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Nestlé Product Center (PTC) - Tasting for research

At the Nestlé Product Centre (PTC) in Singen, around 170 specialists from 28 countries research and develop new products and processes for the production of culinary products, baby food and desserts. Discoveries from basic research are incorporated into actual products and technical facilities and processes are continually improved. The PTC is one of twelve Nestlé research centres worldwide.

Martinas Kuslys is head of the Baby Food Group. (Photo: Nestlé) © Nestlé
The fact that this large, bright building is meant for food is already obvious at the reception. Whereas other company reception areas have a standard flower arrangement, the PTC greets visitors with a large bowl of apples – not for decoration: Whoever comes and goes is welcome to take one.
As head of the Baby Food Group, Martinas Kuslys is responsible for the special needs of the youngest Nestlé customers. In order to meet these needs as precisely as possible, the company has surveyed mothers and analysed their wishes and consumer behaviour. The study shows: Baby food is expected to be 100% natural and entirely free of toxins, fruit products must not contain sugar or aroma additives, but instead lots of vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

With passion and persistence

Food for babies is very particular since much indicates that later eating habits are developed at a very early age, partially even in utero, says Martinas Kuslys. Studies have shown that babies love the smell and taste of aniseed if the mothers consumed the spice during pregnancy. Yet not only flavour-related preferences arise early on; education on healthy eating begins with baby food.

In order to meet the various expectations, specialists at the PTC are constantly testing new processes even for such well-tried dishes as apple sauce. Even here, the specialists continue to work on further refinements concerning taste, smell, consistency, ingredients and appearance. “This requires passion and persistence,” said Martinas Kuslys explaining the work at the PTC. It is also important to bear cultural preferences in mind. Thus, Nordic countries prefer apple sauce with pieces of fruit while, for instance, the Spanish prefer a consistency that is as smooth as possible.

Absolute cleanliness and a creative atmosphere

Constant quality control (Photo: Nestlé)
The PTC tests everything related to food preparation, whether it is cooking in pots or pans as any amateur cook would do, or complicated automated processes such as those used in industrial food preparation. “We want to understand what happens during preparation”, explains Martinas Kuslys. In order to do this, food technologists, engineers, agronomists, nutritionists, sensory assessors, biotechnologists, microbiologists and, of course, cooks work hand in hand. They develop ready-made dough or test powder or granulate for different characteristics such as solubility or moisture absorption. The aim is to design fabrication processes that suit kitchen practices. The specialists also remain in continual contact and maintain a lively exchange with different universities.
This concerns not only the constant improvement of proven products or technical processes, but also the development of new products. The PTC also offers numerous technologies that simulate and optimise stages of production if a problem arises anywhere during production.

Currently a system is undergoing testing that will enable sterilisation to be carried out three times faster than in traditional processes. Right next door, specialists are working on an apparatus that usually serves to preserve milk through pasteurisation. Instead of milk, a carrot mash will now pass through the machinery at the PTC, making entirely different demands of the technology.

Novel technical developments facilitate not only different production processes, but also render additives unnecessary. Thus, the above mentioned apple sauce contains no binding agent while still exhibiting a consistency that stays on the spoon and which is pleasant and easy for the baby to eat.

Sensitive palates sought

Unlike the hygienic cool environment in the laboratory and production facilities, the air at the office work spaces is thick. The work here is to develop new creative ideas. This requires inspiration from all areas. The creative team has its own “lounging area” for this purpose with colourful beanbags and flipcharts in order to gather the best ideas. The people at the PTC here trust in a mixed-age team. “Old foxes and young tigers work together”, explains Martinas Kuslys.

Before an idea finally becomes a marketable product, it must pass a variety of sensoric tests. While ingredients or even colour can be tested in the laboratory, the taste has no scale as sensible as the palate. At the PTC, 36 sensory experts thus test the products according to particular specifications. This not only requires a finely tuned sense of taste and smell, but also the ability to capture the test results in exact words. Thus, the testing of the apple sauce includes 40 different attributes: Is the smell sweet, sour, ripe or nutty? Does the sauce smell of cooked or fresh apples? The training period for sensory assessors takes up to six weeks. Thus, the specificity of differentiation amounts to up to 99 percent.

mek – 25.03.2008
© BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

Further information:
Nestlé Product Technology Centre Lebensmittelforschung GmbH
Martinas Kuslys
Lange Str. 31
Postfach 671
78224 Singen
Tel.: +49 (0)7731/14-1221
Fax: +49 (0)7731/14-1401
E-mail: martinas.kuslys@rdsi.nestle.com

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/nestl-product-center-ptc-tasting-for-research