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Co-creating with customers: The new protein innovation experience  

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 04, 2023

Imagine walking into a kitchen, envisioning a new protein-rich menu item, and developing and tasting it on the spot. How about turning it into a boutique but scalable commercial product, ready to feature at your favorite fast-food restaurant?  

It’s all possible at Cargill’s new Protein Innovation Hub.

Attached to our Saint-Cyr-en-Val plant in Orleans, “The hub” invites customers to explore the entire world of protein under one roof. Fittingly, the adjoining facility happens to be where, every day, we produce up to 6 million chicken nuggets for McDonald’s.

New protein innovation center L-R Jonathan Laroye (Plant Director, Orleans France), Jerome Ortava (R&D Technician Protein Europe), Karel Zimmermann (Managing Director Protein Europe) – open the new innovation hub.

“From consumer and market insights to sensory profiling and product concepts, Cargill’s Protein Innovation Hub is the perfect home for unsurpassed protein experiences,” says Karel Zimmermann, managing director for Cargill’s European protein business.   

The hub is the first of its kind in France, although we have similar innovation facilities in the United States and Thailand. It’s part of Cargill Protein & Salt’s growing investment in customer-driven innovation, research and development (R&D) in Europe.    

So how is this changing our business and the experience we offer our customers? Let’s head into the kitchen and find out. 


A taste of what’s on site 

Cargill’s protein innovation Hub customer experience area.  Cargill’s protein and salt business leader, Jon Nash, went on-site for the launch of the Protein Innovation Hub.  

Rather than just innovation, the hub promises co-creation. It’s vision: to cook up ideas with our customers, harnessing a range of capabilities and expertise to create novel protein solutions in short order. 

“By having these facilities under one roof, we will significantly accelerate time to market allowing us to be the first to deliver solutions for our customers,” Jesus Mendez, Research & Development (R&D) director for Cargill’s European protein business, shares.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Customers meet our experts, attend culinary workshops and co-create in our customer experience area — styled like a restaurant.  
  2. The fully equipped professional development kitchen turns those ideas into products. Next stop: reviewing feasibility before moving to mass production.  
  3. That’s where the mobile pilot line comes in. Here we can develop new processes and product differentiation, as well as increase efficiency wherever it’s needed.  


Cargill’s Protein Innovation Hub staff. The Protein Innovation Hub team on a card celebrating 30 years of partnership with McDonald’s France. 


Built to feed future generations 

Alongside product innovation, the hub brings sustainability innovation too. 

A state-of-the-art refrigeration unit reduces electricity consumption by 11%. New heat pumps save 5% of gas and 20% of water compared to average systems. Overall, the hub’s energy saving programs are expected to reduce 220 tons of carbon emissions every year. 

“This major investment will see our facilities upgraded to new-generation technology and contribute to sustainable development in the food industry, all while injecting a much-needed investment into the local economy,” Jonathan Laroye, director of Cargill’s Saint-Cyr en Val plant, adds.

Cargill’s Protein Innovation Hub opening day. Cargill’s protein and salt team gathers with McDonald’s France and government partners during the opening in Orleans, France.

Adds Jesus, “Through this new innovation hub Cargill continues its commitment to investing in the innovation of proteins as an essential component of the food chain.”

Cargill research shows consumers not only want more protein, they want more types of protein, with sustainability, convenience and value-added offerings becoming increasingly important. The protein innovation hub is one step forward in helping our customers meet those needs.


Decades worth of support

The launch of the new Protein Innovation Hub coincides with our 30th year in France supporting McDonalds as a partner of choice. Commemorating the anniversary will be an on-site event with local French officials, Cargill’s protein and salt leader, Jon Nash, customers and suppliers. 

“This month, we are not just celebrating the opening of our first European Protein Innovation Hub – we are celebrating the decades’ worth of partnership that have brought us this far together,” Clement Luc, a key account manager for Cargill’s protein business in Europe, says. “As one of the largest suppliers of chicken to McDonald’s France, we are not only their go-to for new chicken menu items, but we are also part of something bigger, joining forces with our Cargill Protein Europe colleagues to form a formidable protein innovation network across the region.”




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