BELOIT, Wisconsin — An Irish-based food company with a North American headquarters in Beloit highlights the key role of food science in the Wisconsin economy, and the broad contributions of UW–Madison expertise to Wisconsin’s giant agriculture and food industries.
Food science covers the entire process of transforming agricultural crops into ingredients and then finished food products. Think wheat to flour to bagels — an example that oversimplifies the countless complications that occupy as many as 190 scientists in dozens of labs, test kitchens and pilot plants at Kerry Inc.’s U.S. Research and Development center in Beloit, which was built in 2009 and expanded in 2011.
Since it was founded in County Kerry, Ireland in 1972, Kerry has grown, mainly by acquiring other companies, to a powerhouse with 24,000 employees on six continents. Kerry, which calls itself “the taste and nutrition company,” maintains R & D centers in Ireland and Singapore, sells in 140 countries, and operates six production facilities in the Badger State.
Kerry’s customers typically have complex requirements for ingredients, such as a baking mix for a gluten-free, cinnamon-raisin bagel that would freeze well yet have a reduced ingredient list to satisfy the emerging demand for “clean label food.”
To meet exact specifications, Kerry is hungry for the best UW–Madison graduates, says Jack Maegli, a company veteran and a UW grad himself who leads evaluation of new products and processes. To that end, Kerry maintains close ties to the university.