NEW DELHI: Nestlé, the packaged food group, is seeking to ramp up its innovation capabilities in India, which could yield knock-on benefits elsewhere across Asia.

The company has recently opened its first R&D site in the Asian nation. One core goal will be to further the firm's understanding of indigenous cuisine and traditional ingredients.

Studying Indian cooking habits constitutes another area of focus, alongside creating nutritious but affordable products for lower-income shoppers, items often sold in small pack sizes.

"Our R&D centre in India will help us gain important insights into local consumers' eating habits and taste preferences, as well as greater expertise in using and processing local ingredients to develop products for India and beyond," said Paul Bulcke, Nestlé's CEO.

Among the main categories attracting Nestlé's attention are noodles, cereal, beverage and dairy, as the company attempts to expand its existing portfolio in the country.

The firm also expects this hub to become a source of expertise in new food processing and manufacturing techniques, as well as in extrusion – namely, the art of giving foods a certain texture or shape.

Further objectives will include enhancing its "consumer science" activities, with the insights accrued in each of these fields then potentially being rolled out at the international level.

"As with all Nestlé's R&D centres, it will be part of our worldwide R&D network, enabling us to acquire local knowledge and use it on a global scale," Bulcke said.

Partnerships with universities and other research institutes will form one key aspect of achieving progress in India, coupled with recruiting talented engineering and science graduates.

Nestlé has invested over $50m in this site, which joins a network of 32 such hubs worldwide. It is also seeking to build two additional innovation centres in China by 2013, taking its total in the country to four.

Data sourced from Nestlé; additional content by Warc staff