Sabra Dipping Co., Chesterfield, Va., opened the doors to its new Center of Excellence (COE) research and development facility in Chesterfield County, Va. The Sabra plantcenter, which is located on the site of Sabra's hummus manufacturing facility, will further research capabilities and improve Sabra's products in all aspects of food manufacturing and distribution—from agriculture, nutrition and food science to engineering, packaging and product delivery. The COE supports Sabra and the international venture between PepsiCo and Strauss Group, called Obela. The center is said to be a first-of-its-kind research and development center for refrigerated dips and spreads.

"We are honored to partner with Obela to push the envelope in research and development, opening a world of possibilities in dips and spreads in terms of innovation, taste, health and more," says Ronen Zohar, chief executive officer. "The potential is as promising as it is delicious."

The Center of Excellence features a state-of-the-art culinary center, research laboratory, ideation space, a pilot plant and hands-on research modules all aimed at enabling the company to develop the highest quality dips and spreads. The center will house experts in culinary arts, food technology and nutrition, and will conduct groundbreaking research on chickpeas, fruits and vegetables, some of which will be done in conjunction with local Virginia universities.

"The Center of Excellence is now home to experts in all areas of food manufacturing, and we are eager to put our findings to work as we continue to change the way consumers around the world dip and spread," says Tulin Tuzel, chief technology officer of Sabra/Obela. "As we build on our heritage to invent the future, we will continue to be inspired by global advances in food production and aim to further our leadership within the category. This marks a significant step forward in our pursuit to bring the diversity of the world to life through an array of fresh-tasting, real and wholesome products."

As Obela looks to expand beyond Mexico and Australia, the COE will enable it to leverage experience from the U.S. market to meet the needs of global communities. Obela launched in Mexico in June 2012 with three varieties of hummus (Chipotle, Red Pepper and Plain).

Sabra also broke ground on the next expansion phase of its existing manufacturing facility, an $86 million investment. The company expects the addition of capacity will create an estimated additional 140 jobs over the next few years.