With Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle leading the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Kerry officially opened its new 260,000-sq-ft Innovation and Technical Center in Beloit, WI, on June 23. Built at cost of $50 million, the Kerry Center offers food marketers access to all Kerry ingredients and flavors technologies through dedicated customer-application suites, culinary theater, sensory services, 21 innovation labs, and customer-application pilot production facilities.
Each innovation lab is dedicated to a specific technology area, such as Fermented Ingredients, Sweet Flavors, Dry Dairy, etc. One of the labs provides analytical support for product development work, issue identification, and production support. Kerry scientists develop products in the labs and then bring them to the customer-application pilot facilities to run samples or scale up product for commercialization.
The pilot plants—separate rooms with various processing equipment—are segmented by product categories and include Sweets, Beverages & Sweet Flavors, Baking & Chocolate, Frozen Sauces, Dry Blending, Wet Sauces/Sweet Fillings, Cheese & Dairy Flavors, Savory Flavors, Cereals, Dryer Technology, Prepared Meals, Bars, Dairy/Frozen Dessert, Bakery, Beverages, Frying , and Meat–Raw, Cooked, and Ready to Eat. The facilities allow Kerry technicians and scientists to collaborate and work side-by-side with their customers and food companies to test and scale up new products or improve existing products.
Three customer-application suites—Residential, Restaurant, and Beverages—include a meeting room with multimedia capabilities and an adjoining kitchen and product demonstration room. A culinary theater enables Kerry’s culinary experts to demonstrate new product applications. Customers can record these demonstrations for later review. The center also includes two sensory areas, where Kerry’s employees—who are trained panelists—can provide instant feedback on new product concepts or reformulations.
Speaking at the official opening of the Kerry Center, Kerry Group Chief Executive Stan McCarthy said, “Our new customer-focused center of excellence builds on the Group’s ‘go-to-market’ strategy—leveraging Kerry’s unrivaled range of technology-based ingredients, flavors, and integrated solutions in food and beverage growth markets.
“Kerry’s systems approach to innovation capitalizes on our breadth of ingredients and flavors technologies and unique end-use-market applications capability—working in collaboration with our customers to derive maximum synergies from this industry-leading expertise. This creates real value for our customers by way of quick delivery of consumer-relevant product development, product improvements, cost reduction, or process enhancement.”
Located on about 175 acres, the new R&D center houses about 550 employees, including more than 200 food scientists. Previously situated in different locations throughout the United States, various business units (e.g., Savory & Dairy, Cereal & Sweet, and Beverage) have been brought together in one facility, facilitating collaboration and the creation of multidisciplinary teams.
While the dedication ceremony took place in June, the R&D center actually opened in January 2009. About six customers/wk are using the facility.
When planning for the new R&D center, Kerry identified three objectives: (1) help customers grow their businesses, (2) create a collaborative, innovative employee workplace, and (3) ensure long-term environmental sustainability. Built to high-performance green building standards, the facility takes advantage of natural light and includes a reflective roof to maximize energy savings.
By incorporating energy efficiency into the design and construction, the Kerry Center will save 2.3 million kilowatt-hr of electricity and 23,000 therms of natural gas annually compared to a conventional building of its size. The R&D campus will also save an estimated $195,700 on its energy bills annually.
As a result of its energy-saving efforts, the Kerry Center has recently been awarded a “Designed to Earn the Energy Star” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Dept. of Energy. In addition, the R&D center is pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Bob Swientek is Editor-in-Chief of Food Technology and Director of Publications at IFT