By CHASE WRIGHT
Hour Staff Writer | Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
NORWALK -- The smell of apple cinnamon baked goods wafted through the air as Pepperidge Farm executives joined state and local officials for a behind-the-scenes tour of the company's new Innovation Center.
The $30 million, 34,000-square-foot center, named after the company's former president, Patrick J. Callaghan, who pioneered the project, opened Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility on Westport Avenue.
Callaghan, who recently retired after six years as president and chief executive of Pepperidge Farm, said the Innovation Center is symbolic in its representation of the company's core values: creativity, collaboration and teamwork.
"The structure is designed to inspire our talented employees to dream together, to create together, and to work together to bring our dreams to life," he said.
Carlos Peña, chief counsel for Pepperidge Farm, said the company's $30 million investment benefited from state tax incentives, including credits on site improvements and construction costs, and 80 percent property tax abatement over five years.
Designed by The Dennis Group of Springfield, Mass., and Perkins Eastman of Stamford, the Innovation Center features a sleek design, with a curved, opaque glass exterior.
The building houses 115,000-square feet of office space and a state-of-the art pilot plant, which executives say will allow for faster, more efficient product development. The pilot plant includes culinary kitchens, scientific labs, a 40-foot conventional oven, and meeting rooms.
"That was part of the reason we wanted this facility -- we saw the value of accelerated innovation," said Jack Weinstein, a project engineer at Pepperidge Farm. "We wanted more efficient innovation, and having these pilot lines gives us that opportunity."
Denise Morrison, president and CEO of parent company Campbell Soup, said the Innovation Center is a visible recognition of Pepperidge Farm's history of successful innovation, as well as the company's commitment to delivering next-generation products for consumers.
"No matter how and where consumers shop, we still have to capture their attention and meet their demands and we have to deliver on our fundamental promise: that our products are delicious and delver solid value," Morrison said. "This (center) will allow us to do just that. It's like having our own space in the Rudkin kitchen. It's our place to dream and to experiment and to create products that delight today's consumers and tomorrow's consumers."
Pepperidge Farm was founded in 1937 by Fairfield resident Margaret Rudkin. The company currently employs about 700 people in Connecticut, including 275 at its headquarters, 100 at another Norwalk site in Norden Place, and about 300 at its plant in Bloomfield. The bakery and plant were moved out of Norwalk in 2004.
Baking and snacking products are among the most lucrative components for Pepperidge Farm, generating roughly $2 billion in annual sales.
"The behavior of snacking continues to grow among busy consumers who have less time for formal meals and often get their energy from wholesome snacks," said Irene Chang Britt, president of Pepperidge Farm and senior vice president of Global Baking & Snacking for Campbell Soup. "People want snacks that are healthful, tasty and convenient for themselves and their children."
She said Pepperidge Farm expects its Innovation Center will "drive even stronger business growth in the future, and in time, even more employment opportunities in Connecticut."