A mere 382 days after a grill lighting ceremony that signaled the groundbreaking for construction of its $14.7 million Cargill Innovation Center in Wichita, located at 300 West 1st Street North, one of the world’s most advanced food innovation facilities will officially be open for business on Friday, July 15. The research, development, culinary, laboratory, pilot plant and distribution capabilities housed in the building are focused on helping Cargill’s retail and food service customers grow their businesses by meeting the needs of domestic and international consumers who enjoy eating meat products.
“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 oversees the facility. “As the name implies, this facility and the people who work here are all about innovation that makes a difference to our customers and consumers who buy from them. We take pride in helping our customers succeed, as well as feeding a world population with an increasing appetite for nutritious, quality, flavorful, safe and affordable protein.”
The 75,000-square-foot innovation center is located one block away from the headquarters of several Cargill businesses it supports, which include the second largest beef processor in the U.S., third largest turkey processor and forth largest pork processor, in addition to a business that serves the food service 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 innovation center also works closely with several other Cargill businesses such as its salt, egg, dressings, sauces, oils and food ingredients groups.
Collaborating with customers to help them succeed is a core business philosophy woven into the fabric of Cargill’s culture around the world, one that has developed and evolved over the course of the company’s 146-year history that began as a small grain trading operation in rural Iowa in 1865. Cooperation of this nature can only be achieved through a combination of ongoing investment in Cargill businesses and people, strategic acquisitions, solid working relationships with stakeholder audiences and a vision to help better nourish the world’s growing population. Investments such as the Cargill Innovation Center in Wichita, together with others including a Cargill Sow Innovation Center in Kentucky and an innovation center in Campinas, Brazil, both opened last month, underscore the company’s long-term commitment to its customers.
“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,” explained Eilert. “We are passionate about food safety because we believe people have the right to consume safe food. While all Cargill employees in our meat businesses have a role in ensuring food safety, in the U.S. we have more than 700 fulltime professionals dedicated to eradicating potential risks from food borne illness.”
“Cargill is both progressive and comprehensive in its food safety efforts, yet we will never relax our guard,” Eilert added. “We eat the products we produce, as do our families, friends and neighbors, therefore we take our ongoing quest to improve food safety seriously, personally and professionally, and our new innovation center takes us to the next level in these efforts.”
Approximately 70 people are employed at the innovation center, including professional chefs who work with customers to develop new products and demonstrate the way existing ones can be better prepared and used.
First conceptualized in 2009, the Wichita Cargill Innovation Center came to fruition through a cooperative effort that included 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 U.S.,” stated Eilert. “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.