SALEM — The science of snacking was the subject as Diamond Foods Inc. dedicated its new corporate innovation center at the company’s Kettle potato chip plant in Salem.
The 7,000-square-foot product-testing and research-and-development laboratory is the company’s first formal brand development facility. The center, which employs 18 people, will also work on new products for the company’s other lines of snacks, nuts and popcorn.
In addition to food scientists and sensory specialists, marketing, packaging and regulatory experts will work there.
Innovation was the buzzword as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivered a brief speech at a July 15 ceremony, praising Diamond’s commitment to the state.
“...In this state, we make things. Innovative, useful, marketable — and in this case, delicious — things,” she said.
In the consumer polling area of the innovation center, the governor issued a ringing endorsement of the company’s Emerald Nuts brand raspberry-glazed almonds — “Can we eat the rest of them?” she asked — before donning a hair net and touring the center’s prototype kitchen.
In the “nosh pitch,” a creatively named conference room, employees exhibited the peppers and kimchi that became the inspiration for Kettle’s new pepperoncini-favored chips.
“We don’t adulterate the base (potato chip). Everything you taste is from the seasoning that we put on after,” food scientist Rebecca Andersen said.
Andersen said the company tests about 10 different flavors — including such candidates as churro and strawberry cream — for every successful flavor that makes it to market.
Closing out the tour, the governor pondered the regional differences in tastes.
“My family members tend to like — I will describe it as blander things. Midwest foods,” she said.
Diamond Foods, which acquired microwave popcorn brand Pop Secret in 2008, became a publicly traded company in 2005. Its other lines include Emerald brand snack nuts and Diamond of California culinary nuts.