By the time Becky Scott graduated from Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program on June 19, she had already experienced the thrill of seeing her first product on the store shelves.
The 28-year-old West Lincoln resident was the driving force behind the product development of MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager. Soon after the company turned to the college’s research department, Niagara Research, to develop an alcohol-free lager, Scott began working on its product development and sensory testing, tweaking recipe formulations until its taste, colour, even the foam as it’s poured, can rival any regular craft-brewed lager.
“It looks like a lager, and tastes like a lager, the only difference is that there is no alcohol,” she says of the product which recently became available at Sobeys and Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Canada, as well as Walgreens in the U.S.
Scott had the opportunity to lead the product development for MADD Virgin Drinks as a part-time research assistant at Niagara College – a position that was open to students in her program. She enrolled in the Culinary Innovation program as a recent Chef Management graduate who was interested in expanding her skills into the food science field. However, the experience she gained in the program opened up a variety of new options.
“I thought I had a vision of where I was going but this program opened so many doors,” she says. “Food safety, product development, sensory work, there are so many places I can go.”
Scott enjoyed the hands-on nature of the program, creating and tasting foods, and collaborating with her classmates about how to improve products. She gained industry certifications, attended conferences, and had an opportunity to take her own idea for a product from concept to creation, completing all the necessary paperwork and regulatory checks that would be needed to get it onto store shelves.
She also gained real-world experience outside the classroom by working an internship as a sensory technician at McCain Foods Limited in Toronto. During the full-time internship from May to September 2013, she learned what goes into taking a product from a concept to the store shelves at a multinational global corporation. Scott ran sensory panels for different products at McCain. Whether the company wanted to change the crust on a pizza or try a different coating on fries, she facilitated in-house panels to determine whether or not a new recipe formulation would be granted a green light.
“Most people don’t get to do sensory analysis until they get their master’s degree but since I had hands-on experience at the College with MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager that helped me land a competitive internship,” she says.
The internship turned into a part-time job for Scott once her studies resumed in September. By the time she completed her program, it wasn’t a matter of finding a job, but deciding which job offer to accept. While she was offered a full-time position at McCain, she opted to continue her work at Niagara College and took on a full-time contract as a research associate for Niagara Research, where she now enjoys working on multiple projects with the help of assistants. She looks forward to potentially seeing more products she is working on being sold in stores in the future.
“I would love to walk into a grocery store someday and be able to point out all different the products I helped to create,” she says. “The more products I get on the shelves, the more rewarding it will be.”