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Our proficiency in delivering solutions for our customers is founded on more than 67 years industry experience and profound knowledge of foods. Having our roots in dairy, NIZO now applies its knowledge to food in general.
1948: Nizo was founded by all Dutch dairy companies.
The Dutch dairy sector was characterized by high levels of cooperation. Neither the (many and small) cooperatives, nor the (few) private dairy companies had R&D or product development of significance. NIZO was founded on the concept that companies had to cooperate to reap the benefits of science and technology. In those days the key word was cooperation, nowadays it is called open innovation!
This resulted for example in the development of famous cheeses such as Leerdammer, Proosdij, Kernhemmer and Parrano. Developed by NIZO, they were made famous brands by our customers.
1953: relocation to Ede
Initially located in Hoorn as a small analytical facility, NIZO moved to a newly built R&D site in Ede, close to the geographical center of the Netherlands. By doing so, several objectives were met that still characterize the current NIZO company:
It was centrally located, so easy access for all farmers anywhere in Holland (true even today: within 1 hour by train from AMSTERDAM airport)
More than just research: NIZO produced dairy products every day: cheese, butter and powder. The basic idea was that research could only be done in a relevant manner if the researchers knew the products and could implement their knowledge on factory scale. We are still strong believers in that concept, hence our food grade pilot plant for upscaling, product-process interactions, test productions and low volume/high value tolling!
Being 10 km From Wageningen University and Research Centre, allowed NIZO to keep close to the frontiers of science. At the same time this allowed for confidential work: this way NIZO could keep a secret, as its work had to improve the competitive position of the dairies that funded it. Also this principle is more true than ever today!
Initial R&D focused on QA methodology, reproducibility and standardization of processes and better understanding of dairy.
1960-1970: emphasis shifted from control and optimization to innovation:
Most dairies depended largely on NIZO for their innovation:
New processes: the continuous process for cheese - the Casomatic; the continuous process for stirred yoghurt, and the “NIZO butter process”. Also the first membranes were installed for the isolation of high value ingredients from whey, like lactoferrin.
New products were developed, partly inspired by international cheeses: NIZO developed Maasdammer / Leerdammer (now constituting 25% of the exported Dutch cheeses), a high fat semi hard cheese (Kernhemmer cheese)
NIZO started producing starter cultures (Branded as “NIZO star”) and lactic acid for the butter process in the NIZO dairy factory
1970-1980: Building of a new factory for production of starter cultures, setup of an additional pilot pant:
As NIZO was the technology showcase to the Dutch industry dairy companies invested heavily in a more hygienic high care facility for starter cultures, and also R&D facilities were extended and a new pilot pant facility was built. NIZO was the producer of cultures and permeate, CSK did the logistics and sales of starter cultures and permeate was sold and distributed by Centrale Aankoop. The MilieuDienst (for environmental advice) was spun out from NIZO in this decade.
Research became more raw material driven as consolidation in the industry started with the first mergers. Companies started doing product development work themselves. To counter aggressive marketing of vegetable fats, NIZO started nutritional research, first on dairy calcium and osteoporosis. In those days the regular Dutch diet contained sufficient dairy/calcium, so much to the regret of te dairies a significant effect of eating more dairy products could not be demonstrated (changing diets since then dramatically changed this picture in many places in the world, and even within The Netherlands!!)
The first casein models were developed, starter cultures and thus cheese production were now well controlled and better understood, the first flavor analysis were done as interest shifted to more fundamental understanding.
1980-1990: emphasis on science:
As the restructuring of the dairy industry was starting, companies increasingly started doing their own product optimization and product development. This led to a two decades of really fundamental dairy R&D. In these years the scientific reputation of NIZO was established. NIZO became ‘the” leading dairy R&D organization in the world.
NIZO published over hundreds of scientific papers and book contributions which are still important fundaments of dairy and fermentation research. New areas Iike genomics (in those days still called biochemistry); in protein structure and process modelling brought many ground breaking contributions of NIZO to the dairy world. Here the basis was laid for a unique scientific reputation that NIZO extended and cherishes even today.
In 1988 a new cheese Proosdy was launched at The 40th anniversary of NIZO. The first cheese was offered to queen Beatrix of The Netherlands.
1990-2000: collective thinking on the decline, but cooperation still possible:
The number of dairy companies was declining steadily. Dairies did ever bigger part of the product development themselves and NIZO was asked to shift from precompetitive to more confidential research for the individual dairies. The first account managers were appointed, NIZO was allowed to work for non dairy companies in its pilot plant.
In 1995 NIZO developed and produced the first low fat and low salt cheese with/for one of the leading Dutch dairy coops in those days, Coberco in the NIZO dairy factory: the Cantenaar, the predecessor of the current Milner cheese.
In 1996 NIZO stopped the daily production of butter, milk powder and cheese; the production of starter cultures was transferred to CSK, a sister company, owned by the collective Dutch dairy companies.
1997 was the year that a new consortium was formed at the initiative of the industry and the Dutch government: the top institute for food and nutrition. This was a consortium in which initially 6 Dutch industries, 3 knowledge providers (Wageningen University, TNO and NIZO) set up long term R&D program: inspired by the food agenda, performed by local scientific excellence. This cooperation would last until 2015.
2000-2010: the road to independence.
Changes in the dairy industry had become permanent. This meant that NIZO had to be reshaped for optimal flexibility. The legal structure was changed from a foundation to a company structure in 2003. Guaranteed funding from the dairy gradually disappeared and was replaced by income from contract research. NIZO could work for any company, except for the international dairy industry (NIZO still was owned by the Dutch dairy companies). After the merger of Friesland Foods and Campina in 2007, it was clear that there was no future for NIZO as “property” of the collective Dutch dairies: FrieslandCampina would own 80% of the shares of NIZO.
In 2005, offices were established in the UK, France and the USA. In February 2007 a new office was opened in Japan.
In the year of NIZOs 60th anniversary (2008) the new Application Centre with industrial kitchen facilities was opened and is available for product oriented research or to develop new food concepts with the assistance of scientists or a chef.
In very harmonious cooperation, the management of NIZO (5 persons) was allowed to buy NIZO from the dairies in 2009. NIZO was free to work with any company all depending on the contracts it made with its partners.
NIZO today is a private company. All its income is generated by R&D and production contracts with industry worldwide: 70% of turnover is from outside the Netherlands, more than 60% from innovative food and ingredients companies, with the remainder of turnover still from the global dairy realm.
NIZO excels in three core capabilities: protein, bacteria and food processing. Almost all R&D is confidential and is not published unless agreed differently. Relationships between companies and NIZO are characterized by confidentiality and trust and have a long term character, which is essential to ensure added value to both partners: speeding up innovation, improved understanding of food systems, newly generated IP and cost savings.
Our food grade pilot plant ensures high flexibility and low capital expenditure for our customers. NIZO has an active network in academia through (assistant) professors, maintaining scientific excellence. Next to that half of our staff has an industry background. NIZO main regions are Europe, east Asia/Oceania and US.