"For a a career in Food R&D you need to have an innovative mindset and a sense of responsibility towards consumers"
Monday, October 31, 2022
What does a typical day in the life of a product developer look like?
A product developer’s typical day starts with activities that support the creation of new products which delight consumers and meet business requirements. I spend time in the laboratory to ensure that the products we create meet the consumers’ desire in taste & visuals, while providing them with a fun and convenient experience. As the product owner, I also collaborate cross-functionally with Marketing, Manufacturing, & Consumer Science to secure alignment on routine development work. A product developer also needs to have a watchful eye on ever changing consumer needs, so frequent market visits or consumer immersions are done to ensure we understand them better. Since my role is synonymous with a scientist, I am also engaged in a lot of studies and analytical tests to assess the shelf life of products and keep a check on the safety and nutritional value of the products.
Since product development is a long drawn-out process and requires teams to go back to the drawing board multiples times, it can be challenging and sometimes even frustrating - what has been your biggest learning in this process?
With product development, a primary challenge is to match the consumer and business needs at the same time, which makes it a long-drawn-out process. While there are plenty of failures in this process, we gain valuable information about the right combination of technology, ingredients and processes which leads us to create a winning product. For me, the biggest learning comes from acknowledging that this process lets us evolve further and better after every iteration, to create the best product experience for our consumers. One should enjoy this journey from ideation to market and learn to manage the people involved in the product development process. The joy which a consumer experiences when eating/drinking our product and the success of the product being placed on the shelf makes this journey worth it!
How has MDLZ as an organisation provided comfort/ support during the process?
When I look back at myself 8 years ago, a food technology graduate, fresh out of college with very little manufacturing experience, versus the professional I am today, I find a huge positive change for which Mondelēz has invested significantly in me, both financially and technically. Due to Mondelēz, and previously Kraft and Cadbury, I have imbibed a lot of product development knowledge, which has helped me develop strong process fundamentals and an understanding of the food industry across the world. Mondelēz has always given me the courage to fail, learn and re-emerge stronger. From Day 1, I understood that this is the right place to be for a food scientist who wishes to learn new technical skills and develop strong business acumen. Be it the state-of-the-art labs, pilot plants, global exposure, employee friendly environment or its strong CSR focus, Mondelēz continues to invest in its employees to help them meet their career goals. I feel blessed to be part of a company with such strong consumer focus and I know there is a lot more to learn! 😊
What has been your favourite/ most recent innovation you have been involved in?
Being a part of the India Bakery Innovation team since 2020, I was involved in the Cadbury Chocobakes layered cake innovation at a time when the number of COVID cases in India were rising. Layered cake was a new and complex format, involving a lot of unit operations and challenges in terms of product design and its manufacturing. While the team was working day and night to ensure the chocolate was right and the sponge softer, COVID had different plans for us. Due to the lockdown, almost everything was restricted, yet, the Innovation team worked together, did most of the tasks virtually and launched the most successful innovation of the year, which made the business proud, and consumers smile.
What made you want to be in the R&D space and why specifically MDLZ as an organisation?
I have grown up eating Cadbury Dairy Milk and Bournvita, and when my exam results were good, my parents would reward me with a Cadbury Temptations, so you can imagine my happiness! I opted for Food Technology as a specialization during engineering because of my passion to try new products. Whenever I opened any packaged food item, I would wonder how I would experiment with its taste if I had the opportunity. During my Food Technology course, I was technically inclined towards Food Chemistry, Sensory Science and Food Engineering, which are a good fit for a career in R&D and I sharpened my skills in these areas with practical problems and technical projects. A career in Food R&D needs an individual to have an innovative mindset and a sense of responsibility to ensure food is microbiologically safe, nutritionally correct, and I found this vision and mindset reflected in the MDLZ values. Working for Cadbury's is a dream job and I am proud to be living up my dreams!
What does "magic" mean to you and what's your favourite magic spell (mantra for success)?
I have never chased success in life. I believe if you work hard and put your efforts in the right direction, success will emerge like magic! I always ensure preparation is done before every work I do, be it a small meeting with suppliers, a technical presentation or putting a product for factory trials. If I succeed, I try to push my boundaries further to achieve the next bigger goal and if I fail, I ensure that I re-emerge faster and stronger. I also always try to be future ready as the world and technology are evolving rapidly, so it’s important to meet the pace with speed and strong will.
How does your role contribute towards MDLZ sustainability agenda/goal?
R&D plays an important role in making choices which are sustainable and meet the MDLZ sustainability goals. Having sustainably sourced cocoa as part of all our cocoa-based products, limiting usage of ingredients which accelerate deforestation in certain countries and ensuring sustainable packaging of products are just some of the choices R&D has been involved in making. R&D also plays a crucial role in designing processes which lower line wastage and reduce the potable water demand. We are at the forefront of sustainable initiatives in all that we do.
What type of projects or experiences (i.e. shaping, functional experiences, international) have you done to help grow your career in different ways at Mondelēz?
I started my career in Beverages and then moved to Bakery. So far, I have been fortunate to have worked in almost all segments of a typical R&D work track including handling innovation, product/brand renovations, margin improvement projects (Productivity), Ingredient research and supply chain reinvention. With every project, I was exposed to different challenges and understood different sides of the business. Some projects gave me an opportunity to understand consumers of different markets including developed and emerging markets, and the different strategies adopted by Mondelēz towards the same. I handled multiple projects at a time, learned project management skills, improved upon my communication skills, learned technical skills by heart and connected with consumers across different countries. Each challenge and project helped me grow technically and professionally to become the individual I am today!