Stef studied chemistry and biochemistry and completed his internship at Kemin Animal Nutrition and Health EMENA. Later on, Stef joined the Customer Laboratory Services (CLS) team of Kemin Food Technologies. That’s where Stef’s story started.
Did you always have an interest in food?
During my studies I’ve always had an interest and got good grades when it came to chemistry in food. Food is something you daily come in touch with. I’m passionate about it, more than other fields in the world of chemistry. So Kemin was the right fit.
In 2011 you started as a Junior Lab Technician and your main responsibility was sampling products to customers. How exactly did that work?
Our sales team often receives requests from customers or prospects. They will then advise the use of a specific product in our portfolio. These requests are forwarded to our team and we send the most suitable products to these customers for testing . Sometimes we have to adjust a few details, the dosage for example, to eventually get the most effective solution to our customer. It’s interesting as every company has their own type of food products and ingredients. So, we always have to use a specified approach. I’ve worked intensively in this job, but today, concerning these samples, I merely support colleagues whenever they need me.
Later you progressed into the CLS department and meanwhile you have a position in QA / QC. What do you like most about your job?
I like the internal audits within the company, making sure whether quality is guaranteed, and all the requirements are met. We have quite strict protocols, which is necessary in our industry, so it’s important and exciting at the same time. I also have close contact with colleagues and look how we can improve certain things or alter particular processes. Some problems are quite challenging where we have to dig in order to locate the issue before we can start thinking of solving it. But it’s rewarding to see that the inspections and analysis we do have an impact.
One of your responsibilities is the FSSC22000 certificate. What are the challenges there?
This is very important as this certificate is the guarantee for our customers that we work strictly within the required protocols when it comes to food safety. It makes us a reliable partner to work with, and therefore it’s a fundamental part of our organisation. There is a yearly audit, and since these requirements and rules become stricter over time, it’s a big responsibility to make sure they are met.
You are responsible for the quality control of BactoCEASE® NV and have seen it grow to one of the most important product lines within KFTEMEA. How do you look at the future for this product?
I am convinced this progression continues. All our customers are looking to a label-friendly alternative to guarantee the food safety of their meat, poultry and fish products. We have also expanded the applications towards bakery, sauces and spreads. Last year we started our own production in Europe, and we launched an organic version as well to meet the needs of our customers. Furthermore, we launched NaturCEASE™ Dry, an all-in-one food safety solution. Also, in the plant-based meat alternative market we see great potential. The future looks bright.
You’ve also helped in the development of BactoCEASE. What can you tell us about that?
I’ve performed multiple application studies, especially in the range of seafood such as shrimp and smoked salmon. Later on, I’ve helped develop the production process at our plant here in Europe. It was a big milestone for KFTEMEA to be able to ship the product faster to our customers and streamline our supply chain process.
Today, quality control is one of the most important aspects of your job. How do you approach this?
Consistency in testing is probably the most important parameter. You follow the same steps, at the same rate, in order to guarantee results that are reliable and representative for the analysis you are performing. In the end we’re talking about the best possible quality of a product, which means thorough and correct testing cannot be underestimated.
Of course, every type of food to which a Kemin product would be added is a new challenge. How do you handle that?
Whether it’s related to quality, sensory appeal or food safety, Kemin offers solutions to tackle these food related challenges in all market segments. But most of all, we understand that every food manufacturer has their own specific needs. Therefore, Kemin’s Customer Laboratory Services (CLS) team uses our technical expertise and problem-solving skills to uncover the source of your problem and develop a tailored solution. After a thorough analysis, our research scientists can determine which of our products would be most effective, and what dosages to use in order to get the best possible result.
You have been working at Kemin for almost 10 years, is there anything you would like to achieve in the short term?
I look forward to test BactoCEASE NV with our Near-Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy. It’s a great tool to perform studies, but before we get there, we need to generate a calibration curve for which a lot of analysis with the reference method needs to be done. To guarantee that the NIR machine will give us accurate results. It would be great to work with this tool, as it is time saving, which will probably happen soon.
Looking back at your time at Kemin so far, what are you most proud of?
Again, something related to BactoCEASE NV. Some years ago, we were testing many different applications for a huge potential customer. I was deeply involved in the process and was eager to come up with satisfying results. When the company eventually bought our product, I truly considered it as a milestone in my career. After all the hard work, it’s very rewarding to see it paid off in a sale. And up till now, they remain a loyal and important customer for Kemin.