Research, development, culinary, laboratory, pilot plant and distribution capabilities that are focused on helping Cargill’s retail and foodservice customers build their businesses by meeting the needs of domestic and international meat consumers are housed in the center. Approximately 70 people are employed at the center, including professional chefs.
“This is a discovery zone, a place where the art and science of food intersect to advance food quality, nutrition, meat production, food safety and packaging, while also employing a creative flair in the areas of new product development and finding solutions to meet our customers’ needs and expectations,” said Scott Eilert, vice president of research and development who manages the facility.
The innovation center is located one block from the headquarters of several Cargill businesses it supports, which include the second-largest beef processor in the US, third-largest turkey processor and forth-largest pork processor, in addition to a business that serves the foodservice industry, another that distributes food to small retailers, one that is responsible for much of the ground beef Americans eat and another that produces case-ready products for retail customers. The center will also work closely with Cargill’s salt, egg, dressings, sauces, oils and food ingredients groups.
Investments such as the Cargill Innovation Center in Wichita and a Cargill Sow Innovation Center in Kentucky plus an innovation center in Campinas, Brazil, which both opened last month, underscore the company’s long-term commitment to customers, the company relayed.
“Additionally, our new Wichita innovation center is a full-service research and development facility, which means we also have the capability to work on food-safety initiatives,” Eilert said. “While all Cargill employees in our meat businesses have a role in ensuring food safety, in the US we have more than 700 fulltime professionals dedicated to eradicating potential risks from foodborne illness.”
Initially conceptualized in 2009, the Wichita Cargill Innovation Center became a reality through a cooperative effort including the city of Wichita, Mayor Carl Brewer’s office, Sedgwick County, the state of Kansas, the Kansas Bioscience Authority, greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition (GWEDC), Wichita Downtown Development Cooperation (WDDC), JP Weigand Commercial Properties and contractors Arco national Construction Company Inc. and GMA Design Group Inc., both of St. Louis, Mo.
“This is the crown jewel of meat-oriented food innovation centers currently found in the US,” Eilert boasted. “It is where whatever is next in the way of food innovation is created and, as such, we eagerly look forward to our customers visiting Wichita to experience this very special place we built to serve them better.”
Cargill’s meat businesses employ approximately 1,000 people in downtown Wichita.