Just outside St. Louis, the Bunge Creative Solutions Center in St. Charles, Mo., may have state-of-the art facilities, equipment and technology, but the most important aspect of the resource is its people. That’s according to Brian Anderson, vice-president of global milling innovations and R.&D. for Bunge.
“The most important capability of the Bunge Creative Solutions Center is its team of food science and research professionals,” Mr. Anderson said. “They were specifically selected because they know our customers’ processes in all categories from bakery and culinary to snacks and cereals.”
The team at the center includes experts in fat chemistry, starch chemistry and masa production. Having a range of perspectives and expertise means customers can find solutions for any question. The center also has a full-time chef who creates foods to inspire customers as they develop their own products.
Mr. Anderson said the facility is designed to focus on the similarities between oils and grains and its customers’ needs with Bunge’s milling and oil product development.
“We are able to offer our customers full value chain expertise and are unique in that our processing equipment mirrors our customers,” he said.
The 40,000-square-foot facility opened in 2018 and includes a culinary kitchen, bakery applications lab and five pilot plants. It is located 10 miles from Bunge’s North American headquarters, and the soon-to-be global headquarters.
The center includes a scaled-down version of an oil plant capable of creating shortenings, oils and other products used by food manufacturers, bakeries and restaurants. The center also has an extrusion pilot plant to test snack food and cereal applications made from milled grain products.
“This full range of capabilities helps customers with velocity to market,” Mr. Anderson said. “In particular, the pilot plants allow customers to do small batch production to increase the speed between product concept and commercial application.”
The center also houses bakery, analytical and sensory laboratories to ensure that test products meet the nutritional, performance and taste attributes required for a customer’s finished product.
At the center, guests can analyze how Bunge solutions improve the nutritional profile and performance of their existing products or work with the team of experts to develop new ones.
The team at Bunge offers expert advice on all-purpose and frying shortenings, ancient grains, batters and breading, corn and specialty ingredients, corn masa flour, emulsified shortenings, expeller pressed oils, extruded snacks, flakes, shortenings, liquid butter alternatives, and margarines. Additionally, the company provides solutions in milled rice, specialty shortenings, trans fat-free frying oils and specialty wheat ingredients.
For extruded snacks, the center can help customers develop new product shapes and sizes. And if a baker is looking to reformulate existing products or create something new, Bunge’s bulgur wheat, wheat bran and germ can assist in meeting functional or label requirements.
“The Creative Solutions Center serves a fundamental need as food product innovation is a rapidly evolving sector and consumers keep pushing for healthy, sustainable, high-quality and interactive food experiences,” Mr. Anderson said. “Companies that can’t respond fast enough can’t compete. Many have had to scale back their R.&D. budgets and are looking for outside partners such as Bunge to get their ideas on the shelf at a speed and cost they aren’t capable of anymore.”
The facility was designed to meet this demand. And by building a team of experts around Bunge’s long line of product offerings in food and ingredients, the company will drive innovation across the baking and snack industries.