Josie Sorensen, a senior in Utah State University’s food science program, scored a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer. Sorensen was awarded a 10-week internship at Delitzscher Chocolate Factory in Delitzsch, Germany.
Following a visit from Delitzscher Chocolate Factory owner Darren Ehlert, students at the Aggie Chocolate Factory were invited to apply for the internship, and Sorensen, who works there in production, was selected. In addition to a small stipend, the internship included paid flights to and from Germany as well as room and board.
“Josie is an outstanding student and student worker,” said Silvana Martini, director of the Aggie Chocolate Factory and professor of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences. “She is very responsible and knowledgeable. She has been with the chocolate factory since we opened our doors, and her experience in the chocolate industry and her willingness to learn is what helped her get this internship.”
Sorensen, along with two other interns from Brigham Young University, worked at the Delitzscher Chocolate Factory on weekdays helping on the factory floor with production, quality management, and product development.
“It was so interesting to see the difference between our small Aggie factory and a large industrial production line,” said Sorensen. “The language barrier was difficult to adjust to, but we got very good at miming. Luckily, our supervisor also spoke English pretty well.”
Over the course of the summer, the interns were tasked with several product development projects which tested their food science skills.
“Our first task was to create a new flavor of filling for the truffles they produced,” said Sorensen. “We came up with the flavor Biscoff Speculoos, which is a delicious cookie butter flavor.”
Sorensen and the other interns developed the flavor in just under eight weeks and hope to see it in full production by Christmas. Other projects completed by the interns included developing a flavor that incorporated potato chips, reformulating the truffle recipe for optimized freezing, and developing a healthy alternative dark chocolate bar with protein, veggie, and fiber powder.
“One of our first attempts at the healthy alternative tasted like a salad,” said Sorensen. “It had way too much spinach and broccoli powder, but after some tweaking, the final result actually tasted really good.”
As a final perk, Sorensen’s return ticket was booked for three weeks after the internship concluded to give the students an opportunity to visit other parts of Germany and Europe. Sorensen visited 10 countries including Spain, Ireland, England, Poland, France, and Austria.
Sorensen said her biggest takeaway from the experience was learning to be okay with not knowing.
“We learned how to solve new challenges,” said Sorensen. “They’d hand us a project, and we had no idea where to begin or what to do, and that’s okay. As a senior, sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking I should know everything, but I’ve learned it’s okay to not know.”
According to the company’s website, Delitzscher Chocolate Factory produces branded confectionery and private label products for companies in more than 50 countries.
Ehlert contacted Martini after his daughter, who was attending USU at the time, enrolled in her Chocolate: Science, History and Society course. Later, they connected at a conference in Belgium, and Martini toured one of his plants there. Ehlert then toured the Aggie Chocolate Factory this year since another of his daughters had enrolled at USU.
“Ehlert was impressed with the work that we are doing at the Aggie Chocolate Factory, and he offered to have one of our students do an internship at his facility in Germany,” said Martini.
Martini shared that a major factor in Sorensen’s selection was her experience at the Aggie Chocolate Factory, where Sorensen has worked since it opened in 2018. Martini expects that internship opportunities like this will be available in the future, especially for students with experience working with chocolate on campus. Sorensen will use the experiences she gained with some new chocolate-handling techniques to teach others at the Aggie Chocolate Factory.
“The Aggie Chocolate Factory is here to provide a unique learning experience to our students, especially our food science students,” said Martini. “It is a great way of gaining experience in a food science related field while working on campus.”
According to Martini, students don’t often realize that pursuing a degree in food science is an option or fully understand what it is. Sorensen said she selected the major only after discovering it through Degree Works on the USU website.
“My dream is to work with hunger issues and agriculture,” said Sorensen. “I discovered food science after using the Degree Finder search tool. I love food science so much. It’s fun all the time, and although school is difficult, it’s so much better doing something that I love.”
Martini describes the food science degree as linked to the applied side of all sciences. Students who gain a degree in food science have a degree that is more specialized than a culinary, nutrition, or dietetics degree. Food scientists are responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat and that it tastes good.
“Food scientists have a variety of career opportunities to choose from such as food product development, food safety, food engineering, food chemistry, quality control and assurance, sensory evaluation and more,” said Martini. “There is a vibrant food industry in Utah, so recent graduates can choose to stay in Utah or move somewhere else.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for food scientists is steadily increasing, with an estimated additional 4,000 positions becoming available each year on top of retirement vacancies and career changes. The median salary for a food scientist was $68,830 in 2020.
“If I could give advice to someone trying to choose a major, I would tell them to do food science,” said Sorensen. “Pick something you love that’s interesting and fun, and don’t be afraid to pick wrong.”
Interested in a position at the Aggie Chocolate Factory? Contact Silvana Martini at Silvana.Martini@usu.edu or visit USU Handshake to view open positions. For more information about the food science major, visit caas.usu.edu/degrees/food-science or contact Dawnetta Mahnken, academic advisor, at Dawnetta.Mahnken@usu.edu or schedule an appointment online.
Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences, Aggie Chocolate Factory