The Secret Life of a Food Scientist

March 4, 2013
Ever go on a factory tour, or have someone explain to you what they do?  Or read the bio of your presenter at an education session?  You don’t always get a clear picture.  Take, for instance, my write up for our Flavor University:

“Beth plays an active role in the execution and timely delivery of projects for FONA's Confections customers. She is developing her technical proficiency in the confectionary market, and possesses expertise in the development of gum, chocolate and compound coatings, chocolate and sugar-shell panned candies and gelatin/pectin gummies.”

Do you walk away knowing exactly what I do at FONA from 7-4 every weekday?  No?  Well neither do any of my family or friends, even after I’ve explained to them what I do!  I’m convinced my husband believes I enter into a whimsical, sugar-filled Willy Wonka world of chocolate rivers and lollipop trees. Who wouldn’t want to have daily bubblegum blowing contests?

But as great as that may sound, I can honestly say that is not the case. I work in a laboratory disguised as a kitchen. We have microwaves, ovens, dishwashers and mixers, but we also have chocolate tempering units, sigma gum mixers, a tablet press, a gum former and cutter.  We work with recipes (which we call formulas) and instead of using measuring cups and spoons, we use highly sensitive and precise scales. We do stock up on the household staples of sugar, butter, and salt, but we also use ingredients such as gelatin, gum base and carrageenan.

From the time I enter the building, I have no idea what my day will bring — but that is the fun part!  Take a look at today: I needed to ship out six kid-friendly flavors for gum to a customer (which were created and compounded yesterday), make close to 500 gummies for another customer, modify slides in PowerPoint for a future customer presentation, and watch a mandatory series of videos for a yearly certification. The keys for what we do are adaptability and passion! Who knows what tomorrow will bring in the confectionery flavor world?