A ‘Yes’ Person: Lisa Sand Joins NCFIL as Senior Food Scientist
October 10, 2022
“I’m thrilled to be working with this team. We’re really building something here,” says Lisa Sand, new Senior Food Scientist at the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL). Joining the team in June, Sand works mainly with benchtop product development.
One of the things she loves about this work is “looking at innovative uses of plant-based materials that will nourish people, provide sustainability, and be environmentally responsible.”
As more consumers look for nutritious, plant-based alternatives as well as sustainable products, she has seen the quality and taste of these foods improve. “It’s exciting to witness. NCFIL has the state-of-the-art processing equipment to turn high-quality functional ingredients into excellent products,” she says.
From Computer Science to Food Science
Sand didn’t originally set out on a career in food science; it found her instead. After two and a half years studying computer science in college, she wasn’t ready to commit to it, so she moved onto actuarial science and then engineering. “My engineering program at Iowa State had a crossover with food science,” she says. “I started taking those classes and never looked back.”
When she graduated, she spent time in quality assurance and quality control before going into research and product development. She’s worked in a dairy plant, a microbiology lab at a spice company and, most recently, at multinational food manufacturer General Mills as an Ingredient Solutions Specialist.
“At General Mills, decisions were very market driven and required rounds of testing, evaluation, and reassessing. It was a slow process,” Sand says. “At NCFIL, things move quickly. I’m really enjoying that. Entrepreneurs are so focused and on top of things. They are very responsive, which helps you move work forward.”
Helping Clients Grow
Sand is taking on some larger clients in the ingredient space, mainly ingredient suppliers and a few entrepreneurs with quicker turnaround time. She’s dedicated to developing applications for their ingredients that they can then bring to their customers.
“I’m working on formulas to match the client’s vision and then formulating them into something they can scale up in processing, all while considering everything from shelf stability, food safety, commercial availability of ingredients, cost, and packaging,” she explains. “My experience with technological ingredients in the application sense is helping me learn how to screen ingredient materials for functionality in a statistical design format.”
Sand also enjoys the project management aspect of her role, taking ownership of a project while still working with a smaller team with diverse skills: “What Bill Aimutis has put together is great. He’s chosen people who fit well together, not only personality-wise but also skill-wise. We balance each other out.”
“I love constant learning,” Sand says. “I’m eager to learn more about the processing equipment we have.”
So far, she is most impressed with the Admix High Shear Mixer, which mixes and provides the homogenization of products like plant-based dairy or thicker protein beverages. “I admit I was skeptical at first, but it works very well!”
Sand adds, “I am definitely a ‘Yes’ person. I like to try everything - responsibly. As a result, I feel like I have had so many experiences and different types of work opportunities in my food science career. I know a little bit about a lot of things and can bring that to the team.”
After meeting with some local sponsors and utilizing their flavors and enzymes, she’s realizing the depth of the relationships between NCFIL, clients, and other industry stakeholders.
“I really like how we promote North Carolina businesses,” Sand says. “I’m excited to be a part of what NCFIL is building.”
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