Buildings have stories to tell, and Puratos, which offers ingredients and application expertise, used the historical background of a Chicago facility to help bakers tell their own. Opened last August, the company’s new 6,668-square-foot innovation center is located in the city’s Pilsen district, strategically near two major airports. More importantly, Puratos wanted the site to be part of a stimulating area.
“Local is in our corporate DNA,” said Andy Brimacombe, president, Puratos USA. “We’re looking forward to paying homage to Midwestern cuisine and taste preferences through this centrally-located, Chicago-based innovation center, and we’re excited to witness the concepts that spring forth.”
At one time, the building was used as a lumber warehouse by Foster Munger Catalog Co., then after that by the World’s Columbian Exposition fair in 1893. Later, it went on to headquarter Chicago businesses. The facility’s historical architecture is a rare feature among Puratos’ innovation centers, said Alejandro Tovar, vice president of marketing, Puratos, and this was important to uphold during renovation.
“Puratos’ objective was to preserve the original brick and lumber character from the building and, at the same time, provide the highest hygienic standards in the demonstration areas,” he said. “We maintained the openness of the space and maximized natural lighting with glass facades and external walls.”
The company invested $1.5 million in the center, which allows bakers to create prototypes of bakery, patisserie and chocolate products. Depending on a customer’s needs, there is a 1,650-square-foot bakery and a 725-square-foot patisserie and chocolate room in which to take inspiration — whether locally or foreign-inspired — and turn it into a reality.
“This new facility will welcome professionals from any size operation, from individual artisans and entrepreneurs to industrial manufacturers or retail operations interested in honing their skills,” Mr. Tovar said. “Specialized training enables participants to improve a current product range, develop new recipes or benchmark products compared to their competition.”
The building will bring Puratos’ US innovation center count to six and its overall number to 89. Each global operation contains regional ingredients and flavors. But no matter where a center is located, the equipment selection is similar, which provides access to the same methods for product development.
The bakery in the center has a full range of Koma retarders and proofers; Rondo semi-automatic sheeters; Esmach spiral mixers with 120-lb capacity, baguette moulders, dividers and rounders and bread slicers; and Miwe rack and deck ovens that monitor the phases of the baking process and include a gas booster for increased heat.
The patisserie and chocolate room includes a Koma blast freezer, Selmi continuous tempering machines for chocolate applications and Traulsen refrigerators. Additionally, the entire facility is temperature- and humidity-controlled.
At the center, Puratos conducts seminars on various technologies and consumer trends such as artisan-style breads, sweet baked goods, chocolate in patisserie and Hispanic solutions. The company also offers one-on-one sessions for customers to further brainstorm and create around concepts and product requirements.
The Puratos Sourdough Library, a collection of natural ferments that represents flavors from around the world, is accessible to the center’s customers, too. Mr. Tovar said Puratos’ goal is to “preserve the biodiversity of leavening agents and promote the use of sourdough among bakers.”
Another feature is the company’s Cacao-Trace program, which is showcased on an artistic canvas displaying a sustainable cacao cycle. Puratos’ process uses fermentation instead of bulk blend to maximize a chocolate’s taste, Mr. Tovar explained. And as a sustainable sourcing program, it reduces the carbon footprint and models a communal approach by benefiting local farmers. This community mentality is not only shown in Puratos’ cocoa program but also with its other ingredients around the world, which are mostly produced by subsidiaries in each area.
Whether it’s through its location, architecture or the ingredients used within a specific concept, Puratos helps customers tell their stories at its innovation center using local inspiration.