The Limerick-based €27m manufacturing facility marks the culmination of a three-year building project in which forty research staff are now employed at the research facility.
“Our Irish R&D Centre will benefit from Nestlé’s global R&D network and help to position Nestlé at the fore of infant and maternal nutritional product development, one of Nestlé’s most important growth drivers,” said Thomas Hauser, head of global product and technology development for Nestlé.
“With this new centre, we will increase the pace of our innovation capacity by enabling our scientists to explore innovative nutritional solutions for the crucial first 1,000 days of life.”
Along with Danone, Mead Johnson (now RB), Abbott, FrieslandCampina, and Heinz, these firms represent the six main infant-formula manufacturers in Europe, heading up an industry worth €41bn in 2015.
According to Euromonitor International, the sector is predicted to increase by around 50% in the next three years. Currently, the Swiss-based giants are the world’s biggest infant formula maker, with around a 21% share of the market.
The market research analysts also place Nestlé number one in China, which accounts for a third of a global market worth $68bn.
Co-located with Wyeth Nutrition
The R&D Centre is co-located with Nestlé’s Wyeth Nutrition manufacturing plant. Wyeth Nutrition’s Infant Formula business, which Nestle acquired back in 2012, produces a range of premium milk powder products for infants, young children and mothers for export to world markets.
In a press release, Nestlé said the R&D Centre would concentrate on “developing premium, science-based products for mothers and infants.
“It incorporates state-of-the-art laboratory facilities as well as a full pilot-scale manufacturing line to facilitate the development, and testing of new products from initial concept through to product deployment. The project investment was supported by Enterprise Ireland,” the statement added.
“Michael Creed, minister for agriculture, food and the marine, added, “This is a strategically important investment for Ireland by the world’s largest food and beverage company.
“Nestlé’s decision to invest and open this centre further places Ireland internationally as a location that offers quality raw dairy materials combined with a highly educated and skilled workforce. It is a major signal of confidence in the future and quality of the Irish dairy industry.”
Infant formula business ‘highly profitable’
The investment comes as Nestlé looks to reorganise its infant nutrition unit to compete with regional rivals and boost sales.
Speaking to Reuters back in 2017, the firm said it would hire regional managers for the €8.8bn ($10bn) business to respond to regional trends faster.
The switch in strategy comes five months after Nestlé's new CEO identified its highly profitable infant formula business as a priority.
“The new organisation will allow Nestlé's infant nutrition business to deliver accelerated organic growth and realise further efficiency gains,” Nestlé said, adding it would allow it to be more “agile and efficient” in responding to local demands.