Food scientist credits hands-on experience at R&I

Kyler Schwind is a 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program. He was a research assistant with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre from October 2018 to April 2020. Kyler is now a product development scientist at Rich Productions Corporation.

Tell us about where you work:

Rich Products Corporation (Rich’s) is a family-owned company that brings innovative products and solutions to the culinary world. They provide a multitude of products for food service, in store bakeries, and prepared foods. Starting with the world’s first non-dairy whipped topping in 1945, Rich’s has exploded into a multifaceted innovation powerhouse.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

I am a product development scientist in the Toppings, Creams, Culinary Solutions department. Every day can be something different. I am responsible for the product development of various emulsion-based food products. A typical day could include: colour and flavour development, product testing and evaluations, reformulation and ingredient inclusions, and whipping/process testing. Most importantly, product tasting. With the amount of product tasting, I was focused on finding an R&D position that was either in the dessert or beverage industry.

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

Working at Research & Innovation gave me more than 18 months of hands-on product development experience. Being able to work with customers directly and develop products that suit their needs helped me to understand the product development process. Gaining this experience has made a world of difference in my current role. As well, being able to manage my time efficiently to complete projects has been invaluable in this career. 

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

Being heavily involved in Sobrii “Zero Gin” was an opportunity to learn the product lifecycle. I was able to see the product from brainstorming and development phases, all the way to scale-up and commercialization. Taking part in this project let me see the big picture of product development. 

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I was drawn to their hands-on approach to food science. The Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program was not only geared towards industry needs, but also exposed students to the many different areas of food science. Being able to practice product development side-by-side with industry partners was also a key selling point.

Most memorable experience at NC?

In one of our product development classes, we were all tasked with developing a product using cricket powder (powdered insects). Considering cricket powder is a high protein powder, I decided to turn it into a high energy nut and fruit bar. After I finished creating these energy bars, I was able to take them home and have family members try them. I did not disclose the ingredients until AFTER the tasting. Wow, was my mom not happy. I also learned about sensory ethics through this experience. 

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?

Although there were many faculty members that influenced me throughout my years at Niagara, Chef Olaf Mertens influenced me a great deal. Chef Olaf taught my first year “Food Theory” class. Olaf’s passion and dedication to food was a true inspiration and opened my eyes to the variety and versatility to food. Watching him fry schnitzel in butter was a life-changing experience.

At Research & Innovation, I was strongly influenced by Stephanie Skotidas [research lab technician, CFWI Innovation Centre]. Stephanie was always able to take on new tasks and projects with a “can-do” attitude. I was able to experience her passion for science and ability to uncover the solution to problems. Lastly, her ability and commitment to eat the same lunch every day was truly inspiring.

“Being able to work with customers directly and develop products that suit their needs helped me to understand the product development process. Gaining this experience has made a world of difference in my current role.”

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Don’t be afraid to “learn on the fly.” Experience can be just as valuable as a degree, so push to gain real-world experience whenever possible.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

I have learned that working remotely and remotely attending classes are much different. My first four months in the workforce have been a 50/50 split of virtual and “in-person” work. I found that being able to create my own work schedule and schedule my own lab time has been a great way to break up the week. 

Interests outside of work?

Outside of work you can find me hiking through the forest, eating, woodworking, or playing a round of disc golf. I also enjoy being a handyman for my family and fixing anything they throw at me. 

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

“A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” – Robert Greene