A Chat with…Esther Sussman, Product Development Division

"I went to our Chattanooga plant and a coworker took me to see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo"

“I went to our Chattanooga plant and a coworker took me to see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo”

Name: Esther Sussman
Job title: R&D Scientist
Company: Ferrara Candy Company
IFT Division to which you belong: Product Development
Highest Level of Education/Degree: Bachelors in Food Science (Working on Masters)

What does your schedule look like today? Today is not a good example as I was at a chocolate training course at Barry Callebaeut, but normally I get into work pretty early and organize myself based on my project load so I can either deposit/shake-out product or finalize formulas to send off to be put in our system. Pretty often we have trial runs we have to do before a formula can go into first production. We want to make sure everything runs smoothly so our customers receive what they are expecting. For a trial run we scale up colors and flavors and make sure our production team has the proper formula and information. Then we work closely with them while they cook up the product, mix in the color, flavor, and acid, and deposit into the starch to ensure everything looks and tastes like our lab samples. And of course I have meetings to attend as well!

“One of my coworkers covered my keyboard in gummy bears when I was gone for a few days. The dangers of working in a candy factory!”

“One of my coworkers covered my keyboard in gummy bears when I was gone for a few days. The dangers of working in a candy factory!”

How did you go about finding your current job? I used to work at a flavor company and wanted to expand my knowledge outside of flavors. I contacted one of our customers, a woman with whom I went to school at Madison, and asked if she had heard of any job opportunities with her company. I was very lucky that they were looking for people to work in R&D.

If you weren’t a Food Scientist, what would you be doing? People ask me that question all the time and I never have a good answer. I have really never planned on doing anything other than working with food. I used to tell my parents all the time that I wanted to work at Ben & Jerry’s creating new ice cream flavors, but if I could do anything I wanted…I would like to be a judge on the TV show Chopped. Sadly, I can’t cook as well as them but I am very good at eating. 🙂

Who do you think is the most influential person in your field and why?  I don’t think it is just one person, but rather consumers as a whole. It seems like consumers drive everything we do, from our food product to the packaging, to where and how it is sold. Consumers are the reason we first started creating premade/preserved food and now they are the reason we are switching to natural colors and flavors, and more “healthy” products.

When are you most inspired? I am most inspired when I watch chefs using crazy ingredients and techniques in their cooking and baking. It always makes me want to go to work and try out those crazy ideas or at least mold them into something usable in the applications I work with daily.

“My sister, her friend, and me after running the Big 10 10K in Chicago. Obviously I ran for Wisconsin :)”

“My sister, her friend, and me after running the Big 10 10K in Chicago. Obviously I ran for Wisconsin :)”

Why should I join ­­­­­­­­­­Product Development Division or any other IFT Division?  I joined the Product Development Division hoping to meet people and gain opportunities in the field. Although I have only really begun to get involved, I have been able to respond to various requests made through our group to help people gain the information they need as well as get a little help for me and my work when necessary. It is another way to make connections in the field. If you are not interested in product development, there are so many different divisions that I am sure there will be one you are interested in!

Click here to join the Product Development Division!

When not picking gummy bears off her keyboard, Esther likes to scuba dive.

When not picking gummy bears off her keyboard, Esther likes to scuba dive.

The most valuable thing a student can do to further their career is:  GET INVOLVED! The more people you have contact with in the food industry, the more brains you have to pick for ideas and information. As a student, I made the mistake of not getting as involved in internships and the food science opportunities at my school as I could. I believe it made it hard for me to make connections when looking for a job. I suggest that you go to meetings for AACT, IFT, PMCA (can you tell I work in candy?), etc. as much as possible. Try to get internships and lab positions that you are interested in, not just ones that are in a good location. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your professors and fellow students as well as anyone in the industry. You would be surprised to see how much knowledge you have at your fingertips.

“My nephew and me at the Baltimore Orioles game (our favorite baseball team)”

“My nephew and me at the Baltimore Orioles game (our favorite baseball team)”

What is your favorite food? That’s an easy one…SLOPPY JOE! Since I work in candy, my favorite candy is Skittles 🙂 

Follow Esther on Instagram (ERSUSSMAN) or find her on Facebook.

Have a question? Send an email to Esther.Sussman@ferrarausa.com!

Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).

1 Comment

  1. Alona Anspach Reply to Alona

    Great interview. Thanks for your insight. Very helpful.

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