10 Questions with Head of R&D – Katie Masonhttps://yasso.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Katie_Mason_Yasso-1024x512.jpg 1024 512 https://yasso.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Katie_Mason_Yasso-1024x512.jpg
In the frozen dessert category, terrible tasting products with poor nutrition are considered especially heinous. At Yasso, the dedicated food scientist who prevents these egregious items from ever hitting store shelves is known as Katie Mason, head Food Scientist. This is her story. (Dun Dun)
Meant to be read to the tune of a popular crime fighting show 😉
- Tell us a little about your background and how you came to Yasso.
I got my degree at Virginia Tech in Food Science and Technology. Shortly after graduating I moved to Boston and started working at HP Hood where I worked to develop cultured dairy products like Greek yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese. After being there for about 4 years I decided it was time to make a change and landed at Yasso in the world of frozen treats.
- Yasso products are low calorie, filled with protein AND taste delicious. How do you make this possible?
My challenge in testing and creating all of our new innovation is the delicate dance in maintaining a balance between out of this world flavor and sensible nutrition. Greek yogurt inherently has a creamier texture and higher protein, but we up the ante with real chips, chunks of brownie, cookie dough and cake, sprinkles and even caramel swirls to truly deliver a great tasting dessert. My role in the test kitchen is to pull the levers on all of these inclusions to find the perfect recipe that meets our nutritional promise but still tastes indulgent.
- How are Yasso products sweetened?
In addition to the sugar that naturally occurs in milk’s lactose, we also add sugar that is either sourced from sugar cane or sugar beets. We don’t use sugar alcohols or high intensity sweeteners, even if they could help us achieve a lower calorie count.
- Where do you look for flavor inspiration? How does the new innovation process begin? Which part if the best and which is the worst?
We always are keeping an eye on what is trending in the ice cream world but also other segments like snacks, bakery, and beverage. We’re often inspired by brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Chobani for their flavor creativity, too.The best part of the innovation process is nailing a new flavor the first time you make it. It’s always so satisfying when something works out just like you envisioned it. But for every new flavor success, there are many new flavor fails that consumers never see! The worst part of the process is narrowing down which flavors to launch. At Yasso, we’re fortunate enough to have a robust pipeline of innovation but the hardest part is deciding which should hit stores next.
- Which flavors have been the most exciting for you to create?
S’mores was fun because I’m a big graham cracker fan and the base in that flavor is super graham-y. I remember the first time I made it and let the team taste test, the feedback was a resounding “Woah, this is so good!” I had never really found a good S’mores flavor until we created this.
- Which is your favorite flavor?
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. I’m a purist. We have a nice clean, vanilla base in this flavor and that paired with our cookie dough pieces and chocolate flakes will never get old to me.
- What criteria do you review before finalizing a new flavor/product?
Making sure we have a great tasting product with balanced nutrition is #1. Ingredient sourcing, price, and what we call “run-ability” – the ease of production, also come into play. You’d be surprised how many factors are considered when producing our Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough on a stick!
- What’s the best part of your job?
I’m totally flavor obsessed. I love working with flavors and expressing my creativity with the combinations that we come up with.
- What is your favorite part about working at Yasso?
It’s really empowering to work for a small company like Yasso and be responsible for such an important piece of the business and play a role in shaping what millions of shoppers stock in their freezer. Not to mention the team here is awesome and I couldn’t ask for better taste-testers.
- Any potential new flavors testing in the kitchen that you want to share?
We may or may not be working on some potential seasonal flavors which would be a first for the brand! (wink)