“In this world where requirements are changing so fast, customers need flexibility and creativity to adapt their products addressing key issues such as sustainability, the use of local raw materials, healthy diets, and affordability,” says Johannes Wick, CEO of Grains & Food at Bühler Group. “With the completion of the new Application & Training Centers we are able to cover the entire scope of production, from different raw materials to multiple types of finished products. We can offer our customers enormous flexibility and the options they need to disrupt their markets.”
Bühler has Application & Training Centers in 23 locations around the world – some of which cover multiple industrial applications – offering dedicated training for customers and providing them with a collaborative platform to test new product ideas and experiment with product innovations. Over the last years, Bühler’s global network of application centers has expanded, bringing together new business partners, academy, start-ups, and suppliers, with the goal of offering a state-of-the-art setup for customers to drive innovation. In October, along with the Institute of Food Technology (Ital), the FoodTech HUB Latam, Cargill, and Givaudan, Bühler opened the Tropical Food Innovation Lab in Brazil. This innovation ecosystem develops sustainable food and beverages while promoting biodiversity in Brazil.
Enabling innovation through synergies
With the opening of the new Flavor Creation Center, Food Creation Center, Protein Application Center, and Energy Recovery Center, together with the Application & Training Centers already in operation in Uzwil, this site has become a one-stop shop for Bühler’s customers worldwide. “The opening of the Application & Training Centers is a milestone in our journey to support our customers and partners, to create a more sustainable food system,” says Ian Roberts, CTO at Bühler Group. “At the new ATCs customers have access to a unique combination of technology and expertise.”
The new Protein Application Center provides field to ingredient and consumer product process solutions under one roof. The center will enable the buildup of know-how and foster the development of processes for the production of plant-based food, including meat substitutes, plant-based drinks and ingredients. Equipped with the latest wet isolation and fractionation techniques for separation of protein, starches, and fibers, the center is operated in collaboration with Bühler’s partner, endeco, and will connect the Grain Innovation Center, Extrusion Application Center, Pasta Application Center, Food Creation Center, Flavor Creation Center, and Energy Recovery Center.
The Extrusion Application Center, which runs 80 to 90 trials per year, will link closely into the new Protein Application Center enabling a unique opportunity to optimize the full process solution from raw materials through consumer products. In this multi-purpose laboratory customers can conduct tests on food and animal feed, test new recipes, product shapes, and textures.
At the Flavor Creation Center, Bühler’s proven expertise in processing, roasting and grinding cocoa beans, nuts, and coffee is combined in one place to create unmatched flavors and exquisite products. The center, which has been processing coffee since 2013 and cocoa and nuts since 2022, has been upgraded and renovated. It offers product innovation, training, process optimization, raw material analyses and operates in line with Bühler’s Chocolate Application Center, Food Creation Center, and Energy Recovery Center.
Whether it is snack bars, wafers, biscuits, crackers, any variety of baked goods, or chocolate products, the new Food Creation Center was developed to support customers through the entire innovation and industrialization process. The center, located in an area of 850 square meters, combines cutting-edge technology, analytical services, product and process development, workshops, and trainings.
Integrated energy efficiency solutions
Together, the Application & Training Centers in Uzwil produce about 550 tons of biomass annually. To make optimum use of the waste and by-products generated by the ATCs, Bühler and its strategic partner, Vyncke, have built the Energy Recovery Center, which serves as a heating facility for Bühler’s headquarters. The Energy Recovery Center also works as a demonstration and testing platform for customers who want to reduce CO2 footprint, waste production, and energy costs by using side streams. “The energy generation from biomass as an integrated part of process solutions for food has not been systematically developed and therefore has an enormously high potential, both from a business and sustainability perspective,” says Johannes Wick. “The Bühler-Vyncke Energy Recovery Center is an important step for us in implementing our sustainability goals and is intended to serve as an example for energy recovery options in food and feed production.”
Transformative impact at scale
Bühler’s partnerships have been ensuring leading-edge technology development and new means of collaborating with customers and partners. Milling Solutions, together with the other business areas, also started construction on a new Grain Innovation Center (GIC) in Uzwil, where Bühler and its customers and partners will develop, test, and scale sustainable and efficient solutions for grain and feed processing to improve food and feed solutions. The focus will be on yield, quality, energy efficiency, and the flexibility of the plants together with nutritious and great tasting recipes based on a broad variety of grains and pulses. The GIC is scheduled to start operations by the end of 2024.
A new Grain Processing Innovation Center (GPIC) in Kano, Nigeria, is also under construction and should open its doors at the beginning of 2024. The center will be focused on the development of products, recipes, and processes using local grains, such as sorghum, millets, maize, soy beans, beans, and tigernuts.
“More than the impressive capacities of each new Application & Training Center we have been investing in, these are built to work in an integrated manner, offering a comprehensive process, so that the customers can take the best of it, and achieve tangible and remarkable outcomes,” says Johannes Wick.