Prepare to be captivated as we delve into the exhilarating world of research and development (R&D) in this exclusive article. Today, we have the privilege of interviewing Emily, our extraordinary R&D ninja. With her pursuit of innovation and exceptional expertise, Emily is about to take us on a journey through the intricate realm of R&D at Frozen Garden. Get ready to uncover the secrets behind her endeavors on the forefront of innovation. Let's dive right in!
Passion for Innovation: Exploring the Thrills of R&D
What do you enjoy most about R&D?
“My favorite part about R&D is being able to work with all different types of ingredients, and seeing how they pair well together. There is something very satisfying about throwing a bunch of things together and it tasting great.”
What is your favorite product, product line, or the product that you've found most rewarding?
“This is really a hard question! When I first started doing R&D, all we had was Smoothies and Fusions! We’ve come a long way in just a few short years. When the Delites came out, I definitely felt very rewarded and grateful just for the opportunity to create something completely new for our customers. Since then, we’ve dropped Overnight Oats and Garden Bowls, both of which took a lot more time to develop than the Delites. That being said, it was really exciting to be able to work with all new ingredients. Just developing the sauce cubes for our Garden Bowls was a whole process in itself. I think I feel the most rewarded overall because of how much trial and error they took (they turned out so well in the end)! Delites will always be like my first born though. I have a giant picture of them up in my office.”
Fostering Collaboration and Feedback: A Team Effort at Frozen Garden
How do you collaborate with other team members at Frozen Garden?
“My other team members at FG are my taste testers (I don’t think they’re complaining though, haha)! Whenever we’re working on a new flavor, I serve up some for everyone to try. By now, I’ve been able to sort of gauge everyone’s taste preferences, so I almost know when something won’t go over well. Thankfully, the responses are usually quite positive, but constructive. I take their feedback and adjust the recipe slightly until it hits the spot with everyone. We all have different taste preferences, but that’s what’s so helpful about having a team to taste for me. If everyone enjoys it, I feel hopeful our customers will as well. Allyson, my boss, is definitely the final say though. We work closely together to ensure a recipe is perfect before we decide it’ll be put out. She’s very helpful when I’m feeling stuck on something. After some small suggested tweaks by her, it’s usually good to go!”
How do you incorporate customer feedback into your process?
“I said this earlier, but all taste preferences are different. Also, not everyone can eat everything. Our goal is really to diversify our products enough to where there’s something for everyone. If a customer leaves us a review that they didn’t like something about a Smoothie, that’s okay! We go from there and make something they might like next time. We also hope they tried something else we already have and liked it! Every time we’ve come out with a new product line or seasonal items, we make sure there’s something for everyone to enjoy.”
Navigating Challenges and Embracing Solo R&D: A Small Business Perspective
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when crafting something new and how do you overcome them?
“I would say one of the most challenging things for me when working R&D is simply lack of inspiration. If I have an idea in my head already for whatever product I’m working on, I could have a new flavor ready for production by the end of the day! We all have those days where we feel very uninspired though, so on days like that, I really look to my boss for a little boost. We brainstorm very well together! I appreciate her assistance tenfold.”
How do you balance the need to be creative and innovative with the need to stay within a budget and/or meet deadlines?
“Another hard question. I kind of just do it. There have definitely been days where I’ve wished for the resources to do more in general, but when I feel like I'm at a standstill, I just take a step back. We’re a small business, and I understand and respect that. I’ve been able to create some really incredible things within the parameters that are required. Of course I wish I could use whatever ingredients I want, but it helps me hone in on how to use the ingredients I do have in different ways. It’s really crazy how much a single raspberry can change the whole flavor profile of a smoothie! It just takes a little tweaking! I truly rely on my intuition for a lot of what I do, and I feel so silly saying it, but a lot of my favorite recipes I’ve quite literally just gotten the idea, thrown it together, and for the most part it works. If there’s no ideas cooking in my brain, I can’t force one to come. Allyson is really helpful in moments like that because she offers a fresh perspective if I’m stuck.”
What's the unique experience of being the sole R&D ninja at Frozen Garden, and how do you think your role differs from that of an R&D professional at a larger company?
“Honestly, It’s pretty cool. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to mass produce recipes that I’ve created. I put a lot of my heart into every recipe we have. Food is my passion in all aspects of my life. Seeing people enjoy what I’ve put together keeps me going! It’s also a very validating experience to know my recipes are good enough to be sold, haha!
As for how my experience may differ from someone working at a larger scale company, I imagine the environment to be much faster paced. I’m sure they have teams working on individual product lines as opposed to how I work on quite literally everything. One person probably focuses on a specific recipe so their turnover rate is faster.”
Staying Ahead of the Culinary Curve: Trends and Future Delights
How do you keep up with the latest food trends and developments? Do you rely on any particular resources to find these trends? If so, what are they?
“I spend probably a little too much of my time on social media, but when you’re in the R&D world, it’s almost a necessity. Tiktok has really changed the food trend world, in my opinion. I mean, come on, we all know the infamous Tiktok feta pasta recipe. That being said, the trends come and go almost on a weekly basis there. Unfortunately, the R&D world doesn’t move that fast. It is a very helpful tool to be able to gauge what the next trend might be though. While the feta pasta might not be ‘trendy’ anymore… There are a boatload of ‘trendy’ recipes that emerged from its inspiration. That’s how we can gauge where things might be headed. I’ve also attended a couple of The National Restaurant Associations expos. Those are SO helpful to see where the trends are headed. When there’s four or five of the same type of product, you know it’ll be everywhere in the following year.”
What sorts of exciting things are you currently working on? What do our customers have to look forward to?
“Well, we just came out with the winner of the Smoothie Showdown and it’s been a big hit! It was really exciting to work on that one because we had never used passionfruit in anything before. We have quite a large variety of ingredients I can work with, but it’s always exciting when we can introduce a new one to the mix. New flavors mean new possibilities! Summer Fling is unlike any smoothie we’ve put out before! As for what’s happening behind the scenes right now, I’m working on new Fall seasonal flavors. You’ll definitely be seeing a new Garden Bowl soon! We may even be working on a healthier version of Boba/Bubble tea with no added sugars. Shhh!”
In this captivating interview, we had the privilege of delving into the world of R&D with Emily, our extraordinary "ninja" at Frozen Garden. From the joy of experimenting with diverse ingredients to the challenges of small business R&D, Emily shared her insights and experiences with remarkable passion. We explored her collaboration with team members, the incorporation of customer feedback, and her ability to strike a balance between creativity and practicality. Moreover, we gained valuable insights into how she stays on top of food trends and what exciting creations are on the horizon. As Emily continues to push the boundaries of innovation, we can eagerly anticipate the tantalizing flavors and products that await. With Emily's unwavering dedication and inventive spirit, the future of R&D at Frozen Garden shines brighter than ever. Get ready to embark on a delicious journey as we eagerly embrace the ever-evolving world of culinary delights!
Get to know some of Emily's favorites: