Cargill's European Research and Development Centre has re-opened after an €8m expansion, with added emphasis on food safety.
The facility in Vilvoorde, Belgium, is the company’s most important centre for R&D in the region, serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
There is a new pilot plant, adding 5,000 square metres of innovation space where Cargill said its 145 scientists and technologists can develop new ingredients, perfect reformulations and test new manufacturing processes.
And at the heart of the design was the need to deliver the highest standards of food safety, with the incorporation of the zoning model.
A Cargill spokeswoman told Foodnavigator.com: "The facility was always food safe but this is based on the zoning principle, which is quite revolutionary in the R&D world in the food sector."
Zoning divides a facility into different zones of food safety. Some are stricter than others and may for example have walls and floors made of special material to help prevent contamination.
A company's success often depends on the trust and confidence of its consumers or customers. Food safety is a particular area of concern, not just among industry but also consumers, campaigners and regulators. There is heightened public awareness and increasing regulatory requirements.
Marijana Petrovic, Cargill’s R&D Centre food safety leader, said: “Food safety is one of our most important goals at Cargill. This is why we implemented the zoning model in our new pilot plant, to not only meet today’s standards in food safety, but also to anticipate future needs.
"The prevention of contamination is a fast-moving discipline, and Cargill wants to be at the forefront in this field, so that we can provide safe food every time, everywhere.
"This includes the products produced in our research and development facilities and product samples provided to our customers.”
Cargill acquired the centre in 2002 and historically its focus was starch and starch-related products. Now it is a multidisciplinary centre covering food, feed and non-food ingredients science.
The spokeswoman added: "The capabilities are the same but we have more space to do our work and better pilot our ingredients.
"There is a small scale factory inside a large building, which allows us to test the ingredients on a slightly larger scale than the research scale.
"This is Cargill's R&D centre but we do work a lot with customers in this centre on certain developments.
"Starches are an important part of the facility but also cocoa chocolate, protein fibres, oils and fats."
Cargill said that this investment reinforces its commitment to continued, sustainable growth through innovation.
In the past few years Cargill has opened Innovation Centres in Campinas, Brazil; Wichita Kansas, US; and New Delhi, India; which it says "highlights the importance of innovation for the company".
The Vilvoorde R&D Centre is described as an integral part of Cargill’s network of application centres worldwide.