SANTIAGO, CHILE — Nestle S.A. on Jan. 5 opened a global research and development center for cookies and grain-based snacks in Santiago. The center will aim to "develop a new generation of biscuits," the company said.

Present at the opening were Álvaro Erazo, Chile’s health minister; Reinaldo Ruiz, the nation’s agriculture minister; Alberto Undurraga, mayor of Maipú; and Paul Bulcke, Nestle chief executive officer.

Nestle said the center will lead the company’s global research and development in cookies and grain-based snacks with a focus both on innovation as well as updating of existing products.

"R.&D. Santiago will bring together specialists from various fields, including nutrition, engineering, product development and quality control," the company said. "With ingredients such as whole grains, fruits and nuts, biscuits are part of a healthy balanced diet. The development of new technologies at R.&D. Santiago will help to further reduce sugar and fat levels to make biscuits lighter, without compromising taste or texture.

"R.&D. Santiago will also develop biscuits with bioactive ingredients to improve digestive health as well as fortified products to address local micronutrient deficiencies, thereby adapting biscuits to local tastes and needs."

Mr. Bulke said the center will allow Nestle to capture "exciting opportunities" to bring change into "a very important product category."

Nestle described its cookie business as "growing and profitable." The unit’s annual sales were 1.4 billion Swiss francs in 2008, with 60% of sales generated in Latin America.

"(The center) will allow us to offer consumers in Latin America and beyond the choice of tasty, healthy, more nutritious biscuits," he said.

Beyond the cookie business, Nestle has maintained a presence in Latin America for decades, and had total sales of 15.5 billion Swiss francs in 2008. Nestle has operated in Chile for 76 years and has seven production facilities in different parts of the country.

The new center will collaborate with other Nestle research and development facilities around the world and will engage in local governmental initiatives and partnerships with universities such as the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and the Universidad de Chile.

The center is part of a global network of 28 research, development and technology centers operated by Nestle, employing around 5,000 people.