The challenge was simple: to make a snack that could be dipped into any sauce - spicy, sweet or savory without getting fingers coated. It had to hold on to the sauce for the best possible eating experience.

It needed to be versatile enough to be accepted in all cultures, worldwide. It must taste great. And, it was required as quickly as possible.

But GEA already had experience in the necessary techniques having previously industrialised Mexican tortilla cones and Golgappa, an Indian, fried puffball snack made from semolina and filled with a range of sweet or savory chutneys.

That said, rather than just try to reproduce something similar, the GEA R&D department set about creating something better. A snack, for dipping, rather than filling; one that could be made from a range of raw materials such as cereals or high-protein pulses; a snack that could be crispy or soft that would be accepted worldwide; and, importantly, one that is easy to make.

Cinderella's Slipper is just an example of what can be achieved when creativity, innovation, know-how and great engineering come together. These same qualities can be applied to any opportunity to help manufacturers identify trends, adapt products, bring them to market profitably and become true market leaders by driving fashion, not following it.

Davide di Nunno, R&D Director for GEA Pasta & Extrusion Technologies, says that his team had something of a head start. "The latest technology and know-how was already available to us, all that was missing was the idea. We started out looking for a spoon and found a slipper."

As you might expect, the Cinderella snacks are shaped just like the princess's glass slipper. "The slipper shape was the format the market needed but didn't know it wanted yet," adds Mr di Nunno. The tip of the slipper is ideally shaped to scoop up a generous helping of the delicious sauce, while the heel is easy to hold onto without dipping the fingers as well. "It fits perfectly", as the prince in the story might have said.

A snack for the whole world
The next job was to make it fit different cultures too. For example, Asian countries prefer a soft, "melt-in-the-mouth" snack; whereas Latin countries like more of a crunch with a texture that lasts longer.

"Thanks to the costant research and studies on raw materials that we conduct every day in the Analytical Laboratory here at GEA, we were able to define which recipes are most commonly used in the different geographical areas and reformulate them to fit the Cinderella's Slipper format," explains Theresa Piromalli, R&D Analytical Laboratory Manager at GEA Pasta & Extrusion.

For these reasons, the new snack can be made from a wide variety of raw materials allowing the tastes and expectations of any consumer to be met. It is also possible to use high protein ingredients, such as legume flours, for added nutritional value.

The xTru Twin extruder from GEA

Once the creativity has flowed, then comes the technology. With a product such as Cinderella's Slipper, the versatility of the extrusion equipment really makes a difference. This now includes: classic with smooth sheet; perforated, to make it softer and chewier thanks to the use of the rotary cutting machine on the extruded sheet; ribbed, to increase the crispness by using ribbed dies in the extrusion head; XL size for the sweet tooth, by using a larger mould on the rotary cutting machines; and fat-free by roasting instead of frying. In fact, whatever type of product consumer prefer, the xTru Twin extruders from GEA are up to the job.

The versatility in the configuration of the screw parameters in the xTru Twin extruders makes it possible to achieve different levels of gelatinisation of product and therefore different types of texture, from soft to crispy. With six machines in the range, there is a GEA xTru Twin extruder to meet any production capacity and to adapt to any plant layout. With the new high-capacity models it's possible to reach a production throughput of up to three tonnes/hour.

From GEA's perspective, every new challenge allows its people to pool their knowledge, stretch their expertise and drive the engineering to create something different, something special, something better, every time.

To find out more, follow this LINK.

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