As well as offering a food design kitchen, industrial kitchen utensils and food experts and scientists, the centre has its own chef for helping apply new ingredients into finished, edible products. The centre is aimed at enabling manufacturers with insufficient resources or expertise to increase product innovation. "It is particularly suited to the needs of small and medium sized businesses that are looking for additional facilities and expertise and do not have an R&D orientated chef," Ad Juriaanse, CEO for Nizo, told FoodNavigator.com. "At the same time, we are entirely independent and offer a range of expertise." Historically, the Dutch company has specialist knowledge in dairy applications, but has been able to develop its expertise to foods and ingredients in general. Nizo already offers a research centre and processing centre, and Juriaanse said the latest development means it can offer a full range of services, assisting companies along their entire product development process. The new 500m² centre in the Netherlands was self-funded by the company and required an investment of over €500,000. Aiding customers' R&D With three centres, Nizo said it can now help manufacturers along the entire developing process and offer a smooth handover between development phases. The research centre is intended to aid understanding of different ingredients and products and to improve functionality; the processing centre is aimed at producing end products and optimisation; and the new centre applies the products into food formulations. The centres are aimed at being flexible to customers' needs. At the new centre, customers can either just use the facilities, or may also be seeking help for cooking, so can develop new recipes in collaboration with the chef. Alternatively, the customers can work in combination with the scientists and the chef. Use of chefs in product development Chefs have long had a role to play in the food industry's development of new products, and ingredients companies are increasingly placing emphasis on how their sensory skills can be used to prepare foods that are more appealing to consumers, as well as to determine trends for the future. Juriaanse said: "Ingredients developers will often know all about the ingredients, but not much about the application into edible products. This is where our chef comes in." Nizo's chef means ingredient companies can also bring their customers into the lab to test and taste their ingredients in their products, and help screen a broad range of foodstuffs for potential application of their ingredients. Nizo is not alone in its emphasis of the importance of culinary skills in food development. National Stach has recently opened a Food Creation Centre in Hamburg to take a hands-on approach to help its customers bring to market foods that taste more like they have come out of a restaurant kitchen than out of a packet. Since 2006, National Starch has worked with classically trained chef Chris Lightfoot. Lightfoot provides consultancy to the company in the development of recipes using its ingredients, and follows with input into formulation, cost management, and scale up to industrial level. Flavour company Givaudan also held a Chefs' Council in Barcelona last month, which brought chefs together from all over the world to present innovative dishes along different themes. The aim was to help attending flavourists determine future trends and product development.