Life at PepsiCo

Check Out My Workspace: Food Innovation Lab

Amrit Tara working in a food innovation lab Amrit Tara working in a food innovation lab
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Take a look inside PepsiCo’s state-of-the-art global process center in Leicester, U.K., where food development technicians create and test new product varieties like Poppables and Quavers.

Name: Amrit Tara

Role: R&D Senior Product Technician — Global Breakthrough Foods

Where do you work?

I’m part of a foods research & development team based in Beaumont Park, UK. I was born and raised in Leicester, where Beaumont Park is located.

How did you decide to become a Food Development Technician? 

From a very young age, I had a strong passion and interest in food. After a placement year as a Junior Food Technologist at Dawn Farm Foods, I knew straightaway that I wanted to continue designing and developing new food products from initial concept to full production. I love starting off with a new idea and seeing it grow and develop over time from initial trials to launch. I’ve had great opportunities to do this at PepsiCo. For example, I worked on the development of Mini-Poppables.

Can you give us a quick overview of the kind of projects you are working on? 

My team works on a huge range of products within the PepsiCo portfolio, from brands like Quavers and Bugles in Europe to Poppables in the U.S. These products are made using a pellet extrusion technology where raw materials are made into an intermediate product that is similar to pasta. Then we heat the product in a fryer or an air popper to make an expanded snack.

What kind of lab do you work in?

We have a state-of-the-art global process center. Our pilot plant consists of a wet process plant, seasoning hall and innovation kitchen. The pilot plant is 42,000 by 33,000 square feet, and we have different sections for different technologies; for example, we have a specific area dedicated to seasoning as well as an innovation kitchen for prototyping. So we’re able to develop a lot of products in-house.

Amrit Tara and other workers in a food innovation lab

Take a look inside PepsiCo’s state-of-the-art global process center in Leicester, U.K.

Can you walk us through what happens in different areas?

The seasoning hall is where the pellets team specifically has products fried or air-popped. Then we season either by hand or by dropping the products into the seasoning drum. Then we move into the innovation kitchen, where we can review samples and make prototypes for different pellet shapes with molds and cutters and can also make some products like Quavers. I love the open space of the kitchen — it creates a really friendly, collaborative atmosphere.

Do you have your own workstation, or do you collaborate in a space with others? 

In 2019, Beaumont Park underwent an extensive refurbishment, and our office refresh has delivered a state-of-the-art office with lots of vibrant colors and lighting. We have an open desk policy — it doesn’t matter if you are a senior manager or a student — and we have a flexible hot desking policy. Our office overall has a very strong community-based spirit, and in the breakout kitchen I used to love catching up with colleagues from different teams and having a chat over coffee. It’s something I’m really looking forward to once more of us are back in the office.

photo collage of office spaces and an employee sitting at a computer

How has the pandemic changed how you work?

With COVID-19, attendance to site has dramatically changed, and the majority of associates are working from home and only on-site for business-critical activities. Several of the projects I’m working on are business critical, so I spend one to two days in the pilot plant running trials. In addition, we have had to make many changes in the way the office operates, repurposing many of our meeting rooms and office spaces with a no-cost-spared approach to safety. We’ve also been able to adapt by shipping product samples to key stakeholders and carrying out virtual tastings via Zoom.

What are you excited about working on next?

We work specifically on the innovation agenda, and we’re currently developing new products for the South African market under the Simba brand, new Poppables for emerging markets, and a range of Better for You products with alternative ingredients such as pea flours. 2021 is going to be a jam-packed year for our team.

This article is part of “Check Out My Workspace,” an ongoing series that highlights the coolest PepsiCo employee workspaces around the globe, including research farms, factory floors, design centers, flavor labs and test kitchens.