By Morgan Wolfe
They say slow and steady wins the race, which is just the case for one food science alumnus who took her time completing her degree and remained faithful to her passion. Danielle Conover, a 2014 Kansas State University food science and industry graduate recently proved that her extensive food science education was well worth the time and effort as Dr Pepper Snapple Group has just launched the very first product that she helped develop.
Conover first started at K-State as a bakery science major, then moved to chemistry and finally stopped at food science and industry, where she found her match.
“I heard about food science from a friend,” Conover said. “It was an ideal field of study for me as it combined my passion for food and my interest in science.”
During her fifth year at K-State, Conover worked as a student-to-student recruiter for the Food Science Institute and also participated on the RCA Product Development Competition Team.
“I really enjoyed my experience in the food science program,” Conover noted. “I enjoyed the smaller classes as they allowed me to get know my fellow classmates, and I loved being in the College of Agriculture. I felt that faculty really went above and beyond and truly showed they cared about their students and their future success.”
After completing her undergrad degree at K-State, Conover went on to pursue a master’s degree in food science at the University of Arkansas. Though she loved the required coursework of her undergrad, Conover admits she was caught off guard when she started grad school initially.
“In graduate school, the focus changes quite a bit,” Conover remarked. “The research becomes a much higher priority than the coursework. I think graduate school gave me a really good foundation for product development; it taught me how to ask more questions and gave me experience managing a long term project while also juggling multiple other smaller projects.”
During her studies, Conover completed two summer internships with Land O’ Lakes, one in quality assurance and one in product development. Both internships involved working on the Kozy Shack pudding brand. In her final semester of grad school, Conover was able to intern with Tyson Foods in quality assurance at one of their plants in Springdale, Arkansas.
“The internship experiences were incredibly valuable to me,” Conover noted. “The skills and knowledge gained throughout each internship as well as exposure to different team dynamics and work environments gave me a lot of insight into what I wanted in a position and in a company.”
Currently, Conover works as a Senior Associate Scientist at Dr Pepper Snapple Group. She loves going to work each day because she’s surrounded by great people and an ambitious, encouraging environment.
“I wanted a job where there would be constant opportunities and challenges to ensure that I kept growing in my career and skills,” Conover mentioned. “I also wanted a job which allowed me a mix of work environments such as time developing on the bench, time in plants, time at my desk and having lots of contact with others. The amazing product portfolio full of brands I had loved since I was a kid was really the icing on the cake!”
She’s definitely proven her growth from her time working at Dr Pepper Snapple Group, as the company has just launched a product that she helped develop, Mott’s Sensibles. The product is available in three flavors: Apple Raspberry, Apple Cranberry and Apple Pineapple and is 100 percent juice and contains 30 percent less sugar than apple juice. To reduce the sugar, the cross-functional Sensibles team decided to add coconut water and vegetable juices, which are naturally a lower Brix value.
“This product was a lot of fun partially because it was so challenging,” Conover mentioned. “As a product developer, your number one focus is always the taste of the product, but there are many different pieces of the puzzle that you have to balance. These include product stability, product, cost, product appearance, etc. I spent a lot of time working with vendors and trying out different vegetable juices to find the optimum combination to maximize taste, appearance and cost of the final product. I am very proud of the final product, and happy to announce it is available nationwide!”
An internally motivated person always, Conover has further developed both her technical and leadership skills. She strives to continue to be her best, work hard, continue learning and be proud of the work she is accomplishing. In the future, Conover hopes to be open to opportunities that push her outside of her comfort zone while at the same time, allow her to stay true to herself.