French dairy group Lactalis plans to invest a total of EUR34.6m (US$51.3m) over the next three years to build its business in the baby formula category.

At its Bridel subsidiary, Lactalis will invest EUR7.1m to establish a new research and development centre, to open at the end of 2010.

One of its fields of study will be the medical applications of baby milk production, a Lactalis spokesman told just-food today (13 November).

"Since we acquired the Celia brand in 2006, our activities in the baby milk segment have developed significantly and a strong R&D capability has become imperative," he said.

The investment programme also makes provision for the creation in 2011-2012 of a EUR15m production unit for lactose derivatives used in baby food and pharmaceuticals.

At the company's major bottling and packaging facility for the Lactel, Eveil, Bridelice and Président dairy brands, a further EUR12.5m has been earmarked for the construction of a new production line and an incubator for aseptic products, particularly for baby milk formulated for special medical purposes.