From Intern to R&D Innovator: Mirte's Story at Interfood
Hi Mirte, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Mirte Doomen, I’m 28 years old and I am a R&D Manager at Interfood BV in Bladel. I live in Reusel, just a stone’s throw from our office, where I live together with my boyfriend and our golden retriever.
In my spare time I love to walk our dog, somewhere in nature, for example in the forest. I also enjoy cooking dinner for friends and family, which always goes with the pairing of a good wine. Besides that, I really like the thrill of skiing in Austria and travelling the world to other beautiful places, learning about different cultures and discovering what those places have to offer.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Interfood?
My academic path started in Den Bosch, at the University of Applied Sciences. In 2014, during my studies, I had the opportunity to do an internship at a company in the food industry, which I did at Interfood. This experience was so enriching that I continued my journey with the QA team at Interfood between my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After that, my boyfriend and I explored South America for three months, I completed my Master in Dairy Science and Technology at Wageningen University and joined Interfood as a QA Coordinator for Liquids in 2019.
What motivates you to come to work every day at Interfood, and how does your role contribute to the company's success?
After more than 4 years at the company, the endless learning and innovation opportunities in the dairy industry still keep me very motivated. I have always had a passion for food science and still amazes me how many different products and applications you can make out of milk. Luckily, I share this passion with my R&D team members and together we contribute to the success of both our own company and the suppliers and customers that we have. Our R&D activities turn out to be a real matchmaker between supply and demand and between a product and an application.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work, and how does it align with your personal values and passions?
I find great joy in collaborating with our global customers and suppliers, and visiting dairy factories is always exciting. My role and the travelling involved allow me to learn about diverse cultures and ways of working, and this aligns perfectly with my personal values.
Can you talk about a project or initiative that you were particularly passionate about, and what about it resonated with you?
I’m deeply involved in our project with Epiim, a dairy producer from Estonia. Together with Epiim and another partner, Royal A-ware, we have built a new cheese and whey powder factory in Estonia. Working closely with the factory to tailor production processes to Interfood’s needs is a highlight. We are currently developing heat-stable whey powder for sweetened condensed milk. We are almost ready for the launch now, with the first production of whey powder taking place soon. A whey powder that will be sold under Interfood’s brand Kalla. Exciting times for everyone involved, including myself!
How does Interfood support your personal and professional goals, and how have you grown since joining the team?
Since joining Interfood, my confidence has grown significantly. The trust and support from my team have been essential in my personal and professional development. On top of that, Interfood is one of those employers that puts a lot of trust in its employees. We get the freedom to take responsibility, to make our own decisions and to step in the driver’s seat for our own career.
What kind of work-life balance do you maintain while working at Interfood, and how does the company support your well-being?
Interfood is very supportive of a good work-life balance. The in-house gym, for instance, allows me to seamlessly integrate fitness into my daily routine, strengthening my overall well-being. I can go to the gym early morning, during lunch, or right after work, which means I can relax or plan other activities in the evening. But next to the gym the company also offers way more to make sure each member of the team feels good, supported, and heard. This varies from the healthy breakfast and lunch that is provided daily, to all the sport events we join together. The Interfestival with colleagues from all over the world to celebrate Interfood’s 50th anniversary was the highlight of 2023.
What initially drew you to work for Interfood, and what do you enjoy most about your role within your team?
The open, family-like culture of Interfood was a major draw for me after having completed my internship at Interfood. During that first period, I immediately felt at home here. About my role within my team, I really enjoy the constant learning and growth opportunities. I started as QA Coordinator for Liquids and after 1.5 years I was ready for a new challenge. I am happy that Interfood gave me the opportunity to join the Research & Development team. In my current role as R&D Manager, I am responsible for SMP and Whey, focusing on business development with customers and suppliers, working closely together with the commercial team. I look forward to all projects, partnerships and opportunities to come.
What have been some of the biggest challenges and advancements you've seen in R&D over the course of your career, and how have those changes impacted your work?
Transitioning to the R&D team was a significant change. Back then the team was still called Technical Development and I am happy that we changed the name to R&D because it fits better with Interfood’s purpose and is more recognizable in the industry. Back in 2017, my manager Wouter Berendsen realized the added value of benchmarking cheese for our customers, suppliers and Interfood. This means we compare various cheeses, based on specifications, production processes and performance metrics, to industry bests and best practices from other companies. When I joined the team, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to set up this capability for powder applications. Benchmarking of cheese, butter and milk powders in our in-house Dairy Food Studio forms the foundation for R&D at Interfood. Dairy product and application knowledge allows us to find the best solutions for our customers and suppliers and enables us to co-develop products with them. I am proud of how we evolved as a team the past years.
Can you share an example of how you have collaborated with other teams or departments to bring a new product, innovation or partnership to life? Or how does R&D add value to business development?
Our R&D team's creativity and innovation involves close cooperation with various departments, such as the trading, quality and supply chain team. Helping customers tackle technical challenges and develop new products adds substantial value to our business. For example, which milk powder gives the best solubility in coffee? Or which milk powder works best in a yoghurt application?
And finally, what would you say to potential Interfood team members?
Interfood offers a dynamic environment where every day is filled with new learning opportunities and exciting challenges. Never a dull moment!
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