My Summer Internship at FONA

August 11, 2015
This summer I was the Grain Business Unit Intern here at FONA. I was asked many questions about what that means. "Do you have to put flavors into different types of flour?" "Do you work with grains in a factory?" "Do you get bored only working with grains?" "Do you get coffee for your boss often?" I am writing to answer those questions in one word. No.

To be a little more specific as to what I did this summer, I worked in the lab, in a bench-top science setting, applying flavors to different prototypes based on customer request. I mainly worked with baked items, grains, and prepared foods, but also had a hand in other categories that came along the way. I also worked on so many other aspects outside of the lab. From speaking and working with Sales, Marketing, Regulatory, Maintenance, and Flavor Creation, I learned about the entirety of the flavor and food industry. I didn’t just stick to my lab coat here at FONA, I truly was able to walk around the entire building and talk to other departments to learn about their contributions to the flavor industry.

This summer I also learned what it truly means to work in the “Grain Business Unit.” This does not mean working with flour and oats, it means working with any company that has anything to do with a grain-base product. I have made cookies, cakes, granola bars, Ready-To-Eat cereals, hot cereals, frostings, chips, pretzels, and so much more. I have worked with 200+ different flavors such as Grape, Hazelnut, Caramel Praline, Chipotle Lime, Coffee, Glazed Donut, and Pink Lemonade. Being in the Grain Unit has truly opened my eyes to a world of flavor in grain that I had not realized until I began working here. I had never thought about all of the formulation and detail that goes into one of the “natural flavors” listed last in an ingredient list on an oatmeal packet. But now I realize what those 14 letters truly mean.

In addition to cooking, baking, and experimenting, I also was able to attend a two-day trip dealing with customer interaction. This added a whole new layer of depth that I began to unfold with the flavor industry. I quickly learned that meeting face-to-face with a customer really proves that what you are doing matters. Your job of doing over 12 trials on the same granola bar mattered, because that customer is now happy, testing and experimenting at their own company with flavors that you had a hand in choosing and developing. I was so excited to talk with a customer about a product that I had helped develop and create that I think my face hurt from smiling so much after all of my conversations. I knew everything that went into that product, from the flavor, to the sugar brand, to how much salt it had and this made me confident in expressing my product and my excited attitude to the customer.

I received my first professional experience in the food industry this summer, and I can easily say that I have loved it. An employee who I have a high respect for at FONA once said, and I paraphrase, “Once you get into the food industry, you never want to leave.” Here I am, one summer into my experience in the food industry and I already can tell that I don’t want to leave. When I walked into FONA my first day, I had no idea what was in store for me here, and looking back on it, I realize that that was for the best. Not knowing what I was going to be doing left me eager and ready for anything that was given to me, and this made me excited for everything that was thrown at me, each and every hour of my working day.

I want to thank FONA for one of the best summers I have ever been able to experience. Many employees have had a huge influence on my time here, and I want to thank you for all of your wisdom, help and guidance. I want to specifically thank the Grain Business Unit for giving me so many opportunities to learn and be successful, for pushing me to pursue excellence instead of perfection and for truly being so willing to help me with anything I asked for. I want to thank Joe, Luke, and the entire Slawek family for giving me and all of the other interns this opportunity to be here at FONA to learn and get a glimpse into a company.

I cannot speak more highly of FONA and what they have to offer in terms of employees, generosity and love. I will continue to talk of my experience here this summer because I have loved it.

-Morganne Schmidt