Graduate makes a career of snack time
By Ross Trentadue
Got the munchies? Purdue Agriculture graduate Dan Orr probably helped you satisfy your cravings. He was one of the eight team members who developed and launched the Tostitos SCOOP! tortilla chips and Cheetos Twisted snacks.
Photo provided by Karen Means
Dan Orr, a 1999 Purdue University food process engineering graduate, helped develop Cheetos Twisted and Tostitos SCOOP! tortilla chips for Frito-Lay Inc.
Part of the research and development team for Frito-Lay Inc., Orr not only helped develop these snacks and other new product ideas, he also developed the machinery and process lines used to produce the chips that eventually stocked grocery store shelves.
Orr earned a bachelor's degree in 1999 in food process engineering in Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE). After graduation, he joined Frito-Lay and was assigned to the team developing the Tostitos SCOOP! tortilla chips. "My Purdue education provided me with strong technical knowledge, being creative in solving problems, and excellent team skills. All three of these attributes have been important in my engineering career at Frito-Lay," said Orr.
Orr grew up on a hog farm near Noblesville, Ind. While in high school, he enjoyed math and science and hoped to stay in agriculture in some way. With his strong science skills, he found ABE to be a perfect match. "During my freshman year at Purdue, I was attracted to the food process engineering area of agricultural and biological engineering," Orr said. "Growing up on the farm and being around agriculture, I liked the idea of working on the finished product side of the industry."
Orr also chose his major because his work would be seen by much of the public and allow him to use his math and science skills. He also was happy with the high ratio of faculty to students at Purdue.
While attending Purdue, Orr completed an internship with General Mills in Minnesota, where he helped develop a cereal coating. He also interned with Coca-Cola in Atlanta, where he worked on package development. "The internships I participated in while attending Purdue helped me realize how much I enjoyed engineering projects and working with others to deliver products that will be used and enjoyed by consumers," Orr said.
Involvement in organizations outside the classroom helped him learn how to balance his studies with other activities. Orr was actively involved with the Purdue University Glee Club, where he met many friends outside the agriculture community. As part of the ABE advisory board, he worked with students and faculty to review the current curriculum and other department matters.
"My involvement with clubs and organizations helped me develop my leadership and people skills. This was very beneficial, because I work with lots of different people on a daily basis and have to be a team player to accomplish our goals within the company," Orr said. Those activities also prepared him for life after college and made the transition into work easier, he said. They helped him understand how to research opportunities that he has a passion for and make a positive contribution in these areas.
"When I completed school, I wanted my profession to have a tie back to agriculture. I felt that taking this position with Frito-Lay would keep me in agriculture. Although it isn't on the production site, it still involves agriculture and is on the finished product side."
Orr is very proud of his Purdue education. Graduating from a university that continues to be a leader in research and development and influences today's industry leaders has, he says, definitely made an impact on his life.