FoodGrads Podcast Ep 25: Combining science and business for innovation in food with Luna Guiot, Brewing Quality Assurance Analyst with Labatt Breweries of Canada

Welcome to episode 25 of the FoodGrads podcast the podcast where we explore careers in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. I’m your host Veronica Hislop a molecular science graduate student and career partner with FoodGrads.

This week on the podcast I interviewed Luna Guiot, Brewing Quality Assurance Analyst with Labatt Breweries of Canada. Labatt’s is one of Canada’s leading brewers and has a portfolio of more than 60 beers with nine breweries across Canada. Their brands include Budwiser, Stella Artois and Alexander Keith’s.

On this episode Luna gave me the run down on what she does as a Quality Analysis and the taste properties which are important in a high quality beer. Interestingly, Luna did not intend to go into the food industry when she started at university She actually went to school for Biology with a specialization in molecular and genetics. It wasn’t until her internship at a dairy company that she got interested in food and decided to make the transition. Luna explains why in the episode and how her curiosities in business as well has led her to deciding to get two master’s degree in business management.

I think this is a great episode for you biologists out there because Luna made some really good points on why people in biology are important to the future food industry. Luna was a pleasure to talk to and you can just hear the enthusiasm in her voice that she is excited about innovation in the food space. I can’t wait to see what comes next in her career path!

Show Notes

[2:54] Can you please tell me about where you work and your role?

Labatt Breweries in London, Ontario as a Brewery analyst. The job is focused on two things- sensory and analytical work

[3:14] Can you break that down and tell me a little bit more about the sensory?

Luna started in 2019 at Labatts at the time she was a sensory coordinator that makes sure the bear is quantitatively and qualitatively. Panelist are trained to know how the beer tastes proper from a sensory perspective. Luna was responsible for setting up these panels. Luna also goes to the lab and makes sure quantitatively they are correct with numbers.

[4:32] What do you look for in a good quality beer that is up to standards?

You want to make sure there is a balance between the aroma and flavour with specific parameters. You want to make sure that the byproducts of the fermentation process are in the correct amounts. For example a light and dark beers have different parameters based on the process. Through out the process QC makes sure that all compounds are in the correct amounts.

You have the opportunity to asking people in the brewing team and operations. For people who really know beer like the diacetyl is high will notice it. People will notice it and it all has to do with the process. For sensory panelist they are trained to have a lower threshold in order to identify things properly.

[8:18] How did you transition from Western Universities Biology with a specialization Molecular and genetics to a food based career?

Luna ended up in the food industry because between her 3rd and 4rth she got an internship at a dairy company- Paramalot. She had wanted to explore the private sector outside academia. In this co-op she worked in microbiology and sensory role. Once you work in the industry you get to see everything that comes into play when developing a product. She realized that it is a really cool industry and she decided to continue from there. After graduation she applied for a full0time sensory position. Afterwards, she was going to do a masters but because of COVID she decided to go back and work for a while.

[11:29] Luna and I talking about sensory going from subjective to objective

As a consumer you don’t see how many tests and assessments go into a product. Sensory is specialized. Luna mentions dairy is very different then beer. There are a lot more different kinds of dairy products so there a bigger range of tests you can do.

[13:47] Can you give an example of how a sensory panel works or what you would do for a sensory test?

Depending on the industry it might vary. What is similar for both is Headonic scale which goes from 1-9. For a product you want to hit a specific value. A panelist in dairy for example will not be too sweet or acidic. You would have to figure out these things. Sensory also includes mouthfeel and the aftertaste. You have to be very mindful of what is happening in your mouth. Beer has less parameters than dairy because you are not as concerned about freshness. There is less texture for example beer only has carbonation- your beer should be smooth.

[16:43] What are some of things that you love about your job?

Luna loves that she is able to follow the beer from start to finish. You can predict how the product will come out based on each step. You can learn what is a crucial indicator of how this leads to a characteristics.

[20:46] As someone who is on the newer side of the industry is there any challenges you are facing or things you are actively working on?

Luna actually started her masters at Ivey Buisness School at Western University for International Business Management with the idea she want to combine science and business. She realized during her internship knowing about business is important in the industry. With her masters she wants the business skills to combine it with her science and combine it with her quality skills. Luna wants to stay in the food industry but focus on the innovation side and creating a marketable product side. Essentially, creating a food product it is a combination of the two. When you know the science behind it you can optimize and understand the limitations in a business idea.

[25:02] Why did you decide to go for a master’s degree at Ivy and this particular program?

Luna choose a masters because she discovered she liked business a little late in her schooling due to taking a course in her last year. She enjoyed the case method type of learning. An MBA required 2-3 years of work experience and her professor in the 4th year course talked about her options. The program allows her to do different exchanges. Luna is also Colombian and likes to learn about different cultures and being able to communicate from people to different people internationally.

Luna never had thought this would be the path she would take in her first year. She never knew she liked business, food and there was a way to combine both.

[28:30] Can you elaborate more about what you mean by case studies in your program and what you have been learning in this program?

The program has the first semester you learning about the basic of business like finance and accounting. The master’s is open to anyone and doesn’t matter what you background is in terms of undergrad. Being an international business course teaches how to deal with business situations in different situations. The master’s program is diverse and different people want to take it in different ways. You can tailor it to what you want to do next.

[30:45] Is this program traditionally online or in person?

It is typically in-person because of the case method. You have to read the case, research and discuss so there is an opportunity to have a discussion with others. You are in a space to talk about a case and how you would solve it. The instructor guides the conversation and tells you what actually happened. You absorb the knowledge by discussing and debating. Luna believes this experience has allowed her to gain different skills and tailoring it to her future.

[33:04] Is there anything going on in the food space right now that is exciting you?

Synthetic biology. For example dairy products without milk or beyond meat. Creating products without such a large environmental impact. How you feed people with a different kind of form. There is a shift in movement using biology to get more environmentally friendly projects. For example, using yeast to create chemicals without doing it synthetically. They are even using Yeast to create drinks which are nutritionally rich without actually putting in the compounds.

No matter what people are going to eat and drink. Food companies were not affected as much by COVID because at the end of the day people need to eat. So it is a fairly stable industry.

[41:06] What advice would give someone who want to go into this industry?

Think about a product you like to eat or drink. Then research the company and see what positions they have. First year students who don’t really know what to do with their degrees. The food industry has a lot of options. You can see how they operate and you can see it is very vast. There is room for everyone.

[42:48] Where can people find you?


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