First stop of the day was the Food Innovation Center, a joint project between the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University. It was opened back in 1999, and has assisted countless businesses over the years. I was particularly interested in visiting as I’ve been working with two similar bodies back at home – the Food Centre Wales in Horeb where I’ve been developing both my processes and products and more recently the Zero to Five, Food Industry Centre at UWIC in Cardiff where I’ve been looking at packaging.
The FIC did differ slightly, it’s bias is very much on flavour and product development, and less on process. They had an array of processing rooms, test kitchens, a microbiology laboratory, focus group areas, sensory testing rooms and a packaging lab. Sarah Masoni the Product and Process Development Manager gave me a full tour and pointed me in the direction of some of her previous clients. One in particular that was of interest was Salt & Straw an ice cream company with some particularly inventive flavours (there’ll be another post about them!).
Oregon as a state is a foodies dream, people seem to flock here to use the local produce and to start food companies – one of the most popular courses on offer is Get Your Recipe to Market. Sarah also pointed me in the direction of Food Cartology, a study looking at the 700 or so food carts serving food on the streets of Portland. I’ve a couple shortlisted already, so keep an eye out!