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Hilmar Cheese touts Innovation Center, LEED certification
Hilmar Cheese LEED pic1
California Ag Secretary Karen Ross unveils the prestigious LEED-Certified plaque awarded on Tuesday to the new Hilmar Cheese Company Headquarters and Innovation Center, alongside Hilmar Cheese Chairman Richard Clauss and Vice President David Ahlem. - photo by CARA HALLAM / The Journal

Hilmar Cheese Company proved it not only knows dairy innovation — but also how to be green, as in using energy efficient business practices.

In a dedication ceremony on Tuesday, Hilmar Cheese announced that its new Headquarters and Innovation Center, located in Hilmar near the Visitor’s Center, was  not only verified by the Green Building Certification Institute, but also awarded LEED Platinum Certification – one of the most prestigious programs in the nation recognizing the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

“LEED demonstrates our continuing commitment to stewardship and sustainability,” said Richard Clauss, chairman of the Hilmar Cheese Company Board of Directors. “Our owners and employees live here and we strive to do what is right – for our employees, the dairy farmers that supply us milk, the community and our natural resources.”

The state-of-the-art building features the new Hilmar Cheese Innovation Center where food scientists use the newest equipment and technology to help food companies find success incorporating dairy into healthy foods and beverages.

“We like to show our customers what we can do to help develop new, different products,” said Food Applications Assistant Ashley Nunes, as she worked on developing a chocolate-based protein beverage. “We have developed beverages, bars, confections, basically what we can put protein in. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Innovation Center includes a main sensory and presentation area, where customers and Hilmar Cheese Company staff get to taste-test new products, in addition to the kitchen area where food scientists such as Nunes work to develop different food concepts.

“With the Innovation Center, we’ve been able to explore various properties such as creaminess, gelling properties, as well as nutrition properties,” said Gwen Bargetzi, director of marketing. “Before we couldn’t develop a low fat cheese that didn’t taste like an eraser. But one of the wonderful things about having ownership like we do is being able to discover new things. Hilmar Cheese has been successful because we have the passion and the investment.”

According to Nunes, the food scientists at the Hilmar Cheese Innovation Center are continually looking at different trends while exploring what their proteins can do. In addition to working on developing flavor profiles of their global market to make various products more palatable to foreign markets, the group is also working to develop products that are geared toward particular demographics such as gluten-free or diabetic customers.

Helping unveil the LEED award during the dedication ceremony, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross congratulated Hilmar Cheese Company on its many successes in helping California be the “preferred supplier to the global food chain” before taking a tour of the facility.

“We appreciate Hilmar Cheese Company’s commitment to California and applaud the company for showing the way with environmentally-friendly construction,” said Ross. “This facility is well equipped to compete in a 21st Century that presents the ultimate challenge of feeding a fast growing world population while minimizing our environmental footprint…Not only is Hilmar Cheese demonstrating their faith in the future, but their investment in California and the Central Valley…Even with the ongoing drought, there is no better place to be for agriculture than California.”

The Headquarters and Innovation Center achieved LEED Certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as incorporation of a verity of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED Certified buildings help save money for families, businesses and taxpayers while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the community.

“This is our 30th year in business,” said John Jeter, CEO and president of Hilmar Cheese Company. “We have seen tremendous improvements in technology and we have made the investments to continually improve our ability to conserve, reclaim and recycle. As we designed our headquarters to be efficient, LEED provided a global standard to demonstrate our commitment to a sustainable future.”

Features of the Headquarters and Innovation Center include: a heating, ventilation and air condition system that is a closed-loop water cooling process utilizing one of the food processing water reclamation ponds to save energy; landscaping that is irrigated with water reclaimed from food processing; water conservation efforts that achieve a total water usage level 50 percent below California-allowed baseline; solar energy that provides about 25 percent of overall building energy demand; a building design that maximizes the use of natural lighting with light fixtures which self adjust based on daylight and occupant sensors for efficiency; and an electric vehicle charging station, fuel efficient and vanpool parking, and bicycle security racks to reduce transportation energy.

In January, Hilmar Cheese Company also announced that they will be building a multi-million dollar milk processing facility in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park.