Posted: November 20, 2008

The Art (and Science) of Chocolate: How internships opened Aimee Taylor's eyes to a creative side of food science.

Aimee Taylor

Aimee Taylor

Aimee Taylor always liked science, but she didn't want to work in a traditional lab. Then, undergraduate internships with Häagen-Dazs and Hershey Foods Corporation opened her eyes to product development. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in food science in 1994, Taylor went to work at Hershey Foods as a research scientist, formulating new confections. "I love my job because I get to work in the science and technical side of the business, but I also get to be creative," she says.

As part of a development team, Taylor participates in the process all the way from working out the formula for a new candy product to making it in the plant. Her first project was working on a team to develop ReeseSticks, a candy consisting of white wafers layered with peanut butter, then dipped in chocolate. "Working out formulations is a lot like figuring out a recipe at home," she says. "You whip up stuff, then taste it to see if it's good. But we have to keep things like shelf life in mind."

Hershey's "Candy Bar Factory," a candy bar introduced in 2000, was one of Taylor's own ideas. "It's a milk chocolate bar with cavities that kids can fill with their choice of peanut butter, white frosting, sprinkles, and cookie bits," she says. "It's fun to work on projects for kids. They like interactive things. This candy bar is part activity, part eating."

After developing the initial idea, Taylor and other members of the project team held focus groups with kids to find out which ingredients they'd like. Then she worked with a mold designer to develop the chocolate molds. "We came up with 13 different designs for the cavities, so when kids buy a kit, they don't know which one they're getting," she says. Some cavities have a picture of a factory in them. Others have the words "create" or "invent" in them, or the keyboard-generated symbol ":-9." "Kids have no trouble figuring out that the symbol means 'lick your lips,'" Taylor says.

Taylor feels that organizations and internships are very valuable for undergraduates, and she credits her intern experience with helping her make wise career decisions. "You can learn what you do--or don't--want to do," she says. As a member of the University Scholars Program (now the Schreyer Honors College), Taylor also conducted independent research at the Meats Lab, trying to make a better-tasting low-fat hot dog. After a stint with cheese production while earning her master's degree at Cornell, she finally reached a personal pinnacle in her career by returning to Hershey Foods. From ice cream to hot dogs to cheese to chocolate, Taylor really likes what she's doing. "How could you not love being around chocolate all the time?"