Nestlé expands presence in Ohio with tech center

SOLON, Ohio — Nestlé plans on investing $53 million in a new product technology center, which will expand the company's existing R&D facility in Solon, Ohio.

The center will be dedicated to frozen and chilled foods research, and will serve Nestlé's businesses worldwide. Located on 18 acres in a park-like setting off of Solon's Cannon Road, the glass-faced facility will house offices and labs for approximately 100 scientific, professional and technical staff. The 144,000-sq.-ft. building also will include a pilot plant where new recipes and the latest technologies will be tested and evaluated. Nestlé expects the center to be operational in late 2014.

"We are pleased that the R&D effort first established in Solon in 2001 to serve our regional needs has matured into a global product technology center," said Johannes Baensch, Nestlé's global head of research and development. "We currently operate 11 product technology centers around the world. PTC Solon will become the 12th of these important centers of excellence for Nestlé. Here we will establish a critical mass of technology expertise and product knowledge for our global Nestlé frozen and chilled foods business."

The Solon PTC will serve Nestlé business units worldwide, and will support domestic brands, which include Stouffer's and Lean Cuisine prepared meals and snacks, Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets brand sandwiches, Buitoni refrigerated pastas and sauces; Nestlé Toll House refrigerated (and in-test, frozen) cookie dough, as well as the DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, Tombstone and Jack's brands of frozen pizza.

Sean Westcott will serve as the PTC's director. Westcott, a veteran Nestlé employee, has lead product innovation, operations and quality control teams. He replaces former head Roberto Reniero, who with his team, gained rezoning approval from the Solon community in 2011, and designed the facility to comply with LEED standards. In March, Reniero completed his assignment in the U.S. and was named head of PTC Lisieux in France.

"We are committed to what we do at PTC Solon because this is the place where we combine cutting-edge innovation with deep awareness of consumer needs and preferences," Westcott said. "Our chefs, food scientists, nutritionists and operations experts work side-by-side with the various Nestlé businesses we support to create foods that are more delicious, wholesome and satisfying. We're extremely grateful for the support we've received from Mayor Susan Drucker and the City of Solon, from Gov. Kasich and JobsOhio, and particularly from the community itself, which demonstrated its support with an 85 percent approval when we requested rezoning."

The PTC will join other major Nestlé facilities in Solon, including Nestlé Prepared Foods Company, first established there in 1968. Led today by president and CEO Frank Higgins, the business employs more than 1,900 in its offices and production facility. In April 2012, the company moved its Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets brands from Denver to Solon.