Face-to-Face: Meet Kim Sheridan January 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.

Kim SheridanThis month meet...

Kimberly Sheridan, research and development manager, Oregon Fruit Products

  1. How did you get your start in the food industry?
    It all started with the strawberry. In seventh grade the school put out an announcement for strawberry pickers as a summer job. All my friends signed up and I had to beg my parents to let me go. I could hardly sleep the night before and I ended up getting to school with plenty of time to spare before the 5:00 a.m. pick up time. The bus showed up, but not one of my friends followed through. Worse than that, all the other kids were high schoolers and much older than me. But I kept my word and picked those strawberries as hard as I could. That’s really where I developed a fondness for fresh produce and hard work. Later, when I was a freshman at Oregon State University orientation I signed up as a geology major, which had many of its classes in the food science building. One of my first projects was going to the sensory lab to test strawberry ripeness. I was hooked. I changed my major soon after.

  2. What do you love about your job?
    Helping customers and other R&D teams meet their flavor profile expectations gives me the greatest joy. I love making an idea into a live product and then seeing the finished concept thrive on the shelf or in a restaurant. I like staying ahead of trends and learning about new flavor combinations by dining out and speaking with suppliers.

  3. What is the biggest challenge that you face in your job?
    The expectation for a fast turnaround time from customers is always challenging. You have to be flexible and quick to react to opportunities—and luckily our R&D department runs pretty lean at Oregon Fruit Products so we can be nimble. Still, there is always a demand for new, innovative products and unique ingredient mixtures and our ability to deliver those separates us from the competition.

  4. What have you learned or been exposed to in the past 12 months that has helped you in your job?
    The power of really listening for those moments of inspiration. At Oregon Fruit, we are collaborating with more companies than ever across the food and beverage spectrum—from small craft brewers to food manufacturers to international foodservice brands. I’ve found that you never know when an idea for one customer could spark an idea for another in a totally different discipline. You just have to be open to keeping an ear out for that great “crossover” idea.

    Along those same lines, I also just started working on my MBA last summer so that I could learn more about the different aspects of business. If I have more knowledge about our customers on a broader level, I can better anticipate their needs and be a better business partner. You always have to keep learning. No matter how many years of experience you stack up behind you, there’s always more to know!

  5. How do you see the food industry evolving over the coming year?
    It’s becoming more global, for sure. Trends overseas work their way into the American palate and vice versa. Because we are a small company, we can create a new product from concept to delivery very quickly. Other companies will need to shorten their development time to stay flexible and mobile to compensate for the niche market competitive demands.

  6. Fun Fact: What’s your favorite food?
    Popcorn! I am fascinated by the science of corn. I still make popcorn on the stove but I use coconut oil now. Like a good food scientist, I love experimenting with flavor combinations—anything from salty, sweet to cheesy and spicy or everything mixed together. It all depends on the setting and my mood. And I love how the aroma can bring the family together for a light snack or a movie on the couch.

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