Potato processor to accelerate development with innovation centre

Lamb Weston/Meijer is going to build an Innovation Center in the Netherlands where new products will be developed and tested.

“You should see the Innovation Center as a very large test kitchen”, said Anton Godschalk, co-responsible for preparing new products for the market at the international producer and supplier of fries.  It’s the place where we will soon be able to experiment fully with new products and techniques. Which we may or may not apply in our factories.

Lamb Weston/Meijer (LW/M) is a producer of potato products, particularly frozen types of fries. It supplies, among others, fast food chains and restaurants in more than 100 countries. Its products can also increasingly be found in large supermarkets. In the Netherlands there are factories in Bergen op Zoom (N-Br),Kruiningen (Zeeland), Oosterbierum (Friesland) and Broekhuizenvorst (Limburg).

For research and the development of new products, the company now uses the DAB innovation centre: the Delta Agrifood Business in the former sugar lab on Van Konijnenburgweg.

“We are outgrowing our space there,” said Godschalk. “Partly for that reason, the company is now building its own innovation centre opposite the Berg factory. But above all to increase and accelerate the power of innovation.

“This is where experiments with different potato varieties, cutting techniques, chip shapes and flavours will take place. If this is now done in the DAB with a few kilograms of fries at a time, Lamb Weston/Meijer can slowly scale up the new techniques and methods in the Innovation Center, from one to five hundred kilograms.”

LW/M said it will know much earlier in the process whether a new product or technique has a chance of success.

“Like cylindrical chips, for example,” said Godschalk. “The shape of such a product means less fat. Plus less of the potato is lost. In the past, we had to shut down and modify the entire factory for large-scale testing. That will no longer be necessary.

“The Innovation Center also offers opportunities to experiment with new, sustainable techniques. Like the electric pre-frying of chips. Our factories are still running on gas. We want to get rid of that eventually. In a test environment, it’s much easier to find out what works and what doesn’t.”

Lamb Weston/Meijer chose the Bergen op Zoom location as it is the region where the potato grows. The innovation center will offer plenty of jobs at various job levels, from cleaners, process operators and product developers to researchers.

Lamb Weston/Meijer will use the centre to get a “better grip” on the market and develop and offer more choices to customers. The ultimate goal is that in the future, Lamb Weston / Meijer’s new products will not only be available in the catering industry, but will also get more space in the supermarket freezer compartment.

For years, the company has been working with its own test panel. A group of employees who look beyond what is technically feasible and try out products. They judge products on taste, smell, shape and texture. We know the preferences of every country.

The construction of the Innovation Center is in full swing with the walls planned to be up by the summer to ensure installation of the machines at the beginning of next year. Expectations are that everything should be up and running by April.

LW/M is a joint venture of the American group Lamb Weston and Meijer Frozen Foods that was formed in 1994.

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