As part of the Innovation & Renovation (I&R) kitchen, Geall works on new development, and will renovate old projects; removing artificial colours, working on flavors, preservatives, changing fats, and making a recipe more tasty.
Blue Riband flour supplier
“I work closely with marketing and those in the factory to see if they are looking for a new flavour for example on KitKats. We carry out a lot of research with our customers to see if a brand needs changing in any way and to test our products against the market.
“If it’s not selling that great we see what we can do to improve a product, working with supplier requests. For example, we use a specific type of flour as an ingredient on our Blue Riband wafers which are grown in a particular region in France. At one point it had a bad year crop wise, and we had a lot of work to do on that, looking for different flour suppliers.
“We run blue sky sessions in the kitchen with the I&R team and marketing. We try to come up with anything in the early stages that could be weird and wacky but in the long term we have to think of our target market, age range, who it is aimed at, where it will be made, and what sort of equipment it needs to make it, sometimes it can be a challenge.
“The most rewarding thing about the job is seeing the final product you have worked on from concept to development and seeing it on the shelf.”
Geall also runs internal confectionery training and visitor training sessions, with the next one held later this year.
“We run sessions for new starters and non-technical staff, people that work in the offices who are not directly linked to the plant to give them a taster of what we do. We take them through the basics of where our cocoa is grown and how chocolate is made,” she added.
“We temper the chocolate and get them to make their own KitKats to see why our recipes are so important – tempering involves stabilising the fats in chocolate to get that perfect structure and smooth glossy finish. We keep the workshops to a minimum of 12-15 people.
Nestlé Nutrition Foundation
“I also get to do the fun bits like filming for various TV programs. I recently filmed with Heston Blumenthal, Gregg Wallace from Masterchef, Michael Portillo on Great British Railway Journeys and Jimmy Doherty for Food Unwrapped.”
The 39-year-old said the key elements to developing new products are looking for gaps in the market and gaps for certain flavours.
“When we launched Randoms we didn’t have any jelly sweets like this on sale at the time, it was something different to fruit gums and pastilles and is more playful and aimed at a younger market,” added Geall.
“The science behind food and the essentials of food safety and quality are very important. A lot of it is nutrition-based, there are very strict guidelines for portion and calorie control. If we are creating a new product, all the ingredients and final calorie count have to adhere to the Nestlé Nutrition Foundation.
“The hardest part of my job is developing a product that has very strict nutritional guidelines, if you have a product that needs to be a certain amount of calories and needs to be made more exciting to engage customers but you are very limited to what you can add or do to the product to keep within the guidelines that can be very demanding and frustrating at times.
60-70% of what we develop never leaves the kitchen
“It is also made harder by the manufacturing process which could be different depending on which plant it is made at. Also it is frustrating when you spend a lot of time developing a product and it doesn’t get to market.
“On the plus side, I’m not sat in front of a PC every day and every day bring lots of interesting challenges. I’m quite a creative person and I enjoy developing ideas and creating flavour and texture combinations and seeing how it works in a finished product.
“About 60-70% of what we develop never leaves the kitchen but we can revisit pilot projects two years later and see how it could work and what we have tried before.”
Nestlé UK & Ireland has two full-time confectioners in its York I&R kitchen, but it is part of a wider I&R team with one in each of its factories in across three sites (Halifax, Fawdon, York) employing 20-25 people.
Geall is helping to publicise Nestlé’s recruitment drive for confectioners of the future because she says the opportunities for tailored courses here in the UK are limited.
“If you go to France or Germany there are dozens of confectioner courses you can go but there are not so many in the UK, therefore the opportunities to work in the industry are limited. If people get a chance to see what we do on a day to day basis the possibilities are endless.”
Click here to read 'Nestlé UK senior confectioner reveals her tricks of the trade - Part I'