The scaled down plant, located at its cocoa products factory in Pennsylvania, is targeted at food manufacturers that use semi-finished cocoa products as ingredients.
But Raphael Wermuth, a spokesperson for Callebaut, told this publication that US chocolate makers will benefit indirectly from the development, with innovative R&D work stemming from the facility to spill over into chocolate production.
Callebaut already has a pilot test facility in New Jersey targeted at chocolate producers.
The Eddystone plant will enable the production of cocoa liquor, cocoa powder and cocoa butter from any cocoa bean blend in small batches. It will allow US bakery and food manufacturers to test new products and raw ingredients, prior to producing them on a mass scale, said the Zurich based group.
Prior to the opening of this facility in Eddystone, Callebaut said that such pilot scale work in the area of cocoa could only be done in its cocoa processing facility in Louviers in France.
Wermuth said the new pilot plant, which includes equipment such as a winnower, a nib and cake alkalizer, a roaster, a cocoa liquor grinding line, a cocoa press, and a cocoa powder mill, will allow the supplier to tailor developments to the needs of its US manufacturing customer base.
"We can offer them a faster service with the elimination of the geographical distance and time zone differential," he added.
An additional applications laboratory at the site, said the Swiss chocolate maker, also features an automatic cutter, giving its R&D team new production capabilities for developing syrups, sauces, fillings, and ice cream-based applications.
North American rebound
In its half year financial results earlier this month, Callebaut cited the return to positive GDP growth of the mature economies of the US and Canada, following the financial crisis.
It noted that chocolate consumption in the US had rebounded and showed a significant volume growth of 7.1 per cent for first half of fiscal year 2010/11, ended 28 February.
Sales volume for the entire Americas region grew by 9.8 per cent to 150,198 tonnes, it added.
Overall, the Swiss chocolate maker saw its six month net profit figure rise 9 per cent to CHF158.8m (€122.81m) even as political unrest grew in primary cocoa source the Ivory Coast.