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Monday, December 11, 2017
 Glanbia Focuses on Innovation with New Research Center  

Glanbia’s new research facility is effectively marketing the world’s largest producer of American-style cheese’s product to a growing worldwide market.

Cuts aside, the 14,000-square-foot Cheese Innovation Center, and 35,000-square-foot corporate headquarters, is casting a shadow across the global cheese market, and meeting investor expectations as the innovation center approaches six months of operation.


“This right here is the most sophisticated cheese innovation center that there is in the country,” said Eric Bastian, Glanbia vice president of research and development. “There’s probably one mozzarella player that could maybe come to this level. On the American side? No. There’s no one that comes close to this.”


The CIC is the materialization of Glanbia President and CEO Jeff Williams’s dream. “We want to be known, not just as the largest producer of American-style cheese, but we want to be seen as the most innovative too,” Williams said.

Since the CIC opened in August, it has attracted domestic and international relationships that Williams and Bastian said would not have happened without it.


“We see this opening a lot of doors,” Bastian said. “Just to carry further on an extended outreach to more contact points within our customer base. …We’re also having conversations going on customers we wouldn’t have had without the CIC.”


As middle classes in China and India emerge, the demand more American products such as cheese and infant formula. Idaho’s presence as a mass production dairy state poises companies like Glanbia to attain long-term growth.


Williams is using the CIC to capture international demand for American cheese and be a step ahead of increasingly diverse palates desiring more than just pepper jack when cheese shopping.


“That’s why we put this stake in the ground,” Williams said. “The investment we’ve made, and the money we’ve spent, tells the world, our customers and dairy farmers that we want them to really grasp on to our coat tails. There’s a big world out there that wants to be fed dairy products. The more we export keeps the market tight. That high tide lifts all boats.”


Descriptions in the American cheese market as the “world’s largest,” already edges much of the competition; having one of the largest cheese innovation labs in the country sharpens Glanbia’s marketing tools even more.


“We think it protects our base,” Williams said. “It gives us a leg up on the competition. The proof’s in the pudding. We know we’re getting the first call from customers now, and that’s what we wanted.”


While the sheer marketing capability of the CIC takes Glanbia further in its pitches, it also offers unprecedented flexibility for research and development.


“It allows us to cut down the cycle of time of product development,” he said. “Before we had to make the cheese, put it away, ship it to the customer, and then get on an airplane and fly to the customer when they were ready to process it. This (the CIC) allows us to do it all right here.”


Every day, a team of cheese innovators use science to test the physical limits of salty enzymes. Customers, mostly fellow cheese heads, who walk the halls of the CIC drop their jaws, Williams said, and “It does have that wow factor.”


Candace Clark works in a sterile white lab. She inserts cheese into a machine that quantifies softness by pushing cheese with a metal peg.


“Before, research and development was limited to making the actual product,” Clark said. “We wanted to take the entire process from taking the milk, making the cheese, aging the cheese, processing the cheese, tasting the cheese; all of that spectrum. We want our customers right there with us. We wanted their input on each level.”


There’s also a machine that maps out heat profiles. The gambit of tests allow researchers to quantify the largely subjective tasting experience, researchers said.


Amy Schutte, Glanbia spokeswoman, said the CIC is the “Heart and soul” of the company. “I think it’s an amazing tool to use because here you can take things to a much smaller scale and tweak it,” she said. “That is a huge marketing asset to be able to have customers come here, try it out, play with it a little bit. That gives us a big advantage in the market to bring people here.”

 

Source: Magic Valley Newspaper (ID)

 


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