Factory Focus - Part I

From sourcing flour for Blue Riband, creating a KitKat flavour and launching Rowntree's Randoms – Nestlé confectioner reveals her tricks of the trade

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Nestlé UK senior confectioner reveals her tricks of the trade

Related tags Confectionery

Nestlé UK and Ireland has partnered with the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at the University of Lincoln to find the chocolate makers of the future.

The firm is encouraging people to enrol in the university’s BSc (Hons) Degree in Food Manufacture and Confectionery or a Higher Apprenticeship in Food Manufacture and Confectionery in November, to learn about food science, how to develop products, food safety and quality.

Aeration projects, concept samples, sensory testing

The programme includes part-time study, the chance to work at a Nestlé confectionery site, salary and it will reimburse 100% of the course fees.
FoodProductionDaily talks to Vikki Geall, senior confectioner, Nestlé UK & Ireland, who has worked for the company for seven years and prior to that, 15 years at Thorntons.

Vikki Geall, Senior Confectioner 1
Vikki Geall

Her role includes aeration projects, developing products, making concept samples, sensory testing, consumer research and working with the marketing team on new concepts.

She manages Nestle UK’s Innovation & Renovation Kitchen in York where she also runs internal confectionery training and visitor training sessions.

Preference for flavours and people’s perceptions are changing. We like to throw a curve ball into the marketing department every now and then with a new product development. We just launched a mousse version of Nestlé’s chocolate bar Aero​,” she said.

All the development work for that was done in York, in fact everything we have launched in the past five years’ we have had a hand in creating it. It’s difficult to remember how many products because we work 12-18 months ahead of a launch. We are currently working on products for the end of 2016 and 2017.

To keep one step ahead of the game, we read all the food magazines and keep an eye on upcoming trends, not just in confectionery but dairy and bakery. There are a lot of dessert flavours on the market at the moment and we work closely with our suppliers on trend forecasts​.”

Air bubble testing with the European Space Agency

According to Geall, Nestlé invested more than £1m in equipment on its Aero production line off Haxby Road, York, to make Aero Mousse. Each bar consists of Aero chocolate, and a layer of chocolate mousse encased in a milk chocolate shell. The layers deliver two textures within one bite.

She said as part of its aeration projects, the team works with different gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen, to achieve various bubble sizes.

Two years’ ago the firm partnered with the European Space Agency​ to create better chocolate air bubbles analysing foam technologies under zero-gravity on the ground and on ‘parabolic’ flights on aeroplanes to produce more stable bubbles. There were plans for Nestlé to move the experiment to space this year.

The results, analysing the foam structure of a milk protein mix, could improve the quality, texture and shelf-life of aerated chocolate.

When you buy a bar of chocolate off the shelf at a supermarket you don’t realise how much work goes into it, often involving three to five year projects​,” said Geall.

The taste of chocolate

The taste of a chocolate bar is often defined by what the consumer wants. We experimented with a chili flavour at one stage but when we carried out research tests, it wasn’t to everyone’s taste because it was either too strong, or too mild. There is no point launching something like that to market because the taste isn’t going to please everyone.

As part of a confectioner’s role my team make concept samples and samples for sensory tasting. We develop and make all the products by hand so we have to know how to source the ingredients from scratch and replicate the process without plant machinery​.

We usually start with concept ideas for each project where we will make up to five concepts per product; these will then get reduced by the tasting team to find the best product. A large number of samples either go to internal or external research​.

My personal favourite brands are Rowntree's Randoms because I love jelly sweets and like to sort then into colours and eat the least favourite first and save the red and purple ones till last. I also enjoy Drifter as it’s like a KitKat, you get the wafer, praline and chocolate like a KitKat but with a layer of caramel​.

We are currently working on lots of new products for launch that are really exciting but I have to keep them secret for now. Everything we work on in the kitchen is highly confidential and very few people know about them. Each product has its own code name so that when we talk about the product no one knows what we are talking about unless they are part of the team developing it​.”

Look out for ‘Nestlé UK senior confectioner reveals her tricks of the trade - Part II’ on FoodProductionDaily tomorrow

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