Q&A: Amy Lammert

Food Science Associate Professor Amy Lammert began her career at Cal Poly as a dairy applications specialist, creating product prototypes showcasing the functionality of dairy ingredients in foods and beverages. She transitioned into teaching dairy foods and food science courses and launched a research program in the sensory evaluation of foods.

With a background steeped in product development, including roles with Hunt Wesson/ConAgra Grocery and PepsiCo's Quaker/Tropicana/Gatorade Functional Nutrition Team, Lammert provides students with a firsthand experience in food product development. She was recently awarded a three-year $750,000 Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant to create a standardized food product development curriculum and pedagogy to better bridge the gaps between the industry, educators and students to create robust and job-ready product developers. 


What is food product development and how is it used?

When you go to the grocery store and see something on the shelf, a significant majority of the time a product developer has created that product. Product development ranges from concept development and ideation, to creating the formulation, procuring ingredients, developing quality standards, ensuring the safety of the product, making sure that it tastes good, to full-scale production, and that regardless of production line or location that the product is consistent and that the product delivers on consumer expectation. Product development is messy; it is never the same twice. Something new and unpredictable always comes up. Today’s consumer is not like the consumer of the 1970s. More and more, consumers are looking for a culinary experience, similar to homemade or a luxury product from a fine dining establishment, in the products they buy.

What are some of the largest hurdles in teaching food product development?

Similar to product development in the industry, there is no linear way to teach it. It is impossible to teach the same lesson the same way twice because the product you are developing is never the same. While there are textbooks for standard methods in food science, nothing like that exists for product development. It is an applied science that takes everything into consideration. The basic goal of this grant is to provide resource materials to help faculty teach in more effective ways.

Who will you collaborate with?

There are three team members from Cal Poly’s Food Science and Nutrition Department involved, including me, Department Head Stephanie Jung and Professor Samir Amin. We will collaborate closely with professors from five other universities: Cal Poly Pomona, Montana State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Penn State. The professors involved all have unique specialties that will add significant value to the project. Additionally, we will work closely with an advisory council comprised of industry leaders from leading companies in product development as well as the director from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and Higher Education Review Board, who can help guide us and prioritize our content development efforts on what an entry-level food product developer should know and ensure that the content being developed will meet the IFT-approved Food Science program academic standards.

How will this grant benefit students?

We will create content in a digital format that will be dynamic — allowing for improvements and additions over time. By creating learning modules using different product development strategies throughout the entire development process to help fill significant gaps in teaching product development, we are also creating content that will assist students as they enter the industry. The foundational food science principals don’t change, but how the tools and technology used in product development do change based on the product being developed, such as a bar, a cereal or a beverage. The learning modules will provide a true application of everything students learn throughout their undergraduate coursework, including how it may be used in different circumstances in the development of food products.


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