By Maree Ferguson
The Dietitian Connection ESPEN 2014 study tour ended with a visit to the Nestlé Research Centre (NRC) in Laussane, Switzerland. Approximately 600 people representing around 50 nationalities from a wide range of scientific disciplines work at the NRC. The NRC partners with more than 100 universities and research institutes worldwide. In the last five years, the NRC has published more than 1000 peer-reviewed scientific publications and approximately 70 patent applications were filed by NRC scientists last year.
The NRC plays an essential role in helping Nestlé fulfil its promise of “Good Food, Good Life” for all consumers by providing the scientific knowledge and research for innovation and renovation of products in Nestle businesses. The NRC currently has five research programmes: food safety and integrity, first 1000 days and healthy kids, healthy ageing, healthy pleasure and sustainable nutrition. The NRC has six competence pillars underpinning their research programmes: nutrition and health research, public health nutrition, food science and technology, food safety and quality, analytical sciences, and food consumer interaction.
We were fortunate to visit the NRC metabolic unit. The metabolic unit has state of the art equipment for human clinical trials such as exercise testing equipment, sensory booths, kitchen and dining area, clinical observation space, indirect calorimetry units, and DEXA machines. The researchers in the group were jealous of the whole body calorimetry unit.
We also visited the NRC pilot plant where we learnt about the product development challenges that Nestle has in its goal to reduce the fat, salt and sugar content of its products whilst maintaining flavour and product composition/texture. Not as easy as you think!
And finally we toured the NRC space dedicated to studying consumer behaviour. There were mock supermarket shelves with eye tracking devices so that research scientists can see through the eyes of a consumer when they shop. In the simulated living area, observations can be made of how people interact with food and each other. In addition, there is a kitchen where scientists can observe consumers preparing meals. Fascinating!
The NRC tour provided us with a much greater understanding of all the research that goes behind Nestlé products.
For more information, visit www.research.nestle.com