Cargill Inc. is opening a $6.4 million ingredient test center and lab in Savage to speed up development of new cakes, cookies and chocolates for its customers.
The Minnetonka-based agribusiness currently operates four other pilot plants for food-ingredient innovation. One is in Plymouth and the others are overseas in Belgium, China and Singapore.
The 6,500-square-foot building in Savage will triple the size of Cargill’s food pilot operations in the Twin Cities. Called the North American Pilot Development Center, the facility is next door to a 17,300-square-foot Cargill engineering-research lab and it should be fully running by late summer.
The agribusiness recently completed construction of the structure and is currently outfitting it with equipment and technology that will allow it to refine and blend edible oils and shortenings. That’s important for baked goods as every cake and cookie needs a fat.
It’s the first time Cargill will have the ability to tweak a fat’s characteristics at the same site as the food scientists who are tinkering with and testing new recipes. The company said it will be able to cut down the time it takes from concept to market from several weeks to one week.
“Our expanded pilot facility and our Food Innovation Center [in Plymouth] together will allow us to more quickly respond to customer requests for samples and test their performance in bakery products,” Sonia Punwani, global bakery leader for Cargill’s edible oils business, said in a statement.
The purpose of the expansion is to help Cargill get new products into the marketplace faster for its customers, which include food makers that are household consumer brands, national restaurant chains and in-store bakeries of grocery chains.
If a customer comes to Cargill and wants an icing that spreads more easily at colder temperatures, this new lab will be able to tweak the fat component — like a shortening or oil — to make that happen. Or if a customer wants a cookie filling to be smoother, or creamier, the tests can be done more quickly and on a greater scale.