Global food corporation Unilever has invested $94 million in new global Foods Innovation Centre, named ‘Hive’ in Wageningen. From Hive, Unilever will lead its global foods innovation programs.
At the Hive, Unilever plans to work with academic researchers, startups, and other partners to develop new products, including plant-based meat and sustainable food packaging. Together with its partners, Unilever aims to transform the food industry into a healthy and sustainable system, driving innovations that are healthier for people and for the planet.
“We need a fundamental transformation of the food system if we are to feed more than nine billion people sustainably and nutritiously,” Alan Jope, Unilever CEO said. “Malnutrition, obesity, climate change and food waste are issues that can only be addressed if we work in partnership to accelerate technology and innovation. Having a global research and development center in Wageningen will enable us to do exactly this.” The Wageningen area in the Netherlands is often nicknamed "Food Valley" – a nod to Silicon Valley – in recognition of the breakthroughs in agri-food tech being generated by start-ups, science institutes, NGOs and companies located in the area.
Unilever’s energy-neutral Foods Innovation Centre is one of the most sustainable multifunctional buildings in the world. Its open plan design and the building’s strategic location at Wageningen University provide for an optimal degree of interaction between Unilever and the various external parties with whom it will be working in the city’s food ecosystem. The facility functions as an interaction and collaboration hub for Unilever’s nutritionists, researchers and students from Wageningen University & Research (WUR), and local start-ups and knowledge institutes involved in food-related innovation. The centre consists of a Pilot Plant, a Food & Customer Experience area and two floors of offices and laboratories. The pilot plant is a mini-factory for the small-scale production of new products. It leads directly to the Food & Customer Experience area, with test kitchens in which experiments with innovative ingredients will take place every day with the aim of creating new food products. Staff members, food experts, students and members of the public will be able to sample the results of these experiments and share their views here or in the concept store.