- German flavor and fragrance producer Symrise is opening an application facility at the Unilever Foods Innovation Center at Wageningen University's campus in the Netherlands. Symrise said in a release the 1,300 square-foot state-of-the-art center will feature a flavor creation lab, an application kitchen and collaboration rooms.
- The company said its taste experts typically develop products in its own facilities and provide them to food industry customers. This new approach will allow Symrise to operate a more integrated and efficient product development model with the maker of brands like Lipton, Breyer's, Knorr, Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Amora Coffee.
- Symrise plans to work with Unilever on taste and sustainability applications, according to the release, and the new, on-site integrated product development center will allow more scientific collaboration on joint sustainability solutions.
For a major flavor and fragrance maker such as Symrise to locate at Unilever's innovation center makes sense because the two companies can take advantage of each other's resources and ideas. Symrise could perhaps develop better ingredients — even proprietary ones. The end result of this collaboration could mean more innovative foods being brought to market more quickly and efficiently, Symrise said.
And the pressure is on when it comes to R&D. More large CPG companies are expanding their innovation centers as the race to bring new, popular products to market gets increasingly competitive. Conagra Brands is expanding its current R&D facilities with a new 40,000 square-foot innovation space in Chicago, while Mondelez's SnackFutures — also located in Chicago — is a segment of the company focused on innovation. For this latest partnership and innovation center, Symrise will be contributing raw materials and adapting them to developing new products, which could give Unilever an advantage over other CPG companies.
Symrise will also have access to scientists at Wageningen University & Research, which is known for research in agriculture and nutrition. Symrise said more than 5,000 scientists and 12,000 students are working there. Its employees plan to lecture at the university and students will be invited to participate in exchanges at the company's headquarters in Germany. That could also help both companies attract young talent.
For Unilever, the idea is to work with partners in an ecosystem to develop better-for-you and more sustainable foods, Manfred Aben, the company's vice president of R&D and head of the Foods Innovation Center, said in the release. He added consumers can look forward to "very unique taste experiences" from the partnership — which are likely to be informed by the CPG company's expertise with customers and markets. Along with other major companies, Unilever has prioritized sustainability efforts as more consumer demand for transparency on the issue has increased. If the two companies are able to produce more sustainable foods, then it could be a lucrative collaboration.
Other food industry collaborations have proved advantageous for both parties, even when they might otherwise be competing in a given sector. Becoming colleagues rather than competitors could work out when there are sufficient synergies and goals in common, yet the brands are still able to keep their own identities.
Companies that have moved operations adjacent to other firms, or entered into collaboration with them, stand to gain new ideas, products, ingredients and sales from such moves. Unilever could start to see some intriguing new ingredients become available to its product lines, and Symrise may gain a large and diverse new customer for its next flavor innovations.