The company wants to extend its activities outside China into Europe, and the Yili Research and Development Centre is its first research centre in the region. It also has plans to expand into North America.
Ben Geerlings, manager international communications, Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR), told DairyReporter.com Yili and the university will work together on dairy farm management, processing of dairy products and food safety.
“Eight projects will be discussed with Wageningen UR staff once the centre is manned,” he said. “At the moment they are recruiting researchers. In June 2014 we expect to start working on the eight subjects, plus new ones brought forward by Wageningen UR.”
In September 2013, Yili visited Europe and Wageningen UR, where food and food production is a core area of study.
The company chose the site because of its interest in Wageningen and the ‘food valley’ area – a region where a number of international food companies and research institutes are based, according to Geerlings.
“Food Valley stimulates growth in the Dutch agro-food sector, with demand as its driving force. It acts on the needs of the business community,” said Geerlings.
“By partnering knowledge with enterprise, Food Valley ensures the wealth of knowledge in the Netherlands is put to optimal use. Much agro-food expertise can be found in the area around Wageningen.”
The research centre was opened by Pan Gang, president, Yili Group; Chen Xu, Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands; Aalt Dijkhuizen, president and chairman, Wageningen UR; and Geert Van Rumund, mayor, Wageningen.
A total of 10 employees from China will be working at the research and development centre.
The Yili Group is a privately owned company that processes and manufactures dairy products, including milk powder, sterilized milk and fresh milk.
It is 12th in the ranking of dairy companies worldwide. FrieslandCampina, fifth in the ranking, opened its research and development centre at Wageningen Campus last year.