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Danisco opens fabulous new innovation centre in Cape Town

Danisco’s growth in South Africa has been nothing short of phenomenal in the past five years or so – and mirroring this success was a festive official opening this week of its new and very world-class Innovation Centre in Cape Town.

The centre was inaugurated by guests of honour, Dr Hans Elbek Pedersen, Danisco’s head of global food innovation, and Zacarias Karacristo, vice-president, Danisco South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Said Pedersen: “Innovation is the conversion of a new idea into revenue and profit, and is at the heart of what we do at Danisco. We do not sell ingredients, but solutions. This centre is linked to over twenty other centres around the world – and all our customers have access to this worldwide network of market trends and developments and technical innovation.”

Danisco is renowned for its high-end ingredients but Pedersen stressed that it’s putting equal R&D into affordable food solutions and sustainable food production: “This is of great importance with the world population growing to nine billion in the next twenty years – we have to find ways, for example, to make good bread out of lesser quality cereals, to improve yields and conversion efficiencies, to reduce waste and to extend shelf life – essentially to make resources last longer.”

The two-storied centre, adjacent to Danisco’s plant in Montague Gardens, has been impeccably designed and equipped – to the tune of R5.5m – to undertake R&D and pilot plant trials in bakery applications (on the ground floor) and dairy (on the top floor). Down the line, it will also be extended to handle meat, brewing and beverages.

In short, the facility is a food scientist’s dream, and a boon for customers big, medium and small!

The dairy centre, for example boasts a state-of-the art OVME UHT pilot plant, one of the few in SA, that can emulate factory conditions with but a few litres of product, and eliminate the need for extensive and expensive factory trials. The plant can simulate a complete process line, with a continuous flow heat treatment system (tubular heat exchangers or indirect heat injection), in-line homogenising and asceptic filling.
Other dairy kit in this impressive 350m2 floor includes high-sheer mixers, a homongeniser, batch pasteurizers, ice cream machine, a Stephen pot for emulsions, fermentation tanks and incubators and sophisticated analysis equipment for starch, moisture, viscosity and texture. The design of the building minimises contamination with its clean-room features and positive air flow.

The new centre is the logical follow through after two astute and visionary bolt-on local acquisitions by Paul Vet, Danisco SA’s MD. The latest was the purchase last August of Research Solutions, the highly-successful dairy-focused product development consultancy and producer of a range of stabilising systems, compounds, concentrates and sauces.

In August 2007, Danisco snapped up another fast-track independent ingredient company, Innovative Ingredients, a specialist in bakery enzymes and blends, that was started in Cape Town in 1998 by two dynamic Antipodeans, Darryl Clayton and Alister Sutton. It has subsequently enjoyed rocketing sales and growth.  
When Vet took the helm of Danisco, he took charge of 12 staff and a small HQ and warehouse in Jo’burg. He now oversees an 83-strong personnel contingent and two factory campuses in Midrand and Montague Gardens that are both “bursting at the seams” – and a business that has grown five-fold.
“It was always my vision to employ the most experienced people in their fields and this, complemented by Danisco’s global technical network, gives customers great confidence in our products and expertise. It’s a very powerful combination,” comments Vet.

Danisco + 27 21 526-5600;

Danisco’s Dr Hans Elbek Pedersen, Darryl Clayton, Zacarias Karacristo and Paul Vet.
Tertius Cilliers (a co-founder of Research Solutions with Chris Botha) and Swift Micro Lab’s Anza Bester.

Paul Vet, Lanie van Schalkwyk (manager of the dairy unit) and Savannah’s Kareline van der Spoel, with the new UHT pilot plant.

Chris Botha and Prof Marena Manley (Stellenbosch University).
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