By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2016 Issue
Nestlé could have selected any location in the world for its Health Science Research home. After scouring the globe, the company chose an 180,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in New Jersey’s bioscience corridor.
Why? The subsidiary of the Swiss food giant is exploring the power of nutrition to change the course of health, and New Jersey has a long history of innovation. With the highest concentration of scientists and engineers in the world, it’s no wonder Nestlé cited the “commercial and technical competence” of the state’s highly educated workforce as a key factor in its decision.
Nestlé Health Science is in good company. Food industry leaders including Mondelēz, Pinnacle Food Group and Unilever all have major food innovation and research centers in New Jersey.
These giants of the food industry—and other companies across the state—are tapping into the experience and entrepreneurial spirit of the state’s highly educated workforce to develop food that’s healthier and tastier. And, they’re pioneering the food frontier of tomorrow.
Despite its food industry heritage, Nestlé Health Science doesn’t consider itself a food company. It is creating a new industry at the intersection of food and life sciences to advance the therapeutic role of nutrition to change the course of health management.
The company already has an impressive array of products to help correct or improve nutrition—rom nutritional therapies for chronic medical conditions to products that alleviate food allergies in infants. But that’s just the beginning.
With new opportunities emerging based on scientific advancements, the forward-thinking company is exploring new frontiers—from the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders to the underlying causes of gastrointestinal disorders—utilizing the latest innovations in nutrition.
That’s why choosing a location where collaboration with companies in the biotech and pharmaceutical space was so important to Nestlé. With 14 of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world and more than 400 biotech companies, New Jersey was the ideal place for pioneering new ideas through collaboration with companies with scientific know-how.
UTILIZING BIOTECH TO CREATE HEALTHIER, TASTIER FOOD
One of the New Jersey biotech companies that is collaborating with Nestlé and other food industry partners to create healthier, tastier foods is North Brunswick-based Chromocell Corporation, although it never intended to be part of the food revolution.
Chromocell began its life at one of New Jersey’s life sciences incubators—the Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies (CCIT)—after two researchers discovered a process to block pain. As it turned out, its Chromovert technology was as good at blocking bitterness and increasing the perception of sweetness and saltiness in food as it was as a pain blocker.
Today, Chromocell employs approximately 120 scientists and support staff, who collaborate with food companies such as Nestlé, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola to reduce sugar and salt in food while preserving the taste. While the company is not abandoning its plans to continue its research of Chromovert as a pain medication, the company already is having an impact on public health by reducing the salt and sugar content of foods and beverages we eat and drink every day.
The scientists at Chromocell aren’t alone in their pursuit of technologies that makes food taste better and healthier. New Jersey is home to the worlds’ leading flavor, fragrance and ingredient manufacturers. At last count, this sector totaled 128 firms, including nine of the top ten flavor and fragrance companies in the world.
New Jersey scientists at companies like Firmenich, Symrise and International Flavors & Fragrances are partnering with innovators in the fields of biochemistry, microbiology, physiology and neuroscience to develop new solutions for healthier food.
Food innovation isn’t just happening in laboratories. In New Jersey’s cities, next-generation farmers are rethinking the fundamentals of agriculture. And they’re utilizing innovative technologies and renovated urban industrial space to grow healthy produce for people in urban food deserts.
One of these visionary companies is AeroFarms. The commercial leader in indoor vertical farming opened the world’s largest vertical farm in an old paint ball arena in the Ironbound section of Newark. While the indoor farm is currently producing leafy greens for local supermarkets and restaurants, the implications of the technology for the future of agriculture, urban planning and healthy foods are significant.
The innovative growing process being perfected in Newark requires no soil or sunlight, and utilizes 95 percent less water, 50 percent less fertilizer and zero pesticides. Not only does the process reduce the carbon footprint by growing fresh produce closer to the customer, indoor farms can produce more than 75 times more leafy greens than traditional farms.
