The agro-giant's Snacks and Cereal Product Innovation Center in Minneapolis, which is now open, allows customers to make use of Cargill's culinary experts, food scientists and engineers on a wide range of new product initiatives. It is the latest in a string of innovation centers that have been set up in the US by food ingredient companies to help customers develop new products and increase speed to market. Jon Wiersum, vice president of snacks and cereal at Cargill, said: "We opened this center to help our customers accelerate ideation and new product development. "We are focusing on culinary-based product developments that result in healthier products that meet consumers' expectations for taste, texture and visual appeal." The new center will also develop snack, bar and cereal formulations that meet customers' specific requirements for color, texture and moisture. In addition it will offer process development, process scale-up and integrated supply chain solutions - from ingredient sourcing to identifying appropriate co-packers and capabilities to deliver complete solutions to customers. Luis Rayas, the center's technical director, said: "The new facility unites Cargill's product formulation and pilot plant scale-up capabilities under one roof, enabling the company to help customers accelerate new product development and testing and increase speed to market." The centre's product manufacturing capabilities include puffed snacks and cereals, extruded flakes and snacks, coating of snacks and cereal components, granola and clusters, protein, nutritional, fruit and granola bars, including double-layer combinations. It also covers chocolate and compound enrobing of snacks and cereal components, including bottom-coating and drizzling, as well as dough-based baked products (snack pretzels, chips, bars and bites filled with fruit, cheese, spreads, etc) and fried baked products (potato chips, corn crisps, etc.). Innovation trend In March Cargill opened its Bakery Product Innovation Center, which is at the same Minneapolis location. National Starch recently opened its Texture Center of Excellence, in Bridgewater, New Jersey, which aims to meet the growing industry need for texture understanding and control. And Barry Callebaut opened its first innovation center in the US, which is located at the company's manufacturing facility in Pennsauken in New Jersey, to focus on the development of new chocolate products.