Glanbia Nutritionals, a division of Irish food company Glanbia, has announced the official opening of the Glanbia Group Innovation Centre in Kilkenny, by the Irish minister for enterprise, trade and employment, Michéal Martin.

The centre, which will involve an investment of over €15m (US$18m)over the next four years, is supported by Enterprise Ireland and has been in operation since September 2004.

The facility currently stands at 1265 sq metres and includes specialist laboratories, a pilot plant, sensory analysis facilities and a research library. Forty-two people are employed there, comprising 16 development professionals and 26 highly skilled research scientists. This number is set to increase in October 2005 when a 700 sq metre expansion will be completed.

The Glanbia Nutritionals team of nutritionists, microbiologists, immunologists, food scientists and applications experts at the GIC are responsible for developing science-based nutritional solutions for a broad range of industries such as functional foods, dietary supplements, clinical, infant and sports nutrition. These include whey protein isolates, milk protein isolates, a natural milk calcium and mineral complex, oat beta-glucan, vitamin and mineral premixes and weight management ingredients.

"Innovation is at the heart of Glanbia's growth strategy and our agenda is based on the continued development of health-based functional foods and ingredients with a nutritional emphasis, both dairy and non-dairy," said Glanbia Group managing director, John Moloney. "The protection of intellectual property is also crucial to the success of this agenda. All our research is based on a close study of consumer lifestyle changes and the need for efficient nutrition, and ensures that innovations are commercially relevant."

"The case for innovation is clear, as food companies find themselves in an environment where change is happening rapidly," said Mike Feeney, executive director, Enterprise Ireland. "Consumers are demanding new products, new tastes, a focus on health and well-being and convenience - and all without compromising on quality or cost. Only those food companies with an eye to the market and a focus on the customer will be in a position to innovate and respond speedily and imaginatively to these changing market demands. The new innovation centre will be a critical factor in positioning Glanbia to respond to this environment." 

The opening of the GIC in Kilkenny complements Glanbia's innovation centre in Idaho, USA, which offers specialist whey protein extraction technologies.