In November, the Swiss technology group Bühler inaugurated its expanded innovation centre for food in Uzwil. The new Food Creation Centre stands as a pivotal element within this hub, providing an integrated perspective on product and process development for a wide array of foods. Bühler teams assist customers from the conceptual phase through rapid prototyping and implementation in the industrial process, to validation and scale-up.
Whether dealing with fruit, protein, muesli, and nut bars, wafers, cookies, chocolate, baked goods, spreads, or snacks, Bühler’s Food Creation Centre in Uzwil serves as a state-of-the-art facility for product testing, production trials, training, and education. Clients discover an ideal environment and expertise to craft diverse foods with innovative raw materials, flavours, and textures. The Food Creation Centre receives ingredients and processed raw materials, such as flour, chocolate mass, nuts, oats, sugar, alternative proteins, and fruit – some of which also originate from other application and training centres – for processing.
Global food megatrends, including premiumization, health, sustainability, affordable nutrition, and on-the-go snacks that appeal to consumers, present opportunities for customers to adapt their portfolios and marketing strategies. Bühler has invested in this new food innovation centre in Uzwil precisely to unlock these opportunities. “In concrete terms, this means that we’re developing products for and with customers that correspond to these megatrends. For example, we created sugar-free protein bars made from pea protein,” says Stefanie Hardtmann, Head of Food Creation Centre & Consumer Food Technology. The exchange with Bühler’s experts extends beyond Uzwil across the entire network in Europe and beyond. In the Food Creation Centre in Uzwil, customers from the traditional bakery sector find a fully equipped bakery with an auditorium for courses, sufficient space for training, and bakery equipment for testing in various batch sizes.
Making Food Sensations a Reality
Bühler’s knowledge of current trends, its expertise in implementing them, and its global network of food experts are ideal for creating food sensations. With Bühler’s assistance, edible cups were developed that can contain hot contents for 45 minutes without leaking. “Through new combinations of process steps, we achieve results that deserve to be called sensations,” says Stefanie Hardtmann. “Another vivid example is the savoury filled wafer pillow with a tomato and cheese filling. We developed these together with the wafer team from Leobendorf, Austria. The pillows are a good size for snacking; they’re lightweight, low in fat and calories and have an intense, natural tomato and cheese flavour.” In the cracker range, potato and chia seed potato chips were created, offering a gluten-free, vegan, low-fat crispy snack. There is a particularly wide variety for those with a sweet tooth, as many bar or wafer products are coated in chocolate. The Food Creation Centre also produces chocolates with unusual fillings, including a vegan, gluten-free chocolate praline with a peanut-free peanut filling. The possibilities offered to customers by the centre are as creative as they are varied.
Services from A to Z
Covering an area of 850 square meters, the Food Creation Centre combines cutting-edge technology, analytical services, product and process development, as well as workshops and training courses for Bühler’s customer experts. Stefanie Hardtmann and her team possess market knowledge gained from businesses from field to consumer, enabling them to support customers throughout the entire innovation process along their value chains, from raw material to the finished consumer product. They also aid in the detailed development of business cases, capital expenditure analyses, and return-on-investment estimates, all the way through to the first sample production or the first finished product prototype.
“In Uzwil, we have the smallest scale industrial production line. This means we can not only offer our customers the opportunity to test small batch sizes of a product, assess process performance and scale up to higher production scales with confidence,” explains Stefanie Hardtmann. “Product quality and process stability are two decisive criteria here,” adds Stefanie Hardtmann.
More Than Snacks and Chocolate Bars
The comprehensive range of applications, possibilities, and network benefits offered by Bühler’s centre for food innovation at a single location is unique. Bühler is committed to supporting its customers in the food industry in feeding the world’s growing population in a sustainable and healthy way. “The opening of the four new application and training centres is an important milestone in our efforts to support our customers and partners in developing a more sustainable food system,” says Ian Roberts, CTO of Bühler. “In these centres, our customers have access to a unique combination of technology and expertise.”