Amanda Galenkamp graduated from NC’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program in 2018 and served as Research Assistant for Research & Innovation for one year during her time as a student. Since September 2018, Amanda has been the Product Development Coordinator for Steeped Tea.
Tell us about where you work:
Steeped Tea is a direct-selling loose-leaf tea company based in Ancaster, Ontario. Founded in 2006, Steeped Tea Inc. quickly became one of the fastest-growing social-selling companies in North America. In 2012, they were featured on CBC’s “Dragons’ Den” where Jim Treliving and David Chilton signed on as business partners and investors. Since then, they’ve been ranked on the Profit 500 list four years running – 24th in 2016. The company is built on superior quality, taste, and service, with more than 100 delicious varieties of premium loose-leaf teas, along with accessories. They also feature tea-based lattes, spices, salad dressings, hot chocolates, and sweet dip mixes.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
My job is all about creating new products for Steeped Tea. My main tasks include formulating new products, researching current and upcoming trends, sourcing new and unique ingredients, conducting sensory panels to get feedback on new tea blends, creating any necessary nutrition facts panels and product information, and coming up with new innovative ideas. I love being able to work with tea all day long and learn and participate in product development and marketing meetings.
Please give us an idea of what types of related things you’ve been doing prior to this recent position.
During school, I ran my own small hobby tea business selling tea at markets and at select retail stores. This really helped me learn about the tea and beverage industry, and gain valuable knowledge about marketing and business.
How has your Research & Innovation experience helped you prepare for your current role?
Working as a research assistant was such a great experience! I had some amazing mentors and was able to work on multiple projects doing a wide variety of tasks. I did a lot of product development and learned the importance of tracking and compiling all of your formulations. I had to come up with new product and flavour ideas, communicate with clients, create nutrition facts panels, participate in sensory panels, and much more. I use all these skills in my current role on a daily basis. Having this framework of useful skills really set me up for success in my career.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Broya broth and jerky: I worked with other research assistants and we came up with multiple bone broth flavours and meat “protein bites.” It was a ton of fun to collaborate and innovate with other research assistants, and we had some trials but also some great breakthroughs. The client loved the products. It is so awesome to be a part of creating the products you see on the grocery store shelves.
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
The Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program was a unique program because of the combination of culinary skills, food science, and product development. I liked the fact that it had a co-op to help gain work experience, and that it gave the potential for a whole range of jobs from product development to quality control.
“It is so awesome to be a part of creating the productions you see on the grocery store shelves!”
Most memorable experience at NC?
The culinary labs! It was so much fun to create things from scratch, like using cheese and bacon to come up with crazy inventions. I was also part of a close-knit class at NC. We would go out for wine tasting nights, have study groups in the library, and struggle together through the labs. It was great to be a part of that community.
A faculty member who influenced you?
I met Dr. Amy Proulx at a Niagara College Open House and she was a big part of why I chose the program. She works so hard to help everyone succeed and was such an encouraging and knowledgeable mentor during my three years at NC. She always believes in you 100% and is always there to help you through any struggles you are having.
A mentor at R&I?
Everyone at Research & Innovation was so amazing to work with. I had some great mentors and managers who showed me how to be organized, how to use the lab equipment, and gave helpful feedback countless times on product development.
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
Work hard and focus on what you are passionate about; but also, don’t be afraid to try multiple things to find your passion. Talk to your teachers and learn everything you can from them. I am very passionate about tea and product development, and it showed in my resume and job interviews, which led me to find my dream job. This doesn’t always happen right away, but if you keep on working and keep networking you will find something that uses your strengths.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
Keep learning and don’t be afraid to try new things.
Proudest achievement since graduating?
I have created more than 20 new products for the upcoming Steeped Tea Catalogues. I can’t talk about any of them yet but they will be available soon!
What are your interests outside of work?
Being outside: hiking, running, travel, and climbing mountains.