New Zealand-based dairy giant Fonterra has opened its new research and development center – the Chicago Technical Center (CTC) – near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Fonterra has invested $2.4 million in the state-of-the-art facility, which applies New Zealand intellectual property and technology to the benefit of both the New Zealand and U.S. dairy industries. Customers will be able to come in a physically see the processes and taste the products, as Fonterra’s technical staff develops cheeses, yogurt, pediatric formulas, beverages and bars.

“Our investment in the CTC reinforces Fonterra’s commitment to the U.S. dairy industry and to innovation,” said Martin Bates, Fonterra USA’s president and chief operating officer. “Along with the move earlier this year of our corporate headquarters to Chicago, the CTC’s location will allow more innovations to be tailored specifically to the needs of Fonterra’s customers operating within the U.S. and Canadian markets.”

The CTC houses advanced processing equipment, a sample analysis lab and an ingredient supply site. Fonterra officials expect the facility – which officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 30 – to eventually grow into a major sensory application center. The CTC staff expects to ship out the facility’s first product samples in about two weeks.

Keith Schafer, Fonterra USA’s vice president of technical development, said the staff of 15 employed at the center will assist Fonterra’s customers, partners and scientists in defining products using Fonterra specialty ingredients in formulating retail and foodservice products. “The center will allow Fonterra to work directly with our North American customers, which range from the five largest food companies to smaller regional firms,” Schafer said. “Fonterra IP and technology will be demonstrated at the facility. Staff will also work with universities and outside laboratories, as needed, on customer projects.”

Fonterra’s functional dairy proteins and leading ingredients in several application areas. Its customers include HP Hood, Nestlé and Unilever.

Recent Fonterra launches in the North American market have been the PowerProteins range for improved bar functionality and flavor; clear, clean-flavored whey-based beverage ingredients; specialty milk protein concentrates for the cheese and yogurt industries to improve yields and textures; and a number of hydrolysates for the pediatric nutrition area.

Just four months ago, Fonterra USA moved its North American headquarters from Camp Hill, Pa., to Rosemont, Ill., next to O’Hare International Airport. Having both the office and CTC in the Chicago area will make it simpler, faster and more effective to commercialize scientific innovations derived from Fonterra’s other research and development hubs in Palmerston North, Melbourne and Hamburg. Fonterra operated a technical center in Guadalajara, Mexico, for some two decades before closing it to fold into the Chicago facility; some staff members and equipment were moved to the new location.

Fonterra USA is a fully owned subsidiary of the New Zealand-based dairy cooperative.