USA – The North American packaged foods company, Conagra Brands plans to build The Conagra Brands Center for Food Design in Chicago to bolster research.

The 40,000-square-foot research and development center, located near to the company’s headquarters, will be an expansion of the company’s current facility.

The facility will focus on innovation related to snacking and combine food and packaging design capabilities.

The innovation center will house 50 employees and is scheduled to open during the first quarter of 2020. It will feature an expansive kitchen and tasting area, where Conagra can interact with customers to get their feedback on new recipes.

Thomas M. McGough, executive vice-president and co-chief operating officer for Conagra Brands said that the company is focusing on developing new snacks brands in the Chicago innovation center.

“Conagra Brands’ $2 billion snacks business is one of the largest and fastest growing in the food industry,” said Thomas.

“Our strong snacking portfolio is positioned for long-term growth and we expect the capabilities in this new facility to enable us to create even more innovative products that our consumers will love.”

The company also has a Center for Food Design and Technology in Omaha, which focuses on Conagra’s frozen, refrigerated and shelf-stable meals and condiments applications.

The center is also the company’s research and development hub for food safety and technology development.

Conagra is home of a wealthy portfolio and counts of popular snack brands including Slim Jim, Jiffy Pop and Swiss Miss.

As consumers are increasingly looking for healthy snack alternatives, the company has also expanded its portfolio through investment and acquisitions of food upstarts.

Conagra acquired Birds Eye last year, alongside other brands as part of US$10.9 billion buyout deal for Pinnacle Foods in a move to expand its presence in frozen foods and snacks.

Eearlier this year, Conagra Brands said that it will be investing more than US$78 million in modernising and expanding its Birds Eye factory in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

The company is also exploring strategic alternatives for its Italian-based frozen pasta business, Gelit.

Gilet is a leading producer of authentic Italian frozen food and ready meals, primarily for private label customers and operates state-of-the-art facility located in Dogan.