports of Romanian grain to make up the difference. Our main variety is Freekeh, which is an artisan grain and is very local to us and which helps to differentiate our products. We can trace our product from the farm to the retailer and we contract some farmers to provide us on a long-term basis', he adds.

He says other mills are following their example with one competitor switching from imported grains to locally produced grains.

'The performance of soft grain is quite unique,' he says with protein levels of 12 percent or ranging between 13-14 percent. 'Imported American wheat can have protein levels up to 15.5 percent,' he adds, saying that 'price differences per tonne is not that great now.'

The basic price of locally-produced grain is in the order of US $220/tonne while imported grains can sell for US $262/tonne.

'The idea was our investment is to increase the variety and not the capacity of production.'

The new mill was commissioned in February this year. While Alberto Naldoni is the company's general manger, brother Walter is head of sales and cousin Piero Naldoni is head miller.

 

The old mill

The plan is not to close the old mill but to convert it and maintain it to produce all-organic flours from organic grain only and to be used for two or three days per week to research and develop new flours.

That will result in the launch of a new brand of flours and a concept for the Milan market later in the year.

There are internal discussion about installing a three-tonne stone milling operation which would produce just 110kg/hour, which was a speciality of their parents' era and dates further back to the 13th Century in the area, would provide discerning customers with a unique flour product.

The long history of the Molino Naldoni Milling Company encouraged the cousins to consider restoring the old mill to its former glory for stone milling with the view of a new brand and product range for consumers.

'There are requests from bread makers for us to provide flours so they can produce speciality lines of bread. But this is not easy to achieve,' he adds.

 

Maintaining quality

'It's extremely important to check the quality of wheats after purchase. 30 years ago we were the first to refuse a truck of grain from being delivered to the mill due to insect infestations. The broker was quite surprised by that,' recalls Alberto.

Today, the samples are checked not only for all the standard contract terms and conditions, but also for evidence of heat-treatment, which can change the organoleptic quality of the wheat and the resulting flours.

Before accepting a sample it is taken to the laboratory where three technicians - all graduates in food sciences - carry out NIR and lab-scale mill testing on a Perten machine to check the main parameters.

It also receives a warranty the wheat comes from the same farms off the same fields and that results in a wheat with a specific analysis that produces the flours its wants from lab-scale mills. Only then does the wheat go into the silos. The company has a colour sorter from Cimbria, which has its factory not far north on the A14 from the mill, to remove any impurities after initial screening and cleaning.

Machines within the new plant that deserves mention are:

The new Golfetto Sangati Semolina HP55, which has evolved from the proven the HP55, and has innovative features that place it at the top of its category for accuracy in semolina classification, extraction efficiency, productive capacity and functional efficiency.

By configuring the purifier to have four rows of superimposed sieves, each composed of three sieves, the separation efficiency of the semolina flour is considerably more precise.

Furthermore, the purification surface of the HP55 has been increased by 10 percent due to utilising 550mm square sieves. This allows the overall footprint of the machine to be reduced by 12 percent.

To maximise the purification efficiency of the Semolina, there are four air-flow adjustment points per sieve length on the Semolina HP55 which enables the miller to precisely control the air flow and maximise the performance based on the current mill operating conditions.

The TPA horizontal huller for intensive grain cleaning both in the initial process with dry grain and before the B1 phase with wet grain, ensuring a high quality of the finished product

Criticality, in the design phase and the placement of the mill within an existing building, there were no manoeuvring plan - the manoeuvring plan in this case related to the purifiers - by the miller's choice and therefore had to be adapted.

 

The market

The main market for the company's range of flours is just 150km radius from the mill, combined with export orders from food service companies. Some 10 percent of production is sold abroad and some goes as far as Australia. Much of the flour is used in pizzas, pasta and pastry products. In addition, it produces bread flours, organic flours, semolina, Padina flour, retail flour and stone-ground flours.

The company turnover is over 18 million Euros per annum with over a million Euros coming from its all-organic range of products by producing some 40 million kgs of flour with the goal of reaching over 20 million Euro once the new mill is in full production. The company employs just 21 staff.

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