ENVIRONMENT minister David Heath has officially opened Nestlé’s new £7 million global research and development centre in York.

The minister visited the centre, based in Haxby Road, on a trip to the region to celebrate investment projects which would generate growth in the economy.

Mr Heath said Nestlé’s investment to refurbish and expand its Product Technology Centre (PTC) was of national and international importance.

“It means maintaining within this very important industry – one of the biggest industries in the country – a lead in research and development. This is essential if we’re going to grow jobs across the economy and also increase our export share.”

The PTC employs 185 people, including world-leading confectioners John Costello and Florian Poirot, whose chocolate and sugar sculptures adorn the atelier area of the building where apprentices are trained and new products developed.

Skills brought together at the PTC include materials’ science and chemistry of products, new product design and development, marketing, engineering of production equipment and it is also where locally recruited chocolate tasters test the products.

Professor Stefan Palzer, managing director of Nestlé’s global Product Technology Centre for confectionery in York, said the city would remain the lead location for Nestlé Confectionery because of its infrastructure such as the universities, important partners, such as the Food and Environmental Research Agency (Fera), based at Sand Hutton, and its suppliers.

He said: “The lead centre will be always here.

“There’s a rich heritage here of the old Rowntree brand and we are proud of this heritage.

“York is fantastic place to be in confectionery. It’s very hard to find a city where we have such a heritage and such a history in chocolate – even in Switzerland.”

The Environment Minister David Heath also visited Knaresborough egg company Chippindale, in which Defra has invested almost £500,000 in a new processing centre.

Mr Heath said: “That’s good news for them and right the way down the supply chain. There are opportunities to grow businesses both within this country and abroad and we want to give every possible support for that.”