NIZO was founded in 1948 by the Dutch dairy industries as a cooperative initiative in fundamental research, and process and product development. We contributed to the development of famous Dutch cheeses such as Maasdam (e.g. Leerdammer), Kernhemmer and Proosdij (e.g. Parrano). Leerdammer for example constitutes 25% of Dutch cheese exports.
Initially located in Hoorn as a small analytical facility, in 1953 NIZO moved to a custom-built site with laboratory and test production facilities in Ede. This central location meant easy access for all dairy companies in the Netherlands. Being near to Wageningen University allowed us to keep close to the frontiers of science.
Both the industrial founders as well as NIZO strongly believed, and still do, that research would only be relevant if the researchers knew the products and could implement their knowledge on factory scale at the NIZO facilities. Initially, the R&D focused on QA methodologies, reproducibility and standardisation of processes, and a better understanding of dairy.
Moving towards innovation
In the period 1960-1970 our focus shifted from product and process optimisation to innovation. We designed new processes, such as the NIZO butter process, and developed the continuous curd drainage columns, which are currently used all over the world (e.g. Casomatic). We also started producing starter cultures and lactic acid for the butter process in the NIZO dairy production facility. In the following decade (1970-1980) the R&D facilities were extended and a new processing centre was built. This allowed the development of whey valorisation technologies by NIZO: whey protein concentrates and high value isolates such as lactoferrin via membrane filtration and/or chromatography.
As NIZO is a research and development organisation, the production of cultures has been sold to CSK.
Leading in dairy R&D
As a result of concentration and consolidation in the dairy industry and increasing internal R&D at the larger dairy companies, NIZO shifted its focus towards more fundamental dairy research, and became ‘the’ leading dairy research organisation in the world. We started nutritional research, e.g on the positive aspects of dairy calcium, developed predictive process models as well as models to describe the structure of casein micelles, unravelled pathways of lactic acid bacteria and modified these bacteria to obtain strains with the desired properties. We published hundreds of scientific papers and book contributions which today still are important foundations of dairy and fermentation research. We expanded into new areas, such as genomics, protein structure and process modelling. We have brought many ground-breaking contributions to the dairy world.
In 1997 the fundamental, precompetive research of NIZO was continued within the framework of a public private partnership Wageningen Centre for Food Science (WCFS)/Top Institure for Food and Nutritions (TIFN) financed by the dairy industry as well as other industries and the Dutch Government.
At the same time NIZO started confidential contract research. In first instance for the individual Dutch dairy companies and later on also for food and dairy companies in and outside the Netherlands.
A private, independent company
At the start of the 21st century changes in the dairy industry had become permanent. NIZO transformed from a foundation into a company. Guaranteed funding from the dairy industry gradually disappeared and was replaced by income from contract research. We could work for any company, except for the international dairy industry as NIZO was still owned by the Dutch dairy companies. International offices were opened in the UK, France and the USA, and in 2007 a new office was opened in Japan.
Our 60th anniversary in 2008 was marked by the opening of a new Application Centre with industrial kitchen facilities. In this facility we develop new food concepts together with our customers, scientists or a chef.
A year later, in 2009, NIZO management bought the company from the dairy industries. This meant we could now work with any company in the world. Today we are a private, independent, company. All income is generated by R&D and production contracts with industry worldwide: 60% of turnover is from outside the Netherlands. We work on a one-on-one basis together with our customers, global players in food and health. We grant our customers IP ownership upfront and strengthen their competitive advantage by shortening time to market and reducing costs.
For better food and health
In 2016 Gilde Healthcare, a transatlantic investor in fast growing healthcare technology and healthcare services companies, took a majority share in NIZO. This underlines our ambition to broaden the development and application of our innovative technologies from food to related markets such as personal care and pharma.