Swiss food giant Nestlé opened its CHF25m (US$24m) Chocolate Centre of Excellence in Broc, Switzerland today (7 September).

The facility will spearhead Nestlé's drive in the premium and luxury chocolate segment, the company said, which in turn will influence the company's entire chocolate range.

The centre employs a number of "specialists", from cocoa bean scientists, sensory experts and chocolatiers to packaging designers and consumer specialists, as well as a panel of independent chocolatiers such as Pierre Marcolini, Tristan Carbonatto and Roger von Rotz.

"The investment underlines the strategic importance Nestlé attributes to its chocolate business, especially in the premium and luxury segment," the company said. "In 2008 the chocolate business reached sales of CHF9.8bn, with an organic growth of 7.6%. While global brands such as Kit Kat reached sales of over CHF1bn, 70% of Nestlé's chocolate business comes from local brands.

Nestlé premium brands include; Nestlé Noir, Perugina, Cailler and Nespresso.

The Chocolate Centre of Excellence is part of Nestlé's research and development network, which comprises 28 centres and employs around 5,000 people globally. Several of these centres contribute to the research in the field of chocolate and cocoa.

Check back later for further insight into the opening of Nestlé's new centre.