Greater Zurich Area turning into a center of food technology

From bouillon cubes to a cluster for food technology: the former Maggi site near Zurich is now home to a new innovation center for Givaudan, a global market leader in flavors and fragrances. Many other companies and start-ups in the food technology sector have also moved into the industrial area now called The Valley.

The former Maggi site.
The former Maggi site. Image credit: The Valley

“We are investing 120 million Swiss francs into the site in Kemptthal, making it the largest investment to date in a Givaudan research facility,” says Markus Gautschi, project manager of the new innovation center. And that’s saying something. Givaudan is a global market leader in the manufacture of flavors and fragrances, and it is one of the most research-intensive companies in the world. 

In spring 2019, nearly 300 Givaudan professionals from some 50 countries around the world moved into the new building, where they are working on new flavors for food and new fragrances for exciting perfumes and consumer goods. It is a flagship center: the most modern and above all the most daring.

Says Gautschi: “This is the first time we have placed a strong focus on collaboration, creating spatial structures where we can work together with clients, partners and start-ups to develop new solutions.”

Leading research institutions nearby

Located between Winterthur and the Zurich Airport, Kemptthal is the perfect place for enabling collaboration. “The Greater Zurich Area is appealing for international specialists and is for us, a global company, highly accessible,” explains Gautschi.

The impressive number of technoparks and universities nearby also plays a key role in fostering innovative strength. As Gautschi points out, in addition to the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, the region is also home to the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), and in particular its Wädenswil campus with its Institute of Food and Beverage Innovation (ILGI). A leader in its field, ILGI trains around 220 food engineers every year.

Givaudan recognized the advantages of the former Maggi site in Kemptthal back in 2002, when it acquired Nestlé’s flavor production facility located there. The new innovation center now brings together research and production development under one roof in building that pays homage to the brick buildings of the mostly heritage-protected site. It also sets new standards in transparency. 

Directly next door is a newly renovated building for 200 Givaudan administration employees, including the headquarters of the company’s flavors division, which was founded in 1895 in Zurich but moved to Geneva four years later.

Plenty of space for innovation

One reason for Givaudan’s long-term commitment to the site is that the property developer Mettler2Invest redesigned it with plenty of space for innovation. Beginning in 2020, an entire building – the House of Food – will be home to start-ups from the food industry. 

As project manager Mikula Gehrig explains: “The Valley House of Food will make an international name for itself and become a center for innovative food development and enjoyment.” Among those on board are Barrel Coffee, cheese producers Idea Salentina and Lohner Käserei, and the Viking Brew Lab brewery. The key tenant will be Planted Food, a start-up that is shaking up the international market with its alternative meat products. The cluster will offer around 20 start-ups space for administrative, production and R&D activities.

Markus Gautschi says that the development fits perfectly with Givaudan’s interests. “We hope there will be many synergies.”

The Valley will be made all the more appealing for companies thanks to an infrastructure that is currently being built: an already open restaurant will be expanded, and soon the site will feature a roof-top bar and a fitness studio. Plans are underway to open more restaurants and even a hotel.

So far, everything is going according to plan. Besides Givaudan, other major companies are now tenants, including the AXA insurance group, the Cantonal Hospital of Winterthur and several IT companies. Motorworld Group – co-owner of The Valley with Mettler2Invest – will open premises in spring 2020, complete with repair garages and displays for vintage cars.

Mikula Gehrig hopes that some 2,000 workplaces will eventually be created on a planned floor area of 100,000 square meters. “We want to reserve a good portion of that for start-ups so they can benefit in the best possible way from everything that The Valley offers.”

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