On a daily basis, people across the globe enjoy the fruits of John Behrens’ labor. As a product developer with PepsiCo’s Global Ready to Drink Beverages Team, Behrens has helped launch some 20 products, taking the lead on the creation of beverages including Mug Root Beer made with real sugar for the US, Mirinda Pineapple for Egypt, and Mirinda Orange for Korea. “I’m a scientist who gets to artfully craft products people love,” says Behrens, who’s been recognized as a co-inventor on two patents (one garnered while still an intern at PepsiCo) for his food- and drink-related discoveries. “You can work your whole career and not be lucky enough to discover something, but I’m most proud of seeing products I directly influenced in people’s hands.” And if all that success isn’t enough, Behrens is working toward his master’s in food science through the PepsiCo/Rutgers University distance-learning program.
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• Behrens is currently working towards his Masters in Food Science through the PepsiCo/Rutgers University distance learning program, which is far from an ordinary learning environment. What’s it involve? “One class a semester, two days a week after work my colleagues/classmates and I telepresence a class. There are cameras on us and a camera on the professor—we see each other and participate as he lectures to students at Rutgers. It’s a fantastic program because otherwise I’d have to leave work around 3:30 in order to make it to New Jersey in time for class”
• Developing soda is a little more than adding sugar to water. Here’s how Behrens describes his job: “I develop a formula in our system and take that recipe to the lab, where I weigh out and combine ingredients in a specific order to make a batch of syrup. Once everything is added and I test the product specifications to be sure I made it correctly, I then bottle the syrup with carbonated water at specific concentrations to make a beverage. I will taste the finished product and put it into temperature controlled stability chambers. The chambers are kept at 40, 70, 90, or 110 degrees F and are meant to simulate storage in the refrigerator, store shelf, or stockrooms in summer. We pull from the chambers periodically throughout the shelf life of the beverage and taste it to monitor how it is performing over time. We taste multiple products multiple times a day for our own and other developer’s products and record our responses to track it.”
• Behrens currently commutes an hour for his home in Poughkeepsie, New York, but is house-hunting with his girlfriend in upper Westchester.