The Fries of the future from Innovation Center in Bergen op Zoom Tuesday 14 June 2022
BERGEN OP ZOOM/KRUININGEN - The international producer and supplier of fries Lamb Weston / Meijer is going to build an Innovation Center on the Van Wamelweg, where new products will be developed and tested. In this way, the potato processor wants to accelerate its innovation power.
You should see the Innovation Center as a very large test kitchen", says Anton Godschalk, co-responsible for preparing new products for the market at Lamb Weston / Meijer. It's the place where we will soon be able to experiment fully with new products and techniques. Which we may or may not apply in our factories.
Lamb Weston / Meijer (LW/M) is a producer of potato products, particularly frozen types of fries. It supplies, among others, fast food chains and restaurants in more than 100 countries. Their products can also increasingly be found in large supermarkets. . In the Netherlands there are factories in Bergen op Zoom (N-Br),Kruiningen (Zeeland), Oosterbierum (Friesland) and Broekhuizenvorst (Limburg) The main office is in Breda.
For research and the development of new products, the company now uses the DAB innovation centre: the Delta Agrifood Business in the former sugar lab on Van Konijnenburgweg. We are outgrowing our space there," says Godschalk. Partly for that reason, the company is now building its own innovation centre opposite the Berg factory. But above all to increase and accelerate the power of innovation.
This is where experiments with different potato varieties, cutting techniques, chip shapes and flavours will take place. If this is now done in the DAB with a few kilograms of fries at a time, Lamb Weston / Meijer can slowly scale up the new techniques and methods in the Innovation Center, from one to five hundred kilograms.
You'll know much earlier in the process whether a new product or technique has a chance of success. Like cylindrical chips, for example. The shape of such a product means less fat. Plus less of the potato is lost. In the past, we had to shut down and modify the entire factory for large-scale testing. That will no longer be necessary.
The Innovation Center also offers opportunities to experiment with new, sustainable techniques. Like the electric pre-frying of chips. Our factories are still running on gas. We want to get rid of that eventually. In a test environment, it's much easier to find out what works and what doesn't."
That Lamb Weston / Meijer chose the Bergen op Zoom location is no coincidence. Here in the region where the potato grows, we also want the knowledge to stay", continues Godschalk. An innovation center offers plenty of jobs at various job levels, from cleaners, process operators and product developers to researchers."
With the Innovation Center, Lamb Weston / Meijer wants to get a better grip on the market. Whereas some customers still largely determine what fries should look like, in the future the company wants to develop and offer more choices itself.
For years, the company has been working with its own test panel. A group of employees who look beyond what is technically feasible and try out products. They judge products on taste, smell, shape and texture. We know the preferences of every country. The more southerly you are, the darker the chips, for example."
The ultimate goal is that in the future, Lamb Weston / Meijer's new products will not only be available in the catering industry, but will also get more space in the supermarket freezer compartment.
The construction of the Innovation Center on the Van Wamelweg is in full swing. The walls have to be up by the summer. So that we can install the machines at the beginning of next year. Everything should be up and running by April. Godschalk expects the test center to create around ten jobs in the short term.
LW/M is a joint venture of the American group Lamb Weston and the Zeeland company Meijer Frozen Foods that was formed in 1994. The head office is in Breda. It employs approximately 1,500 people in total. Abroad, there are factories in England and Austria, and (sales) offices in Dubai and Nigeria. Lamb Weston also employs approximately 7,000 people worldwide.