Thursday, October 18, 2018

'Schwan's People You Need To Know'

“Schwan’s People You Need to Know” is an ongoing series of stories about some of the people who help make Schwan's Company and its subsidiaries a great place to work. 

Estum talks about role at Schwan’s and endless investigation of what consumers want

Christy Estum is a sensory analyst at our Product Innovation & Development
facility in Marshall, Minnesota.
Oct. 18, 2018 — Why do consumers prefer certain products over others?

That is the question Sensory Analyst Christy Estum must ask herself each day as she works with cross-functional product-development and marketing teams across Schwan’s Company. For her, the question keeps each day new and has allowed several growth opportunities throughout her career.

“Ever since joining the company fresh out of college, I continue to get pushed out of my comfort zone,” Christy said. “Meeting new people, traveling to our plants and working on projects across all business units has helped me learn and grow in each of my roles.”

Christy joined Schwan’s four days after her college graduation as an intern in our sensory and product guidance department. Christy’s three-month summer internship, turned into an 18-month internship and eventually a full-time position as a technician. And, a year later, she landed her current role as an analyst for our consumer insights and analytics department

She recently talked with us about what a typical day looks like as a sensory analyst and what she thrives on at our company.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that most people at Schwan’s do not know.

A: I am a big animal lover. In November 2017, my husband and I started fostering dogs for a local rescue. Our specialty is puppies. We’ve welcomed three different litters (all under 8 weeks old) into our home. There’s been 13 dogs total, and we managed to restrict ourselves to only keeping one of them.

Q: What’s your typical day like?

A: A typical day will involve a lot of phone calls. Since the consumer insights and analytics team is a company-wide resource for business units, I get to work with people in all of our company locations.

Most of my projects have weekly or bi-weekly team calls that include all cross-functional partners. I am also in daily communication with our testing vendors. We currently use four different vendors to support our testing needs, and I’m the main point of contact for them within Schwan’s.

And, hopefully, my day will also include a product cutting. Our Product Innovation & Development facility, where I office from, looks at a lot of products, and I’m happy to be a part of it. Just a few of the product cuttings could be for shelf life, plant/supplier moves, equipment changes, clean label, innovation, competitive review and more.

Q: What are you most proud of in your career with Schwan’s?

A: I am proud of the teams that I’ve been a part of and the projects that we’ve successfully completed. Some of the projects with cross-functional partners I have had the honor of participating in include establishing a new bakery at our facility in Salina, Kansas, removal of high fructose corn syrup from our Edwards® crème pies as part of a company-wid
e clean-label initiative, launching a new crème-pie line at our facility in Stilwell, Oklahoma, and a category assessment of 15 16-inch pizzas that included descriptive analysis profiles and multiple testing locations.

Q: What are you passionate about in your job?

A: Food and consumers! I love evaluating and testing our products. I like being able to go through all the different sensory attributes of a product and then understanding how consumers respond. It’s wonderful to understand how people think and why a product is liked or not. We are able to provide answers to very important questions for our business partners.

Q: How would you describe the culture at Schwan’s?

A: Despite being a large company, we’re able to maintain a hometown, small-company culture. People care about each other and the communities we are based in and serve.

Q: What do our company vision and values mean to you? How do you demonstrate them in your day-to-day work?

A: I view our values as a roadmap to achieving our vision. I like that we’re grounded in our founder Marvin Schwan’s words.

Q: We often talk about working as “one Schwan’s team.” What does that mean to you?

A: That we are all working toward a shared goal. We may not always agree on the best way to reach that goal, but at the end of the day, we know we are all on the same team.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in our company’s future?

A: Innovation — whatever that may look like as long as it is the next big products that will delight our consumers.

Q: What would you tell someone considering a career with Schwan’s Company?

A: I value the Schwan family’s origin story and how that shapes our strategies and priorities. It’s a rewarding company to work for.

Q: What is your favorite food product from Schwan’s?

A: It is impossible to pick just one, so I’ll give you my favorites for each meal of the day. My favorites include the Schwan’s® Egg White, Cheese and Turkey Bacon Multi-Grain Biscuit Sandwiches, Schwan’s® Fully cooked Oven-Baked Breaded Chicken Breast Fillets on my salads for lunch, the Schwan’s® Chicken Florentine Skillet Meal for dinner and to top it all off our limited-edition Schwan’s® Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream.

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