ORLEANS, FRANCE — Cargill announced plans to open its first European Protein Innovation Hub in Saint-Cyr en Val, France, as part of an investment of €50 million ($52.9 million). The new hub allows customers to collaborate in the development of protein-rich menu strategies, the company said.

“Cargill’s Protein Innovation Hub is the perfect home for unsurpassed protein experiences where inspiration, co-creation and innovation meet to transform ideas into an exciting reality,” said Karel Zimmermann, managing director of Cargill Protein Europe. “Our customers can explore the entire world of protein under one roof — from consumer and marketing insights to sensory profiling and product concepts. It is our first Protein Innovation Hub in Europe and part of our continued investment in protein as an essential component of the food chain.” 

The innovation center features a customer experience area, a state-of-the-art test kitchen and a pilot plant to test new products and concepts.

Customers will be able to bring an idea into execution by creating samples of finished products developed by chefs who serve Cargill customers. The Cargill team can then prototype new products in small batches yielding greater efficiency and speed to market on a dedicated small-scale pilot line, while undertaking further analytical and sensory testing. Finished products will be presented in the customer experience center, where there is a restaurant space as well as areas for chef demonstrations, workshops and trainings. 

Connected to Cargill’s 30-year-old Saint-Cyr en Val poultry processing plant, the Protein Innovation Hub is part of a significant upgrade to the facility. Cargill’s investment into the plant will fund renovations for 70% of the production facilities by 2025. The upgrades are expected to increase production capacity by 10%.

Sustainability is at the heart of the investment, Cargill said. The company is implementing energy saving programs including the introduction of an energy-efficient refrigeration unit, which will cut electricity consumption by 11%. New heat pumps to produce hot water for cleaning will reduce gas usage by 5% and water consumption by 20%. Overall, Cargill predicts the investment will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 220 tonnes annually.

Currently, the plant employs 250 workers and supplies over 2,000 foodservice operators across France and 10 other European countries. Last year, the plant produced 1 million chicken nuggets per day on average, using 100% locally sourced poultry for its French Chicken nuggets.