Snack producer and innovator Diamond Foods has officially opened its new innovation center in Salem, Oregon. The 7,000 square foot lab was constructed adjacent to one of the company's Kettle Brand chip factories, with the intention of serving as a hub for future product development and testing for future snack products.
The building, created by ZGF Architects, was designed to fit in to the area's natural setting, including wood cladding made from pressure-treated pine. Beyond just providing additional office space, the facility comes complete with a research and development geared kitchen, a testing area open to the public trying out new products, and brainstorming space that Diamond is calling the "nosh pit." It contains four tables, a wall for white boards, a TV, and a counter full of the ingredients the 14-person innovation team has decided to experiment with on a given day.
At an opening tour, Holly Mensch, the vice president of research, development and innovation at Diamond Foods proudly mentioned that, while the nosh pit is a great way to start formulating ideas, inspiration doesn't stop there, and food science innovators working in the space continue their research out of the office.
"The innovation team gets inspiration from a variety of sources including travel, grocery stores, farmers markets and their own gardens," she said, adding as a personal touch that "one of our food scientists, Rebecca Anderson, is an avid gardener. While in her garden, she came up with the idea for a white chocolate lavender potato chip to marry together all the things that she loves."
Mensch says that for every product that makes it to the consumer, there are ten or more that are abandoned during development. Strawberry cream chips, for instance, were apparently terrible, but Aztec chocolate and Island Jerk potato chips held promise.
Diamond Foods employees haven't been the only ones talking about their new center. Oregon Governor Kate Brown visited the center in early July to see it for herself and to give remarks on the company's choice to bring its new center to her state. She also sampled several products in development, giving particular praise the Diamond's new Emerald Raspberry Glazed Almonds.
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