Articulate January 2017

Investing in Healthy Food for Gainesville


Written By: Ramon Pena

It’s Mérieux, pronounced as if one were to ask a young lady to “marry you,” said Bosco Ramirez, Mérieux NutriSciences Vice President of North American Operations.

As for the food testing and nutrition company and its existing Gainesville laboratory, they seek to renew vows with the city of Gainesville.

Mérieux NutriSciences is moving from their current Gainesville location to a larger, east downtown location, slated to open in April 2017. On the choice to keep their important Florida laboratory in Gainesville, Ramirez said the decision was obvious.

“For us, moving to East Gainesville would be a win-win,” said Susan Rubin, director of communications for Mérieux NutriSciences. “We could benefit as a company to allow for future expansion, but also [we] could benefit the community that our employees are directly living among.”

For the past year and a half, Mérieux NutriSciences has already been inside the Gainesville area, operating from a smaller facility than their upcoming one. It was formerly known as ABC Research Laboratories, founded in the late 60s and essentially grown out of someone’s house.

“The facility is a great beginning, but we’re looking to do more,” Ramirez said. The new space will have more room and appropriate flows, but most importantly it’ll be adaptable and flexible, which Ramirez said is vital for a changing business like food safety.

Ramirez said that Florida, not surprisingly with its large tourism economy and no lack of industry, is an important location. And Gainesville, with its infrastructure, size and location, was a perfect spot for Mérieux NutriSciences.

But the biggest selling point for Mérieux NutriSciences was the local workforce. Many of their employees are current and former students of the University of Florida’s food sciences program.

“It’s a vibrant facility location. It looks like people really like living around Gainesville,” Ramirez said.

Currently at around 70 employees, the new facility will hopefully create room to bring in about 30 more.

“It’s always very exciting to be part of what I would call a very mobile endeavor. You know, we’re going to be in our business in an area that we believe is vibrant and healthy,” Ramirez said. “Just having an opportunity to additionally contribute is pretty exciting.”

As a company, Mérieux NutriSciences is dedicated to protecting consumer health and ensuring food quality, safety and nutrition. This is done through a host of services from food testing to nutritional label review, to even environmental swabbing.

Their efforts, particularly in this new facility, will create a mutually beneficial relationship with the food services of the greater Gainesville area. And ultimately, are geared toward the benefit of consumer health, making sure that the food is safe.

In their new Gainesville laboratory, the goal is to expand their services and reach. They want to handle everything from field to fork — from the soil that goes into crops to the finished product.

On the microbiology side, Mérieux NutriSciences is testing for bacteria and pathogens such as salmonella, listeria and E. coli. On the chemistry side, they check for the nutritional content of the food, even doing food label reviews, and they check for contaminants.

Fundamentally, Mérieux NutriSciences sees itself as a scientific entity on the forefront of technology, and that’s the kind of legacy they hope to leave behind. But for every individual lab that works closely with the surrounding area, they also want to leave a legacy of being community leaders.

With over 80 labs in 22 countries, Mérieux NutriSciences is by no means a small company. They place labs in areas with a demand. In the state of Florida, outside of a smaller Miami sensory lab, the Gainesville location is their hub.

And for Mérieux NutriSciences, the final analysis showed that the biggest need was in Gainesville. The community reaction so far, Ramirez said, is support and interest.

For the future, Mérieux NutriSciences is looking to become a member of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce. In the Gainesville community and economy, Mérieux hopes to have a big presence.

“We feel very welcome by the community, especially with the move to the east side of the city. We’re looking forward to much future success and growth,” Ramirez said.

 

RAMÓN PEÑA is a fourth-year journalism major at the University of Florida. He hopes to become rich and be able to retire before his thirtieth birthday. In the meantime, he’s content speaking a mixture of English, Spanish, and French, trying to kick-start his internet fame and being a full-time journalist on the side.

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