“Very few people can identify the strawberry flavour if it's not pink”

From Operator preparation to Junior Product developer

My daily work activities involve devising, making and developing new sweets for Europe, Japan and America. The combination of working in the lab and in the factory in particular makes my job fun and diversified!

TV programmes

I enjoyed watching food-based TV programmes at a very young age. I knew then that I wanted to do ‘something’ involving foodstuffs and the food industry. Not that I was particularly interested in cooking or recipes at home, but I did want to learn more about the subject. I decided to follow a ‘Food Technology’ educational programme.

Good feeling

I was given the opportunity of a job interview at Perfetti Van Melle via a temping agency. I'm not from around here and so I could'nt form an idea of the factory or of what an ‘Operator preparation’ actually does all day. Instead of a boring job interview at the office, I was invited to have a look around the factory. The Shift manager gave me a tour. It gave me an idea of the kind of work that people do here. The people that I met were so enthusiastic about their ‘sweet factory’ that I found myself going home with a good feeling.

Testing new flavours

Working as an ‘Operator preparation’ is not only about making sweets, it is also about the underlying technology. As an Operator, no one knows the machines better than you do. I still use the many years' experience that I acquired when conducting tests for new flavours. It's sometimes a matter of consulting with one another and simply giving it a go. Genuine teamwork on the part of everyone in the factory and at R&D.

Devising new flavours

I saw an internal job vacancy for Product developer at the development lab in Breda. It appealed to me, because that's where they think up new flavours and products. It would allow me to put my practical experience as an Operator to good use. When I asked about the role, I was told that I'd have to hurry up. The great thing about this new position was that I was able to further expand my prior training with additional training at the High School.

Garlic-flavoured sweets

We made new sweet flavours for the visitors during the Open day. They were allowed to have a look in the tasting lab and see what we do there. How about tomato or garlic-flavoured sweets? Black Fruittella with green vanilla? Anything is possible! I sometimes combine different soups at lunch. Curry soup with raisins, for example. ‘More product development, I suppose’ my colleagues then say with a smile. Still, they often sneakily ask me if there's a job for them in the lab.

Tasting every week

Recognising and explaining flavours is something I do every week. If a sweet for the Italian market needs more bitterness, then I must be able to explain which bitter flavour. More almond or lemon bitter? The flavour of the rind or of the fruit itself? Colour is also important. Strawberry, for example, is difficult to recognise if the colour's not red or pink. They call it sensory perception. By tasting things myself every week, as a Junior Product developer, I'm training my palate in order to be able to devise delicious new products.

Ongoing development

I'm not only working at developing new flavours or products, but also my personal development. I'm currently completing my thesis for my Foodstuffs Technology bachelor. Perfetti Van Melle has facilitated this for me, ensuring that I can continue to grow within my professional field. At the moment, I'm investigating certain ingredients for use in our products. That even goes as far as the molecular level! And that's precisely what fascinates me so much at work; discovering new things every day!