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culinary excellence: eating & drinking: austria’s delightful treats - from pumpkin seed oil to a bottle of wine.

It would seem that Austrians are world champions in the uncontrolled indulgence in roasted pork knuckle, wine and beer. This is definitely not the case. Such allegation must be rejected once and for all. Excellence in each and every domain is impossible. With a lousy 30 litres a year, we rank only sixth worldwide in wine consumption – while at 60 litres of booze a year, the French drink like a fish. And when it comes to meat consumption, we are almost vegetarians: Americans eat 130 kilos a year. Germans: 88 kilos a year. Us: a mere 60 kilos. At least we are ahead of the Indians, who eat two kilos of meat a year.

Austria’s image of world champion of culinary indulgence is obviously nurtured by announcements about “world-class red wines from the Burgenland region” or “top international Sauvignons from Austria”. But the fact that Austrian Sauvignons from winegrowers Jurtschitsch, Lackner-Tinnacher, Neumeister and Gross are ahead of the Swiss Jean-Pierre Pellerin or the Californian Mondavi winery in a blind test is actually bad for our reputation - since Austria is a world leader in healthy indulgences: The Styrian firm Pelzmann, for example, is the world’s largest producer of pumpkin seed oil. “You either like it or don’t. But the health effects of pumpkin seed oil are undisputed”, says Klaus Pelzmann, who is now managing the company in its third generation, together with his brother, Gregor.

"Our grandfather had already
popularised pumpkin seed oil
abroad. Today, we deliver to 22
countries, from Germany to
Australia, from China to South
Africa, host of the World

That Austria is not a land of gluttony has also been demonstrated by countryman Eckart Witzigmann, the father of Nouvelle Cuisine, from the village of Gastein in the province of Salzburg. He was the first to introduce the pleasure of enjoying microscopically tiny servings on wheel-size plates – and yet he is a true world champion in his trade. It was only in late April 2010 that he received his lifetime achievement award as “chef of the century” from among the world’s fifty best restaurants.

Finally, the winegrower who has scored most first ranks at international wine tasting events would, typically, not offer his premium wines in 2-litre, and not even in 0.7 litre – but in tiny, thin bottles: Alois Kracher, Sweet Winemaker of the Year on many occasions. And following the death of his father in 2007, his son Gerhard also took a world champion title home, to the village of Illmitz in Burgenland. After all, the Kracher winegrower family has always been scoring record highs. They have produced the world’s hitherto largest wine bottle - two and a half metres high and filled with 420 litres of Kracher’s 2005 vintage Trockenbeerenauslese from the year’s late harvest. Alas, the precious item had to leave Austria: The giant package stands in Switzerland now.


Pelzmann’s oil mill. State-of-the-art technology for pumpkin seed oil pressing generates unique quality pumpkin seed oil as well as worldwide recognition for the manufacturer from southern styria. Over the last 70 years, the Pelzmann oil mill has pressed pumpkin seed oil in the southern Styrian village of Wagna. Starting out as a family business, the company has now turned into a cutting-edge manufacturing plant. Striking a unique balance between tradition and technological advancement – an approach affirmed by a constant growth in demand -, Pelzmann now produces premium pumpkin seed oil of consistent quality. Close collaboration with the Austrian food trade, which is particularly appreciative of the Pelzmann quality, is an essential element of its sales strategy. Pelzmann oils are in great demand internationally too: Last year, exports made up nearly 50%. “A fantastic achievement”, says managing director Klaus Pelzmann, “which makes us the world’s largest producer of pumpkin seed oil!”




Quality is the key to the success of the Pelzmann oil mill. “Consistent top quality”, says Klaus Pelzmann, “can only be sustained if all steps of the manufacturing process stick to a precise sequence and meet defined parameters with great accuracy”. To identify the parameters required for such goal, extensive studies were conducted over the past years with assistance from the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology of the Graz University of Technology and the Joanneum Research institution. These studies have resulted in the precise parameters which are imperative for manufacturing premium-quality oils. To this end, all parameters are controlled and monitored by a central computer. This high-tech system practically eliminates all error sources that occurred in previously manual operations.

“It was important for us to
develop a technique that
sustains the traditional method
of pumpkin seed oil pressing
while excluding human
imprecision at the same time”.




Nowadays the computer monitors the complete production line. As sensors keep transmitting information on the ongoing status of pressed material to the control program, each step of the production process operates in accordance with previously identified and targeted parameters. Pelzmann follows its own course also with regard to materials and equipment.

The custom-made machinery, specifically developed for the southern Styrian mill, combines traditional former materials with recent elements. A new forty-tonne oil press forms the heart of the mill. As it gently presses oil seeds in the ancient tradition, it provides the capacities required for meeting a rising demand as well. 
Pelzmann is thus in a position to produce even major quantities in an innovative, yet traditional way.



The “Styrian pumpkin seed oil” brand is subject to rather stringent EU protective standards. There are just a few high-quality European specialties which may pride themselves of this European quality label.
The Pelzmann oil mill meets these standards easily and thus qualifies under the “protected geographical indication (PGI)” label. For consumers, this means that the oils are manufactured with premium Styrian pumpkin seeds.



The new production line ensures the basis for optimal manufacturing of the “green gold”.  But Pelzmann continues to push ahead. “Our goal is to even further enhance the recognition of Styrian pumpkin seed oil, advertising it as a rare, unique culinary gem, ensuring it a high profile far beyond Austria’s borders”, as Klaus Pelzmann outlines future tasks.
In this process, Pelzmann first focuses on further intensification of communication with trade partners, but also on intensive information of consumers. “Though the term pumpkin seed oil is widely known, not all consumers know that it can be used for many dishes other than tasty salads. This is where we want to get involved”, says Klaus Pelzmann. “Leading the industry, we think we are called upon to familiarise consumers with pumpkin seed oil as a unique taste experience in a very special way. We are sure that all our actions so far have been fruitful.” In the future, Styrian pumpkin seed oil is to play a stronger role not only in Europe but also overseas, and act as a noble ambassador of Austria as a paradise of food lovers.
Developments over the past few years, when close collaboration with the German oil distribution network has increasingly pushed pumpkin seed oil from Styria, have shown the feasibility of that goal. Judging from the response received at industry trade fairs, similar developments can well be expected for new markets.
Klaus Pelzmann: “Cutting-edge technology for premium quality – this has been our road to many new successes. We shall also build on that in the future.”