The recent renovation is part of a $12m investment of the ice cream and food ingredient plant.
The building was first purchased in 2006 when it was acquired from Eskimo Pie Corp.’s Value American flavors and ingredients division.
“The old plant was functional, but it was a tiny space shared with quality control and wasn’t really a dedicated innovation space,” Denali Ingredients spokesperson Matt Jackson told DairyReporter.
Shortly after the acquisition, Denali invested $4m in equipment and mechanical improvement, and in 2009 there was a $2m expansion. The current renovation grew out of a vision crafted during a strategic planning process that began in late 2014.
Priority on flavor innovation
Along with refacing the exterior of the building, the renovation added 15,000 square feet of interior space to include a new “innovation center,” designed to promote research, development and creative flavor collaboration with industry partners, the company said.
"It's an opportunity for us to get closer to the consumer and to play a larger role in our customers' own R&D efforts as true collaborators. Ultimately, the entire industry benefits when these new flavors and concepts become mainstream trends in the grocery aisle," Denali Ingredients president Neal Glaeser said.
Fostering R&D collaboration
It also will also make it easier for customers with limited resources — for example some dairies, bakeries and confectioneries — to collaborate with Denali's research and development staff, Jackson said.
Many of Denali’s customers may not have R&D staff or the ability to shut down their plant for R&D purposes.
The innovation center — with its pilot lab to simulate full-scale manufacturing of new concepts — allows them to see what the product will look like and taste like, Jackson said.
Most recently, the company tested out the pilot lab by concocting a movie-theater-inspired ice cream using a popcorn-flavored ice cream base, combined with a licorice variegate, and cola flavored chips.
“Now, it may not end up at the grocery story, but it’s more about breaking through the creative paradigm,” Jackson said.
Denali plans to invest another $6m in its second phase of expansion over the next 24 months, a move that will add new production capabilities, and another 40-50 new jobs in production, supervision, and maintenance and sanitation, over the next five years, Glaeser said.
"We're investing at a time when many in our industry are moving in the other direction," said Glaeser.