In May 2016, Tate & Lyle’s Food Systems facility in Lübeck was refocused as a site dedicated exclusively to innovation, applications and solutions expertise for customers of its global Food Systems business.
As part of this refocusing, investments were made to expand and enhance the customer-facing facilities, and these are now complete and open for customers to use.
The center in Lübeck is part of the company’s global network of applications laboratories, which includes Tate & Lyle’s Commercial and Food Innovation Centre in Chicago, its primary research and innovation center.
As well as its applications laboratories, the Lübeck facility includes four pilot plants with dedicated areas for dairy, convenience, bakery and meat preparation allowing for fully-customized prototype production.
The centre will also be used to hold customer and distributor events, including innovation workshops, seminars and on-site technical training.
At a media event to celebrate the opening, several prototype products were on hand to showcase the capabilities of the 1,100sqm facility.
Dedication to innovation
At the event, Gianluca Brusoni, director global food systems R&D and applications, Tate & Lyle, said the center has a capacity to carry out about 300 trials monthly, depending on the complexity of the project.
Of the 130 staff at the site, more than 50% are dedicated solely to innovation, Brusoni said.
Prototype sample products showcased at the innovation centre
Using the using the HAMULSION stabilizer system:
- UHT vanilla custard
- Greek style drinkable yogurt
- Basil quark mousse dessert
- Vegan yogurt with coconut milk
- Gelatin-free stabilized cream
- Expanding fillings for muffins (e.g. cheese muffin with spinach cream cheese filling)
- Coconut milk based ‘mayonnaise’
- Low-fat sesame dressing
Using the FRIMULSION stabilizer system:
- Soy, lactose and gluten-free vegan cold-cuts
“In Food Systems, we operate locally but innovate and share recipes and technical expertise globally, so that our teams of technical experts across the world are able to consistently provide our customers with the bespoke solutions they need in their local markets,” Brusoni said.
He added that trend analysis was key to their work.
“There are some global trends, clean label, health and wellness, and regional trends in Europe, like the vegan trend, which is also picking up in North America.
“We can proactively produce food prototypes which we show to customers as ideas, so we inspire them. It might not be exactly what they want, but we engage with them and modify them to a real end product.”
He said there was also reactive innovation - when customers reach out with requests, asking for a new product, a new innovative concept, and the company needs to be able to adapt and reformulate products.
Brian Walker, SVP & general manager, food systems Europe, Middle East & Africa, Tate & Lyle, said, “We engage with our customers and find out what they are trying to achieve with their products. It might be new product development, which is an innovation for the market, so we can help with texture or stability.
“It might be cost optimization; that's not about us selling them cheaper ingredients, it's about re-engineering their recipes to maintain the structure and quality of their products, but perhaps at a lower cost.”
He said the company does a lot of clean label work, one of the key trends, which often means removing ingredients.
“When you remove ingredients, sometimes you have some challenges to replace them and the functionality that they give.
“We don't start with a product, and say 'how can we apply this product to your food.' We start with 'what do you want to create?' and then we design a product.”