Feel-good moments were rampant at the ribbon cutting of Pepperidge Farm’s new Innovation Center in Norwalk Sept. 12.
“We’re very fortunate to have a corporation here like Pepperidge Farm,” said Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia at the ceremony, noting the company’s commitment to the state and community. “If there wasn’t, I would have invented it.”
Located at the company’s Norwalk headquarters, the 34,000-square-foot center reflects the company’s strategy to drive business growth and “hopefully” create future job opportunities, said Irene Chang Britt, Pepperidge Farm’s newly appointed president.
Pepperidge Farm invested over $30 million in the new innovation center, and the decision to remain in Norwalk and build in its current location was aided by state and local tax incentives.
The company was founded in Connecticut in 1937 and has nine manufacturing facilities nationwide with 5,000 employees. Pepperidge Farm is owned today by Campbell Soup Company of Camden, N.J.
With the new space, the company will have roughly 115,000 square feet of office and research and development space.
The new center includes a state-of-the-art pilot plant, culinary kitchen, scientific labs and meeting rooms, which are expected to help the company accelerate its new product development rate. During the fiscal year 2012, sales in the division increased 2 percent to roughly $2.2 billion, with Goldfish crackers seeing sales jump by double digits, though cookie and frozen-food sales dropped from a year ago.
This fall 22 new products are being introduced, including Milano Slices Peppermint, Pumpkin Cheesecake Soft Dessert Cookies and Simply Natural Honey Oat Bread.
As people continue to lead busy lives, Britt said families are increasingly looking to wholesome snacks to keep them going.
Designed by Stamford’s Perkins Eastman and The Dennis Group L.L.C. in Springfield, Mass., the contemporary building includes curved glass windows and a laundry list of environmentally friendly features. Upgrades to the exterior of Pepperidge Farm’s existing headquarters to match the new center are scheduled to finish early 2013.
Drawing connections to the mill featured on Pepperidge Farm’s logo, Pat Callaghan, who retired as Pepperidge Farm’s president in July, said the company’s innovation center shares the same symbolic values the logo’s mill has come to represent for the company.
In the mid-1950s when the company’s founder, Margaret Rudkin, wasn’t able to get the amount of stone ground whole-wheat flour she needed to create her products, the company didn’t sacrifice its commitment to quality. Instead it scaled down on its production and began purchasing flour from smaller mills, most famously the mill in Sudbury, Mass. featured in Pepperidge Farm’s logo.
The innovation center, similar to the Sudbury mill, is symbolic of the company’s commitment to collaboration, creativity and teamwork, Callaghan said.
Pepperidge Farm has named the center after Callaghan, marking the end of a 33-year legacy at the company.
Continuing connections between the company’s past and present, Britt echoed Rudkin’s most repeated line, “What’s next?”
“I can tell you, there is a lot,” Britt said. “There will be even more when this new facility gets up to speed.”
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