NETHERLANDS – Unilever has opened a new €85 million (US$94m) global Foods Innovation Centre on the campus of Wageningen University, located in the “Food Valley” area in the Netherlands.

The new center, named ‘Hive’ for its location amidst leading academic research centres, start-ups and external partners, will lead the company’s innovation programs for brands like Knorr, Hellmann’s, The Vegetarian Butcher and Calvė.

According to the company, areas of research will include: plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives, efficient crops, sustainable food packaging and nutritious foods.

The Foods Innovation Centre consists of a pilot plant, a food & customer experience area and two floors of offices and laboratories.

The pilot plant is a mini-factory for the small-scale production of new products while the food & customer experience area has test kitchens in which experiments with innovative ingredients will take place.

Together with its partners, Unilever said that it aims to transform the food industry into a healthy and sustainable system, driving innovations that are healthier for people and for the planet.

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said: “We need a fundamental transformation of the food system if we are to feed more than 9 billion people sustainably and nutritiously.

“Malnutrition, obesity, climate change and food waste are issues that can only be addressed if we work in partnership to accelerate technology and innovation.

“Having a global research and development centre in Wageningen will enable us to do exactly this.”

The facility functions as an interaction and collaboration hub for Unilever’s nutritionists, researchers and students from Wageningen University & Research (WUR), and local start-ups and knowledge institutes involved in food-related innovation.

The centre will be open to food experts, students and members of the public to sample the results of their experiments and share their views in the food & customer experience area or in the concept store.

Symrise has also partnered with the company to open an innovation lab at the Innovation Centre that will comprise a flavor creation lab, an application kitchen and collaboration rooms covering 120 square meters.

The Wageningen area in the Netherlands is often nicknamed “Food Valley” – a nod to Silicon Valley – in recognition of the breakthroughs in agri-food tech being generated by start-ups, science institutes, NGOs and companies located in the area.