PLYMOUTH, MINNESOTA, U.S. — Cargill has expanded the size of its food innovation center in Plymouth, Minnesota, U.S., to 40,000 square feet from 20,000 square feet. The $5.5 million expansion includes a fry lab and a sensory evaluation center. Fifty-five Cargill food scientists working there have experience in oils and shortenings, texturizing solutions, and bakery/snacks/cereal applications.

“We wanted to find the best way to satisfy the product research and development needs of our customers in food and beverage manufacturing and the food service industry,” said Kerr Dow, vice-president of global food technology for Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.-based Cargill. “So, we designed a facility we believe will promote collaboration, accelerate innovation and help our customers reduce product development cycles.”

While Cargill customers may turn to the facility to develop new products or improve the health aspects of products already on the market, they also may use the facility to deal with volatile commodity costs. Cargill customers may use the new facility to more quickly replace a more costly ingredient with an alternative without affecting the sensory properties of a finished product, said K. Scott Portnoy, corporate vice-president of Cargill.

A fry lab at the facility supports food service customers by measuring the performance of various blends of frying oils under controlled conditions. Cargill personnel may provide advice on such oils issues as eliminating partially hydrogenated oils and regulatory updates, said Janet A. Bones, assistant vice-president, R&D, FSQR, for Cargill dressings, sauces and oils.

A sensory evaluation center has space for Cargill’s descriptive analysis panel consumer/panelists testing booths. John Sweeney, director of food applications for North America, gave an example of using qualitative descriptive analysis with the new Cargill line of ViaTech stevia-based sweeteners. A trained sensory panel could score the sweetness levels of products made with ViaTech ingredients.

The facility also offers an area for snacks and cereal pilot applications and a bakery applications center.  In the D. Keith Ehmke Customer Innovation Kitchen, Cargill personnel may work with customers to scale up solutions, process development and shelf life testing.