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Sept. 25, 2014

MSU to launch innovative food facility

Michigan State University will use a $3 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to launch the Food Processing and Innovation Center.

FPIC will be a USDA/FDA-certified center where private companies can scale up and commercialize new food products and production processes. It is intended to help established food companies develop new products and assist larger-scale start-up businesses.

MSU’s Product Center has been working with entrepreneurs over the last decade and understands that there’s a strong need for this center and these services, said Chris Peterson, director of MSU’s Product Center.

“The center will be a distinct asset to support the evolution of food processing in the state of Michigan,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of a pilot plant that any food processor can use to develop new products and production processes.”

MSU is the perfect place to launch this center because it has all of the supporting elements in place, Peterson added. The university has top-rated programs in agri-business, meat, dairy, and fruit and vegetable processing as well as nationally ranked supply chain and packaging programs.

In addition to the new facility, clients will have access to MSU experts in these fields. U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow praised MSU’s combination of talent and cutting-edge technology to help small businesses in Michigan bring new products to market.

"When we grow things here and make things here, we create jobs here," Stabenow said. "Building an innovative food facility will create new job opportunities in Michigan's agriculture industry and help move our economy forward."

In terms of job creation, the center will hire four employees to manage the center. More jobs will be created as companies spinoff their new products, which is estimated to be more than 300 jobs annually, once the center is fully operational, Peterson said.

Two companies already have made arrangements to develop products. Another seven companies have expressed interest, but have yet to commit to specific projects, he added.

While Peterson couldn’t divulge details of the clients’ products, he could provide a model that illustrates the center’s benefits. Using traditional methods, a company developing a new soup line could spend nearly $160,000 testing concepts in processing, packaging, shelf-life extension and marketing.

The center reduces these costs dramatically, to under $19,000, Peterson said.

“If the new venture is unsuccessful, the use of our center reduces risk substantially,” he said. “If it’s a success, the company has a far better idea of the level of investment needed to achieve long-term success.”

The center will be located in an MSU-owned building on Hulett Road in Okemos. The renovation will begin in April 2015, and the center will be open for business in early 2016.

By: Layne Cameron

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