Bakers can increase their speed to market for new products at the expanded Cargill North American Pilot Development Center in Savage, Minn. The company invested $6.4 million in its edible oils facility to conduct multi-scale continuous piloting, starting with the refining of new vegetable oils and blends and ending with innovative shortening solutions for breads, cakes, cookies and more.

“Expanding our piloting capabilities will help us deliver more quickly what matters most to our customers,” said Sonia Punwani, global edible oils leader for bakery, Cargill. “It allows us to better partner with our customers to evaluate new raw materials, validate performance specifications and develop new products.”

The pilot plant complements the other two Cargill innovation facilities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area: the Minneapolis Research and Development Center and the Cargill Food Innovation Center. Construction on the expanded Pilot Development Center, which is adjacent to Cargill’s Engineering R&D Lab, began in April and will open later this year. The original start date for the center was this summer, but that has been delayed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The expansion creates a 6,500-square-foot facility that includes a refinery pilot plant to create new oils and blends, a fats and oils crystallization center to process shortenings, and a lab equipped to quickly analyze key fats and oils parameters in baked foods. The refining capability facilitates creation of new oils and blends to tailor shortening functionality to specific customer applications.

John Satumba, PhD, R&D director, global edible oils, North America, said these capabilities were previously available via third parties or other Cargill locations, but having this locally in the United States empowers its food scientists to gain additional insights into ingredient quality and performance.

“For instance, does an icing spread easily at colder temperatures, or is there a need for a smoother, creamier texture for a cookie filling?” Dr. Satumba suggested. 

The new pilot center will help Cargill’s scientists answer those questions more quickly for customers looking to get innovative bakery items to market or address changing consumer needs around health and wellness and clean label.

“Another key benefit of this facility is that we can pilot multiple ingredients together,” he added. “Innovation in food is often driven not by one ingredient, such as fats and oils, but through using multiple ingredients. For example, if a customer is interested in creating a healthier-for-you cookie, we can pilot considering both the shortening and protein together.”

Cargill’s broad food ingredient portfolio can supply all the ingredients needed for new bakery items then quickly test them with customers’ applications. Bakers can collaborate directly with Cargill’s experts at the Pilot Development Center and gain access to the company’s proprietary market and innovation insights,

Ms. Punwani added. This knowledge translates emerging bakery trends into winning concepts.

“We find that solutions often lie in combined technologies incorporating global knowledge and a cross-ingredient approach to deliver on consumer-desired functionality,” Ms. Punwani concluded. “Our deep knowledge of fats and oils, our global processes and capabilities that ensure end-to-end commercialization support, and our broad portfolio of ingredients create customized formulation solutions.”

The new facility joins other pilot and innovation centers operated by Cargill around the world, including its European R&D Centre in Vilvoorde, Belgium, the Asia Innovation Center in Beijing, and the Cargill Innovation Center in Singapore.