Face-to-Face: Meet Karsten Kotte March 2018

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.

Karsten KotteThis month meet...

Karsten Kotte, vice president of technical services at Graceland Fruit

  1. How did you get your start in the food industry?
    It’s been quite an adventure! I received my PhD in food science from the University of California, Davis. Then, I spent 15+ years working in the food industry with companies like Omega Protein Corp., H.J. Heinz Co., and the Schwan Food Co. before joining Graceland Fruit.

  2. What do you love about your job?
    I get fired up about developing new approaches to product innovation. Here at Graceland Fruit, we’ve recently designed and launched a multi-stage approach that guides the innovation process from ideation through product development and on to market.

    I also enjoy creating new products that meet consumer generated trends. For example, in 2017, the high amount of sugar consumed by U.S. consumers grew to become a major health issue. So, sugar reduction was at the top of our R&D priorities. In response, we just launched a No Added Sugar Dried Cranberry that I’m extremely proud of because it meets two of our goals in new product development: sugar reduction and enhanced health benefits.

  3. What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
    In general, dried fruit is a mature category and it’s critical that we continue to innovate in order to grow our brand. Our goal is to roll out two new products each year. I can’t discuss specifics, but we’re taking a symbiotic approach to product development. In other words, we’re asking ourselves, “How can we marry our products with other beneficial natural products or ingredients to boost nutritional benefits, flavor, and other qualities even more?” We’re very excited about the possibilities that this approach presents.

  4. How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
    For our specific industry, I see a number of trends. I already mentioned the sugar reduction initiative. Another trend that caught our interest involves the demand for functional foods. For example, those products supporting digestive health, joint health, and muscle recovery. We tested a new variety of cranberry that is high in anthocyanin content. Our R&D department is working closely with our marketing team to identify and put into play permissible messaging about the health benefits associated with our products. We also continue to see a greater consumer interest in a more global approach to flavor, so we are exploring the potential for more exotic, savory, or spicy flavors and fruit blends for both domestic and international markets.

  5. Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
    If I’m honest, I have a sweet tooth. I love our dried cherries and cranberries (and yes, I’m a bit biased). Let’s just say if someone presented me with these chocolate cherry cookies, I wouldn’t say no!

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