Expert Q&A with Mona Clifford

Application Scientist, Mona Clifford has been in the food industry for 19 years, focusing most of her craft to bakery applications. In her interview, she shares a glimpse into her passion for the industry and her love for customer challenges.

Q: How would you describe to the “everyday person” what your job role/function is?

A: I work primarily on bakery projects, making new products that our customers request. I work in harmony with our Flavorists to match flavor profiles for application projects related to things like SensaMelts, bakery inclusions and bake stable fillings so that the end flavor and color results are what the customer and the market is expecting in final bakery products. Besides bakery, I also work on cold extrusion product development and cookie dough matching projects.

Q: Do you have a specialty or something you are “known for” in the lab?

A: I am known as the “Bakery Expert” or “Bakery Queen.” I mean, I make really good cheesecakes and cakes!

Q: What does your day-to-day work look like?

A: Each day is another day of new challenges. I concurrently work on multiple projects, as well as with cross-functional teams on a daily basis.

Q: What is something that people likely do not know and understand about the process of bakery development?

A: For people who do not bake, they usually assume that baking is easy. It may seem easy, however, the science behind baking is much more complex than what is commonly understood. Knowing the correct proportioning of ingredients, the order of mixing and using the right tools/equipment to process the recipe, are just some of the expertise required to successfully develop different bakery applications. Baking, itself, is a skill that one has to master over time.

Another thing to understand is the process behind screening flavors in bakery applications. Some people think it’s as simple as just adding flavors into an application. It is important to understand the interaction that these flavors can have with other ingredients in a baked product. The strength and stability of the flavors when subjected to high heat processes is another challenge. Some flavors will survive in a short baking time process like muffins or cupcakes but some flavors may not survive in a lengthy or high-heat baking process like bagels.

Q: What are the most common issues/challenges/projects that you help customers with?

A: The common challenge that customers oftentimes face is that they are not tasting their flavor profiles come through after baking under high heat. As a result, I work alongside Flavorists to develop solutions to that challenge.

Q: What are the most significant trends you are seeing in bakery right now?

A: The bakery market is headed towards more healthier options, including, vegan-based products, high-protein baked goods, gluten-free snacks, seed flours and overall reduced sugar products.

Q: What is one of the most exciting projects you have worked on?

A: One of my most exciting projects was on cold extrusion – Cookie Dough! This was an exciting project because I was involved in developing a base formula from scratch and helped with the machine testing and product launch.