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August 8, 2016

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Nestle scientists aim to deliver better nutrition

FROM studying the role of aroma in the taste of food to how various nutrients play in a human’s health, food companies nowadays are making great efforts in research and development with a focus on innovation to make their products healthier, tastier and more affordable.

The Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, under the world’s largest transnational food company Nestle, keeps its scientists busy with various research projects to find out the secret relationship between food and people’s life.

Many experiments are carried out in this two-storied laboratory covering 6,700-square-meter floor areas in Lausanne, where scientists try to discover secrets such as the connection of chronic sickness of adults and the food taken when they were babies; the response of brain and other human organs towards what people eat and how these organs interact; or the use of less salt, sugar and fat without compromising the taste of food.

As a layman of food science and life science, it was just amazing for me to know that nose plays a notable part in deciding not only the aroma, but also the taste of food. After clogging the two nostrils, I could only feel the deliciousness of just half of the dark chocolate. With the removal of the block, the chocolate simply tastes much better.

“That’s why we need to study,” said Heiko Oertling, a scientist working at the Nestle Research Center. “With research, we can help our products hit preferred sensory targets to delight consumers and make them happier with food.”

At another lab, experiments are carried out to study the role of early-life nutrition that plays a part in the later stages of life. Scientists collect data from different regions and from people with different background to access the function of selected food. It is a complicated process since the experiments lasts for decades.

In the room downstairs, sophisticated scientific devices and machines are being used to study the function of all kinds of minerals and vitamins, or core nutrients for people’s health.

Currently, programs under way include the first 1,000 days & healthy kids, healthy ageing, sustainable nutrition as well as food safety and integrity.

Not faraway from the Nestle Research Center is the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences. Compared to the Nestle Research Center, the latter is slated towards more fundamental scientific studies on brain health, functional genomics, proteomics, natural bioactives and screening, as well as nutritional phenotyping. These studies are related to the next step of food development at Nestle.

Ed Baetge, head of Nestle Institute of Health Sciences, said the food industry might move into a new era with the current revolutionary efforts on upgrading the industry.

“Food has close connection with health, and we hope to get involved as early as possible in people’s food intake and stay innovative to create health and wellness that is associated with good taste,” Baetge said.

Calling itself a global nutrition, health and wellness company, Nestle runs more than 40 research and development centers across the world and employs over 5,000 scientists.

Indeed, when Nestle’s Founder Henri Nestle studied various combinations of cow’s milk, wheat flour and sugar 150 years ago to develop a product for mothers who were unable to breastfeed, he set the best example of innovation.

After tireless efforts, Mr. Nestle finally found the formula and invented the first product called Farine Lactee Henri Nestle. It saved the life of a premature baby named Wanner, whose hopes of survival was extremely low because of his inability to tolerate breast milk or traditional substitutes. That is real innovation — practical, affordable, revolutionary, and beneficiary to life.

Nestle R&D in China

There are four Nestle research and development centers on the Chinese mainland in Beijing, Shanghai, Dongguan and Xiamen. They all work with the Nestle global research and development network to deliver regional innovations for the global market.

The Shanghai research and development center, located in Jiading District, specializes in culinary products and culinary culture by enriching food in terms of flavor, taste, texture and color.

It also specializes on beverage machine innovation, complementing Beijing center’s focus on nutrition, Dongguan’s on snacks and Xiamen’s on beverages.

Wang Junkuan, general manager of Nestle R&D Center Shanghai Ltd, said the 35 scientists working in the center are involved in all kinds of experiments that serve consumers locally as well as in global market, the same as those elsewhere in Nestle’s massive network of research and development.


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