Expert Q&A with Principal Applications Technologist, Yashar Shakarami

Shakarami and his team develop flavor and color applications for various categories, including dairy, bakery and confectionery products. In his interview below, he offers us a glimpse into his typical day in the lab and shares insights on the latest trends he and his team are seeing in the frozen dessert category.

Q: What is your title & how long have you been with Sensient? 

A: I have been with Sensient for 9.5 years. My current role is Principal Applications Technologist.

Q: In simple terms, how would you describe to the “everyday person” what your job role/function is? 

A: As the Principal Applications Technologist, my team and I work together to develop new flavor and color applications for various categories, including dairy, bakery and confectionery. I also help mentor/coach other technologists/interns and assist with troubleshooting at the Sensient production sites to improve efficiency for our customers.

Q: What is something that people likely don’t know and understand about the process of ice cream development?

A: Most consumers are likely unaware of the product development regulations and labeling requirements associated with ice cream. A myriad of frozen desserts are available for purchase, and people buy them thinking they are ice cream, but not everything in the freezer aisle is an official ice cream product. The other misconception is that consumers assume all ice creams labeled as vanilla ice cream have true vanilla in the ingredients. Vanilla ice creams are often vanilla-flavored or artificially flavored vanilla ice cream. They don’t always contain the actual ingredient.

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

A: There is no typical day, which makes my job very interesting and exciting. I spend most of the day working on the bench in our ice cream lab. I also spend time daily on meetings and calls internally and externally with customers. I get to move around a lot, which I genuinely enjoy.

Q: Do you have a specialty or something you are “known for” in the lab? Or something that you specifically enjoy doing?

A: I have a results-driven mindset and am known for my problem-solving skills. I spend a lot of time with the Sensient production sites and our customers to help them find the solution they need to take their product development to the next level.

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

A: Some of our customers do not have in-house R&D, so we help fill that role in the new product development process, including working with them step-by-step to create the concept, manufacture a prototype, commercialize for retail and scale for production. We value partnering with all of our customers in this way. We strive to be more than just a vendor or supplier but a true partner.

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

A: A savory Greek yogurt was launched into the market a few years ago that I helped develop. That was out of the ordinary for my scope of work and I enjoyed the challenge.

Q: What are the most significant trends you are seeing in ice cream right now? A specific category? Flavor? 

A: We’re seeing an increased demand for no-sugar-added formulations, low-carb (keto), dairy-free and vegan offerings. While the shift towards better-for-you products is gaining traction across all categories, traditional dairy full-fat, full-sugar ice cream is not declining. Consumers are still looking to ice cream for an indulgence, and taste remains the most important purchasing factor.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?

A: I like the ownership I have in my role and there’s always a new and exciting challenge for our team to solve. It makes every day enjoyable.