Can you give us a brief summary of your professional career to date?
“After an MSc in food science and product development, I started my career at Mondelez back in 2015 as an intern in the Consumer Science team. After consolidating my expertise I became a Consumer Science Specialist with Douwe Egbert. I worked on both the coffee soft pods and the tea. In 2018, I moved back to the South of France to join the company Lallemand as Technical Support and Application Manager for coffee and cocoa. There, I dug back into my knowledge of microbiology to retrieve the essence of fermentation and provide advice about the best the post-harvest treatment.”
Can you tell us what attracted you to work in the food industry?
“In the beginning it was a bit by default as I wanted to be a vet, but I succeeded in joining the most renowned school for life, food and environmental science in France. From then on, I picked the food industry field to study as I was already fond of cooking since my childhood and I could see some similarities.”
Why did you choose to focus on sensory techniques and analysis?
“The sensory techniques and analysis attraction started in my 4th year when I discovered some inspiring statistics lessons, and could work on great projects. During my gap year, I took a 6-month internship in the US in a sensory and consumer lab at the University of Arkansas where I discovered the ‘consumer’ side of my work and got even more hooked! So I decided to take my major in this field for my last educational year. My interest grew and was confirmed through my daily work at JDE.”
You lead and manage quantitative and qualitative consumer tests to estimate consumers’ need of a particular product, e.g. tea or coffee. How do you perform these tests?
“We first define the product categories on which we want to do the research and then evaluate against which benchmark it will be tested. These tests are usually to help the marketing department define their strategy and see what the product’s weaknesses in terms of image and/or taste are.”
“Afterwards, we get in contact with a local agency for the recruitment of the consumers’ panel based on their age, sex and socioeconomic category. We spend quite some time on the design of the test, the questions, the rotation and whether we want to include some packaging/machine assessment…”
“For the first days of the fieldwork, we are usually on-site to make sure everything is going smoothly and according to our request. A few weeks later, we receive the raw data and that’s when the fun part starts! There is usually a month of analysis, first sensorial and then on the consumers and eventually some prediction models.”
A part of your role is also to analyze consumers’ choices. Have you ever found out something that surprised you in consumers’ preferences?
“People never like what they actually claim to like! We regularly came up with answers of people claiming they liked a type of coffee but, when doing a blind test, they actually rated the opposite… People who claim they like ‘strong coffee’ would, in fact, rather take it at a weaker dose.”
You are currently in charge of the experimental trials within the cocoa and coffee division. Could you tell us more about that? What is the experimental trial, how do you perform and analyze it, what is its purpose?
“I have made quite a switch of profession now, as the core of my company is micro-organisms. I am now in charge of developing the market for cocoa and coffee fermentation. We have two products for cocoa, Lalcocoa and three for coffee, Lalcafé.”
“I am therefore going to the countries of origin to put in place commercial trials for customers, or experimental trials for us, when we want to look at the effect of certain strains on coffee or cocoa mass. There are parameters to monitor to make sure the yeasts have adapted well.”
“I enjoy the plurality of the tasks in my new job as well as working in a small team, every day is different!”