"Flavors and colors are the backbone of the consumer foods business,” explains Tom Schufreider ’80 P07, 09, 17. “If a food or beverage does not look appealing or taste great, consumers will not purchase it again, and the enjoyment of eating will be greatly diminished.”
With 36 years in the food ingredient business, Schufreider knows a thing or two about what consumers like.
His involvement in the food industry began the summer after his freshman year at Holy Cross, when the sociology major took a job with a Chicago-based flavor manufacturer.
Upon graduation, he was offered a position as a salesman for the company, which, according to Schufreider, specialized in fruit flavors and beverage emulsions for the beverage industry, maple flavors for syrups and sweet flavors such as vanilla, almond and butter for the baking and confection industries. He worked there for 33 years, eventually becoming vice president of global sales and marketing.
Three years ago, Schufreider’s career took on a new tone, when he left the flavor industry and became chief operating officer of the Sethness Products Company in Skokie, Illinois, a global leader in the manufacture of caramel color—the most widely used food colorant in the world.
“It is what provides the iconic brown color to cola soft drinks,” says Schufreider, who counts these carbonated beverages among his personal favorite caramel-colored products. “It is also widely used in baking, pet food and all types of consumer foods.”
Schufreider relishes his role at Sethness, where he is responsible for the long-range planning and day-to-day operations of the company.
“I really enjoy the challenges of strategic planning and executing initiatives to ensure the continued profitable growth of the 136-year-old family-owned firm,” he says. “The people that I have the privilege of working with at Sethness Products are creative, dedicated and hard working.”
And with four manufacturing facilities around the world—Clinton, Iowa; France; India; and China—the position offers Schufreider the chance to travel the globe, which he has found to be one of the most rewarding aspects of his job.
“Having locations around the world has provided me with the opportunity to travel and see places and experience cultures I may not ever have had the opportunity to. I traveled to our plant in India this year for the first time and was just awestruck by both the jarring differences and amazing similarities between the Indian and U. S. cultures,” he explains.
For anyone considering a career in the food ingredient industry, Schufreider explains that it’s not just for those who have a food science background. In fact, with positions ranging from sales and marketing, to production planning, to data analysis, he sees the benefit of a liberal arts education in food service.
“The food industry is so much more than the products you see at the grocery store. The store shelves and freezers are the final step in a long, multi-layered journey food products take. Many talented people work around the world to ensure that all people have access to the most nutritious, safe and enjoyable foods possible,” explains Schufreider, who works with academic experts, research and development technologists, marketing and sales professionals and manufacturing experts.
But, perhaps, one of the most important qualifications: “They should also enjoy food!” he concludes. ■
—Rebecca Smith ’99 and Kimberly Staley ’99