Roland Ridge
Cargill Flavor Systems, Beverage Specialist

Chemistry B.S., 1994

I am currently working in the flavor industry. My job is to develop beverage prototypes for industry manufacturers like Gatorade and Ocean Spray, which contain my company's flavors and ingredients. Generally, flavor suppliers perform the majority of the initial beverage development. The manufactures will then make some minor adjustments in either the finished drink base or ask us to tweak the flavor according to their descriptors of the flavor chemicals. The end result is either a finished beverage on a grocery store isle, a powder drink mix, or in syrup form at a retail chain.

The industry requires knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, food science, and marketing. Flavor evaluation and tasting is the most crucial part of my job (and the most enjoyable aspect)! I enjoy making such beverages as a lime flavored tequila, vanilla cola, and energy drinks. I enjoy tasting foods and partaking in flavor evaluation panels for popcorn and chewing gum before the consumer sees it.

I graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and had no idea of where I would end up. I started working for an environmental company in Indianapolis. Testing soil and water for PCB, pesticide, and herbicide contamination was my primary role. Within a year and a half, I applied to a flavor company in Indianapolis in the sample department. The hiring manager thought I would be a better fit in the applications research and development lab and that's where my career track started. I worked in that department for nearly 5 years and was able to get a senior-level position at another flavor company in the Chicago area, with greater responsibilities and more customer contact. I worked in Chicago for about 4 1/2 years and had an opportunity to move closer to family and work in the Cincinnati region. My family and I took advantage of the job opportunity and I am still working for Cargill Flavor Systems as a beverage specialist. While in Chicago I began a Masters degree in Food Science at the University of Illinois, which I completed in 2008.

Some of the aspects of my job and industry that relate to chemistry are shelf life (stability of flavor in diverse storage conditions), degradation reactions, emulsion technology, solubility and extract technologies, preservation techniques, analytical chemistry, and government regulations.

Food industry professionals look favorably on applicants with chemistry degrees. My training in chemistry enabled me to work in the industry that I enjoy. I will always remember fondly my experiences at Indiana State and the professors that helped and encouraged me along the way. I would encourage anyone who has interest and a desire for challenging course work to major in chemistry.