Destination Career is a series profiling recent Purdue Agriculture graduates.
For more alumni stories, visit our Destination Career archive.
Grad making ‘grrreat’ snacks for Kellogg
By Brooklynne Slabaugh
Photo provided by Maggie Springstun, Destination Purdue Illustration
Maggie Springstun, a 2007 Purdue Agriculture graduate, is a food technologist at Kellogg Company. It’s her role to figure out how to make new food products in large quantities to meet consumer demand.
Meet Maggie Springstun, a food technologist for Kellogg Company who earned a bachelor’s degree in food science from Purdue in 2007. Product developers come up with new food ideas based on consumer needs and market research. After that, it’s up to food technologists like Springstun to figure out how to produce them. Springstun works for Kellogg Company’s Global Wholesome Snacks group, which focuses on making nutritious snacks.
“I think it’s personally satisfying to work on new products or line extensions of existing products, and then see them on the shelves in the stores, and then even more, see consumers purchasing something that I played a part in producing,” Springstun said.
Although the work is satisfying, Springstun said that working on such a large scale comes with plenty of challenges.
“Cooking on a stove top is a lot different than cooking in a 4,000-pound kettle,” she said.
That’s because ingredients don’t react the same way in large quantities as they would in small quantities at home. And for Springstun, it’s all about making sure she produces enough product to supply a huge market.
In a test kitchen, a “batch” of something may be around 100 grams, at a pilot plant it may be 200 pounds, and in a manufacturing facility it may be 2,000 pounds.
“One of the main challenges in food products I have been working with at Kellogg is the fat and sugar ingredients,” Springstun said.
When food companies want to make healthier products, they reduce saturated fats and find alternatives for sugar. Their target is to maintain good taste. At home, it might be easy to substitute applesauce for oil in a cake recipe, but that kind of substitution doesn’t always work on a large scale.
“To obtain such targets with a different ingredient and maintain the same or similar functionality can be challenging,” she said.
But Springstun is one smart cookie when it comes to her job.
“I enjoy this challenge and learning how different ingredients interact with each other and troubleshooting the challenges a plant might experience with such ingredients or interactions,” she said.
Thanks to this work, Springstun and other food technologists are succeeding in their goals.
“What is exciting is the healthy platform options that we are offering, like lower calories, lower sugar (and) higher fiber,” Springstun said. “Now they taste good, and a few years ago you may not have found a product like that.”
Besides testing ingredients and formulas, Springstun also figures out how much the facilities can produce.
She needs to know how fast the equipment can run, how much product they can produce and understand the whole process.
For this, she draws on her previous work experience. Springstun started working for Kellogg within the last year. Before that, she worked for PepsiCo at the Quaker Oats manufacturing facility in Danville, Ill.
There, she said, she gained a lot of experience with the manufacturing side of food production. She said she was able to learn a lot about manufacturing machines and the process of production, which makes her a more qualified food technologist.
Projects require her to organize plant trials, do sample runs, and make sure everything is available for startup. She also helps to troubleshoot any issues that arise during production. Based on her experience and scientific knowledge from her degree in food science, she is able to successfully manage projects as a food technologist.
At the end of the day, she said she enjoys her work and what it means for others.
“I enjoy working with food and creating new foods that are appealing to consumers,” she said.
Food technologists bridge the gap between the farm and the fork
By Brooklynne Slabaugh
The average consumer may not think of food technologists as major players in agriculture, but they are.
Maggie Springstun, a 2007 Purdue Agriculture graduate, is a food technologist for Kellogg Company. She said she plays a valuable role in agriculture even though she is in the manufacturing industry.
“Farmers, they grow and make food, but I play the part of transforming food so the average consumer can purchase it,” she said.
She said that her job helps bridge the gap between the farm and the fork. Her grounding in agriculture has helped her understand the supply chain, she said. That helps her understand raw materials better than food technologists who don’t have that foundation.
That helps her do her job better, too. Raw materials change constantly — because the ingredient is out of season, unavailable or because consumer demand changes. Springstun said her agricultural background helps her find alternatives.
Find out more