Face-to-Face: Meet Jessica Fischer
Ever wonder if anyone else is facing the same professional challenges as you? Or just looking to connect with some new people in your field? In IFT's Face-to-Face series, we will be introducing you to a different IFT member every month with a fun, insightful Q&A session.
This month meet...
Jessica Fischer, Senior Food Technologist, Cargill Salt.
- How did you get your start in the food industry?
I’ve always loved food—cooking it, eating it, playing with it. But when I read about a degree in food engineering in my high school chemistry book I decided that it was something I should investigate. I visited Purdue University for a “Women in Engineering Career” event during my senior year of high school and learned more about the engineering disciplines Purdue had to offer. Food Process Engineering stole my heart that day when I saw their soybean product development competition items. Surf board wax, a pen, and edible paper—all made from food! I was hooked!
- What do you love about your job?
I love the creativity and diversity that is involved in product development. In my current role I work with customers to help them overcome their technical challenges. My main focus is on reducing sodium in all food applications and I have taken a “back to basics” approach by trying to determine the functional roles of salt in food products (such as taste, texture, and microbial management).
Working with customers, I get exposed to a variety of food applications that constantly challenge my food science knowledge. Last week, I was working on onion rings, and this week ranch dressing. Each project poses a new challenge to figure out how to get everything to work together—taste, texture, processing, cost, etc. Considering the diversity of Cargill’s ingredient portfolio and the large technical family to support it, I get to leverage exceptional experience and analytical tools to help me create unique solutions for our customers. These types of customer collaborations and my constant learning are the fun parts of my job!
- What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
Since I work on reducing sodium in food applications taste is always my biggest challenge. We know from numerous marketing surveys that taste is the one thing consumers are not willing to sacrifice. So, making a great tasting product, while lowering the sodium, is definitely a challenge. Added complexity comes when a customer is looking for more than one change in their product to meet a customer need—for example, reduced sodium, reduced sugar, and reduced fat. However, Cargill has some great solutions in the works that are making it easier for customers to meet their goals.
- What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
Fortunately for me, Cargill focuses a lot on personal development. I was involved in an 18-month Cargill Women’s Leadership program called BRIDGE that focused on leadership, engagement, and personal development. I think a lot of times we get so caught up in “work” that we forget to spend time on our personal development. It taught me to make time to learn about myself—how I learn, what motivates me, how I interact with others, and how others interact with me. This experience has given me a whole new perspective on my work relationships. It was the most valuable career experience I’ve had to date.
- How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
I think there are big changes coming in the next year. There are a lot of things going on in Washington D.C. from federal menu labeling requirements to school lunch nutrition standards. As these move forward, I think there will be change in the industry. Not only with regards to sodium reduction, but also around saturated fats, sugar, and calorie reductions. It’s an exciting time to be in the food industry and it will be interesting to see where this next year takes us.
- Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
I guess if I had to pick it would be steak! My brother turned me on to Alton Brown’s Good Eats Steak recipe. YouTube it! All you need is a cast-iron skillet and 10 minutes. You’ll get restaurant quality steak every time and will never use your grill again.
If you are an IFT member and wish to be profiled, please contact Kelly Hensel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-604-0211.