The research space at its colour expertise centre in Montpellier, France, has doubled and around ten new members of staff have been brought in so there are now 35 people working at the site.
The upgrade comes on the back of the expansion of two natural colour production sites at Chr Hansen this year – one in Denmark and another in Peru.
Investment at all these sites is being made in response to a sharp increase in demand for natural colours across the globe.
Growth in natural colours
The market for natural colours globally has grown 10 per cent in each of the past two years, according to Chr. Hansen, and its own colors & blends division grew 26 per cent in the financial year 2009/2010.
Carsten Bennike, executive VP of the division, said the decision to expand the Montpellier site was directly linked to this market growth.
“More and more brands want to go all natural and we have to capitalise on that opportunity. It started in Europe with a large wave of conversion and is now moving on to Asia and North America.”
However, the facility in Montpellier is not a production site so the aim of the recent upgrade is not to increase capacity. Instead, Chr Hansen said the site is being expanded and improved so the supplier can provide a better tailoring service to its beverage and dairy customers.
Different pH levels, processing treatments, packaging and light conditions can all affect natural colours – which generally suffer more stability problems than synthetic alternatives.
At the Montpellier site, Chr Hansen therefore works with its customers from the beverage and dairy sector to work out how to achieve the right natural colouring for their specific products. Sometimes this can involve encapsulation or use of an emulsifier – in other cases it can mean changing the formulation or working with different colours.
Bennike said the Montpellier team has the expertise to carry this work forward and the company therefore decided to expand the French site rather than build closer to headquarters in Denmark.
“It is a strategic decision – we need the competencies and we have the know-how and knowledge here,” said Bennike.
Chr. Hansen has one other color expertise centre, which focuses on the confectionery and ice cream industries, and that is located at its Danish headquarters in Hoersholm.