Face-to-Face: Meet Robert Sobel October 2012

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...

Robert SobelRobert Sobel, Director of Technology and Innovation and Director of Quality Systems at FONA International

  1. How did you get your start in the food industry?
    My initial career pursuit was secondary education, whereby I taught high school chemistry and physics. As part of my summers away from teaching, I took an opportunity to conduct flavor analysis at FONA International Inc. After that first summer, I was hooked on conducting flavor research. Soon thereafter, I pursued a Ph.D. in chemistry where I researched electronic nose technology and subsequently developed an electronic nose capable of characterizing Maillard Reactions.

  2. What do you love about your job?
    I very much enjoy working with my peers and colleagues on developing new flavor-based technologies. I am also afforded the opportunity to educate the industry through FONA’s Flavor University program and by working with the IFTon their annual short course program. My current role at FONA International enables me to satisfy two passions: educating and conducting research.

  3. What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
    The biggest challenge is deciding what technologies and innovations to develop from concept to product. The beauty of food science and chemistry is that there is an endless supply of basic and applied research ideas. The difficulty comes with evaluating and scrutinizing research pursuits and developing ones that add value for consumers and benefit society as a whole.

  4. What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
    The power of industry and academic resources is invaluable. One of the biggest growth areas for me over the past year has been developing my skills to navigate these resources and drawing connections to influence research and product development.

  5. How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
    The food industry is constantly growing in the area of health and wellness. I foresee a huge push in our industry to better educate consumers in this area. The food industry has already started building awareness into the variety of factors that impact perception and behavior toward a diet more focused on health and wellness. Fundamentally, I see academic and private research institutions conducting investigations into how preference and behavior are internalized by consumers, and how health and wellness as a mindset can be communicated to consumers. Finally, the food industry will push to create new products that are healthful solutions to current initiatives, such as sugar and sodium reduction, while maintaining the same palatability.

  6. Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
    My favorite food is the Hungarian dish chicken paprikas (paprikás csirke). This was a childhood favorite prepared by my grandmother. Little did she know the health benefits of this vitamin-C-rich spice and the umami taste it delivers!

If you are an IFT member and wish to be profiled, please contact Kelly Hensel at khensel@ift.org or 312-604-0211.