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Pinnacle fuels food brands with R&D partnership

Pinnacle Foods is establishing a pilot plant at Rutgers University's Food Innovation Center to fine-tune its brands and production processes.
Pinnacle Foods is establishing a pilot plant at Rutgers University's Food Innovation Center to fine-tune its brands and production processes.

The owner of Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Wish-Bone and other food families has founded an R&D pilot plant at Rutgers University to increase productivity, boost its brands, and improve speed to market.

The pilot plant program will focus on brands within Pinnacle Foods’ Duncan Hines Grocery Division. The mission is to increase the company’s R&D capabilities and reinvigorate its brands by working with specialists at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center.

Technical expertise

Thuy-An Wilkins, senior manager of external communications at Pinnacle Foods, told FoodProductionDaily the Pinnacle-Rutgers project will benefit the food company by boosting its technical know-how.

We’ve been on a continuous mission to strengthen our R&D capabilities,” she said. “The pilot plant is one more step in increasing our technical rigor.”

Small-scale development

Steve Gunther, senior vice president  of R&D at Pinnacle, said the program will enable Pinnacle to explore packaging, ingredient, and production ideas not possible at a full-scale manufacturing plant. 

"We'll be able to execute experimental designs across our brands, studying various ingredient, process and package interactions without impacting our manufacturing facilities,” he said.

The Pinnacle Foods pilot site at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center–North is Pinnacle’s first university-affiliated pilot site. It builds upon the relationship forged last year, via an undergraduate internship.

Mutual benefit

The company reportedly will leverage the expanded partnership with Rutgers by harnessing the University’s technological capabilities, with the opportunity to sponsor specific graduate research work of mutual interest to the food firm and school.

"This is a great opportunity for Rutgers University's Food Innovation Center–North and students,” Peggy Brennan, Rutgers associate vice president of economic development, said. “We are very excited to partner with Pinnacle as it reinvigorates iconic brands."

The pilot plant will boast a roster of food packaging and equipment, mirroring existing production processes at Pinnacle Foods’ Duncan Hines Grocery Division plants; it also will feature facilities for consumer testing.  Pinnacle also will look at process changes outside the plant environment and bring in equipment for testing. 

The plant is a USDA- and FDA-inspected facility that reportedly measures up to Pinnacle's quality, safety, training and standard operating protocols.

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