Tell us about where you grew up
I grew up in Gull Lake, a small town in northern Wisconsin with a population of 186. Most of the summer was spent exploring and being on the lake while winters brought basketball, ice skating, and movie nights. My mom was a high school teacher, and my dad was a railroad conductor. I also have four older brothers.
Tell us about where you went to school and what for:
University of Wisconsin – La Crosse
University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium
Master’s in Business Administration
Tell us about your internship, how it came about, what it was in, etc.
When I was a junior at UW-La Crosse, my professor suggested I try to find an internship to narrow down what area of biochemistry I was interested in. Ultimately, I ended up interviewing with Jill Rippe, the Director of R&D at Main Street Ingredients. At the time, Agropur had just acquired Main Street Ingredients a few months prior. We went through the interview, and I tried to answer the questions the best I could. I had never heard of food chemistry and had never really given much thought into the fact that there was likely an industry behind all the food I saw at the grocery store. At the end of the interview, Jill asked if I had any questions, and my brilliant response was, “You say the company makes food, but all I saw on the tour were bags of powder. So how exactly is it you produce food?” As Jill explained things like whey protein and stabilizers I shook my head feigning understanding. Years later, I told Jill at the time I was amazed I was able to sound like an intelligent person that day and that she hired me. She responded that she was well aware I didn’t have a clue about food but liked that I was confident. After I was hired, I spent the summer learning just how complex my question was while blending and shipping samples out to customers with Angie Craig and tagging along with the food technologists as they worked through projects.
What types of things did you work on and how was the working environment?
My internship was a blast! The food technicians took time to explain what they were doing and talked me through their thought processes. If we were running a ready-to-drink beverage I would help. If we were flavoring ice cream or yogurt, they’d ask for my opinion. At the end of the summer, the team gave me my own project in matching a chocolate milk blend. After watching one of the food techs add vanillin (a flavor), I decided I should add some more for an even better taste. That experiment ended with me making everyone’s mouths go numb for part of the day and a great lesson in the bell curve of a flavor system. What I enjoyed most about my internship was the willingness of everyone to explain what they were working on. I am a very hands-on-learner, and having the group be so open and welcoming was a great environment to develop my learning.
How did your internship start to evolve into a full-time career with Agropur?
I was an intern for 3 months in the summer and worked part time during the school year to fill in for an employee on maternity leave. Luckily, the Research & Development team was amazing, and they were able to help tag team projects within that time. I was then offered a full-time position at Agropur as a Food Technologist upon my college graduation. I worked as a Food Technologist for 4 years before exploring opportunities within the business and sales side of things. Timing worked out that within a few months after speaking with my mentors, managers, and the VP of Sales, about my interest in Account Management, a position opened as an Account Manager of Beverages. I have been an Account Manager for the last 4 years within our Custom Solutions branch of Agropur Ingredients.
Can you talk a little bit about where you are now and what kind of things you work on?
In May I will have been with Agropur for 8 years, four as a food technologist and four as an account manager. I currently work for the Custom Solutions branch of Agropur Ingredients with our beverage accounts. Customers reach out to us for assistance with formulation, ingredients, and manufacturing. In partnership with the Innovation team, we work to create their product. I enjoy the that most days are different from the next. Sometimes we are working with a small start-up who leans on us for everything from marketing insight to nutritional and label questions; sometimes, we work with established brands who are on the cutting edge and trying something new. At the moment, the Agropur Ingredients team just returned from Natural Products Expo West in California and we are working to connect with the various leads that were generated.
Why do you love Agropur?
I enjoy the work we do and the products we make. But, what I love is the people I am able to work with. The people I work with are fun, focus on being the best team we can be and we all support one another. This is something that has been consistent throughout my 8 years with Agropur.
With the FDA GRAS status and with an expansion of our manufacturing capabilities, Agropur will be able to supply not only to infant formula manufacturers but also to special medical food formulators.