It was no accident AeroFarms chose Newark to pioneer farming’s future. Part of its social mission is to eliminate food deserts by providing families in underserved urban neighborhoods access to fresh produce. The company plans to build indoor farms to bring leafy greens to other urban centers where healthy food options are limited. And as demand for fresh produce grows with the world’s population, the technology being perfected in New Jersey may also have the potential to alleviate the impact of drought, flooding and other weather events that can affect traditional farming around the world.
One thing is certain. The innovation that’s taking place in New Jersey is destined to make the food we eat healthier, tastier and more abundant in the future. What better legacy for a place that’s nicknamed the Garden State.
PATERSON, NJ: THE FOOD STANDOUT
When Alexander Hamilton first stopped by the Paterson Great Falls in 1778 to have lunch with George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, there was definitely not a choice of places to eat in the area. Fast forward 238 years and the City of Paterson has a plethora of different cuisines and food establishments—enough to satisfy any passing tourist in transit—which makes it the ideal location to become known as a future food hub in the region.
Paterson, through its non-profit, the Paterson Restoration Corporation (PRC), is gearing up towards the launching of its first Food Business Incubator. Economic Development Authority (EDA) funding awarded a grant to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center to lead a feasibility study for the creation of a food incubation program.
The 30,000-square-foot facility—located at 163-177 Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Paterson Farmers Market—is within minutes of Route 80 and Route 20 as well as the Metro NYC area. This innovative space currently is being retrofitted from the “inside out”.
The Food Business Incubator will offer a fully equipped, state-of-the-art USDA/FDA certified kitchen, bottling and packaging areas, a demo-test kitchen, conference rooms and co-working spaces.
“We are pursuing this project as a way to stimulate economic development in Paterson and the surrounding region,” said Ruben Gomez, Paterson’s director of economic development and executive director of the Paterson Restoration Corp.
“We’re really excited about the possibility of a FDA-inspected commercial kitchen and food processing facility being located in Paterson, out of which food businesses in the region will be able to design, develop and commercialize their specialty products,” added Rutgers FIC Director, Lou Cooperhouse.
Having a home in The Garden State—where the food industry is estimated at more than $8.1 billion annually—is one of the big advantages for Paterson as a starting point to join the growth movement of the New Jersey food industry sector, a thriving $105 billion food and agriculture sector. New Jersey is home to 1,900 food manufacturing companies, including Campbell Soup, Mars and Goya. In addition, the state is attractive for its generally lower rent costs and home purchases and for its strategic location in the northeast corridor.
As the Paterson immigrant population proceeds along the economic ladder, new immigrants join the already 50 plus native languages spoken. Many will find their first jobs in Paterson in the growing ethnic food and beverage industry, as the Hispanic, Middle Eastern, kosher, halal and specialty industry food markets continue to expand.
“Although certain industries have seen significant declines, food manufacturing industries and food services have experienced significant growth. These companies are creating job opportunities and a new generation of successful leaders for our community, emblematic of the economic development that we seek for our City” says Mayor Jose Torres.
One of the latest hot culinary trends is Peruvian cuisine. It has taken off in the United States as well as around the world. And it just so happens that in Paterson alone, Peruvians own half of the city’s 2,800 Hispanic-owned businesses, including 45 restaurants. The Embassy of Peru has opened a consulate in Paterson and it now serves the more than 75,000 Peruvians living in the state of New Jersey.
“When you think of food in Paterson you probably think of all the incredible ethnic cuisine restaurants you can find here. If you take a deeper look at the City you will find that there are large and small food manufacturing and distribution companies in Paterson as well. In fact, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno recently visited Kontos Foods and recognized them for their leadership in the industry,” said Jamie Dykes II, President of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce.
The high percentage of food-related companies in Paterson and in the surrounding Northern New Jersey area, make it a food hub with exceptional access to a network of highways in the tri-state area.
“As an Urban Enterprise Zone City, we have financial incentives that have the potential to grow their business for those who want to invest in Paterson,” says UEZ Director Penni Forestieri.