Monday, December 18, 2017

'Schwan's People You Need to Know'

Novotny talks about her passion for making delicious foods

"Schwan's People You Need to Know" is an ongoing series of stories that share some of our employees' experiences as we celebrate our 65th anniversary and participate as a founding partner of the Minnesota Super Bowl 52 Host Committee

Dec. 18, 2017 — Aubrey Novotny chose a career in food science for two main reasons: she loves food and she holds a strong desire to understand how things work.

“Food science was the perfect intersection of those two interests,” she said. “I am truly passionate about food, cooking and the importance of food-related experiences in our lives.”

Aubrey first joined Schwan’s as an intern more than 11 years ago. After her internship, she finished her food-science degree at the University of Nebraska and returned to the company to work as a research-and-development technician with the innovation team in Marshall, Minnesota.

She eventually accepted a position at Schwan’s pizza production facility in Salina, Kansas, where she now works as a product-development manager.

“I love working in product development because our work centers on the food and making sure we deliver a great food experience for our consumers. And, it just so happens, that science plays a significant role in helping us do that,” she said.

Aubrey recently took some time to tell us about her experiences at Schwan’s, her favorite foods and her passion for food science.

Q: What’s your favorite memory in all the years you’ve worked here?

A: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a project investigating a new technology for making pizza crusts. The only pilot line for the equipment was in Japan, and I was able to travel to the facility for testing. I have never learned so much in such a short period of time about culture, bakery science, processing technology and food. I even tasted a cantaloupe flavored Kit Kat. It was all so fascinating!

Q: How have you grown throughout your career at Schwan’s?

A: As I have been exposed to more aspects of the business, whether it was observing the challenges of manufacturing directly on the line or working with the sales team on a customer visit, my perspective has really broadened and deepened. I see more of the “big picture” which helps me to make better decisions and work better with others. It also helps me to anticipate roadblocks, making it easier for me to maintain composure when unexpected challenges surface. Running around in a panic or with your “pants on fire” just brings undue stress. I wish I remembered this 100 percent of the time (I don’t), but it’s good to recognize the growth and keep chipping away at it.

Q: As a food scientist, what’s your typical day like?

A: One of the first things I get asked after telling someone that I work in product development is: “Do you just play with food all day?” While the food is certainly the center of our work, there is a bit more to it. That being said, it is rare for a day to go by without tasting pizza or some component of it. Other activities in my day might include:

  • Checking in with my team to celebrate wins or see where they may need some support or help.
  • Discussions with the rest of the pizza team in Product Innovation & Development to ensure we’re aligned on technical learning plans and have resources for all of active and upcoming projects.
  • Meetings with marketing to review brand strategy and status of current projects and potential future projects.
  • Meetings with food safety and quality and/or our Supply Chain team to review performance and where we could help address opportunities.
  • Laughing and coffee are a must!

Q: Tell us why your job is one of the most important jobs in the company.

A: The products we design land directly in our consumers’ homes, schools and bodies, and to be successful together as a company, we must ensure that the design of those products meet their needs and expectations.

Q: What do our company vision and values mean to you?

A: We have Marvin’s words adorning a wall in our lobby, so I walk by them at least 10 times a day. I can’t help but focus on the last seven words: “a place where people like to work.” The values are directly tied to that for me. If we’re all truly living the values, we will get there.

Q: What are you most proud of throughout your career at Schwan’s?

A: I am most proud of the relationships that I have throughout the company. Many have lasted my entire 11 years and extend beyond the walls of Schwan’s. I am never more proud than when a team member expresses excitement to be on a team with me.

Q: What are you most looking forward to for the future of our company?

A: The last two years in Salina have been incredibly exciting. The capital investment in our equipment and capabilities expand the possibilities for product development. I look forward to the opportunity for our Product Innovation & Development team to innovate and design some fantastic new products to supplement our core.

Q: How would you describe the culture of our company?

A: The culture at Schwan’s encourages focus on how we do our work as much as what work we do. This focus is what enables sustainable results and not just one-time wins. Employees at every level are asked to be truly engaged in a way that is authentic to them. It is our individual experiences and strengths that help us to be collectively successful.

Q: Schwan’s is a founding partner of the Minnesota Super Bowl 52 Host Committee this year and the football season has begun. Are you a football fan?

A: I’m a huge football fan. I am from Nebraska, where college football is a rich tradition and is followed almost obsessively. I have grown to enjoy professional football as well, so you can expect to hear cheering (and some yelling) on both Saturdays and Sundays in my house during football season.

Q: Which team do you hope makes it to the Big Game next year?

A: I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan so I would love to see them back in the Super Bowl. I also have a special place in my heart for the Vikings and the Chiefs. So I’d love to see one of them make it although I won’t actually be cheering for them.

Q: What is your favorite Schwan’s® product to serve at your Big Game viewing party?

A: I absolutely have to have wings at any tailgating or football party. They are one of my favorite foods and there are a couple of Schwan’s products that make serving them much less work: #415 Crispy Chicken Wings with Sauce and #588 Chicken Bites. I prepare both to satisfy the traditional and boneless wing lovers. Then, I’ll use the prepared sauces included with them and some of my own creations for a “build your own wing” bar. I’ll set out stainless steel bowls for each sauce and guests can toss wings in their favorite sauce or keep in on the side as they prefer.

Q: Do you have any recipes you are a master of that you would like to share?

A: One of my favorite wing sauces is a Spicy Mango & Herb sauce inspired by some delicious chicken wings I had in a restaurant. I sometimes include crushed peanuts to finish the wings after tossing in the sauce to add a salty, nutty crunch to the sweet & spicy sauce.


  • 1 tbsp. ginger, peeled and grated.
  • 8 oz. (1/2 bag) #744 Organic Mango Chunks.
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar.
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce.
  • 3 tbsp. rice vinegar.
  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha sauce (or to taste).
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped.
  • 2 tsp. mint or Thai basil, chopped.
  • Crushed peanuts for garnish (optional).

In a small sauce pan, combine ginger, mango, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and Sriracha. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Blend sauce until smooth with handheld immersion blender (or standard blender). Use immediately or refrigerate. Add chopped herbs just before serving on chicken wings, pork tenderloin, etc.

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