Is there a certain implied symmetry to life when one lives in a town called Twin Falls? There just might be, considering that Glanbia Foods Inc. has two leading businesses—twins, if you will—in dairy ingredients and cheese.

Already a leading dairy ingredient supplier, Glanbia last year invested $15 million to build a three-story, 35,000-sq-ft U.S. cheese headquarters in Twin Falls, Idaho. Moreover, the project included a new 14,000-sq-ft Cheese Innovation Center (CIC).

For the record, Glanbia Foods says it is one of the largest producers of cheese and whey-based ingredients, as well as the world’s largest barrel cheese manufacturer. It has cheese plants in Gooding, Twin Falls and Blackfoot, Idaho, as well as whey processing plants in Gooding and Richfield. Combined, the facilities process more than 12 million lbs of milk every day and more than 400 million lbs of cheese and 110 million lbs of dairy ingredients each year.  In 2006, Glanbia Foods also opened Southwest Cheese, a joint venture in Clovis, N.M., that produces both cheese and whey ingredient products.

Glanbia already formulates and processes several varieties of “American-style” cheeses for retail, foodservice and industrial channels. Those varieties include Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby, Colby Jack and Pepper Jack.

“The CIC is a tremendous resource for our partners,” says Jeff Williams, Glanbia Foods president and CEO. “It will be a destination where leading minds of our industry can collaborate, side-by-side with access to the tools and technology to create tomorrow’s products—today.” 

Echoing those sentiments is Eric Bastian, Ph.D., Glanbia’s vice president of research and development.

“While Glanbia has been addressing product innovation in the nutritional side of our business for decades, we determined it was time to focus on cheese innovation as well,” he adds. “Our customers have needed a location offering a high level of cheese research and innovation capabilities to test and create products… We are now able to better and more efficiently respond to our customers’ requests, while we also create our own new, innovative cheeses for customer consideration.”

Space to Collaborate, Innovate

Bastian says the company literally designed the CIC “to encourage collaboration and innovation.”

The CIC’s lab features state-of-the-art technologies to test for fat, protein, total solids for milk, cream and whey, etc. Other instruments test finished cheeses for moisture, fat, pH and salt—and can analyze chemical compounds associated with cheese flavor. Glanbia lab technicians can conduct gel electrophoresis, a method of separating proteins related to cheese aging. These workers also can conduct extensive texture-profile analysis and project industrial scale on a cooking, stirring viscometer with ramped temperature and variable shear capability.

Speaking of scale-up, Bastian says the CIC’s extensive pilot scale capabilities are unique and not found in other cheese R&D facilities. Behind a large, full-length glass wall viewing area, visitors can see the CIC’s cheese processing room, which includes equipment to shred, cut, slice and package cheese, and even make processed cheese. The room also has extra space to easily move pieces of equipment or add new trial machinery as required.

Looking for Your Own Private Idaho?

Glanbia Foods isn’t the only company investing in southern Idaho. Other food and beverage processors and suppliers investing in the area have included Portugal’s Frulact (fruit preparations), McCain Foods, Chobani (reportedly, the world’s largest yogurt plant), Clif Bar, Calva/Brewster and Monsanto (wheat technology).

According to the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, agriculture/food manufacturing is the region’s leading industry, and one out of every three jobs there is directly or indirectly related to agriculture. In addition to business incentives and support services for food operations, the region produces a massive supply of milk (estimated at 27 million lbs daily) making it especially desirable to dairy production and processing companies.

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“We can facilitate side-by-side experimentation to evaluate new ingredients, new cultures and a wide variety of different cheeses,” notes Bastian. “We also can explore how to take new cheese types and flavors from prototype [stage] to large-scale production; we can test innovations in cheese processing efficiency; and test cheese texture and composition for high-speed slicing, cutting and shredability. We also can test/measure effects of cheese processing, melting and heating; analyze proteins in cheese (and changes over time); and even test cheese under different ripening environments.”

A separate cheese applications area includes a presentation room for cheese cutting and sampling, a private office for visiting customers, a complete culinary kitchen, and a customer applications kitchen fitted with an industrial range and oven, pizza oven, toaster oven, deli slicer and shredder, dishwasher, heat lamp and food processor.      

Bastian says the CIC employs 10 staff members, researchers, scientists and chefs. There are a total of 40 employees who work in R&D at Glanbia’s two business units to engage and support customers.

“The CIC provides the additional resources necessary to further collaborate and build relationships with customers, suppliers and universities,” Bastian concludes. “It will help us develop new cheese-making processes and new cheese products with superior quality and value.”