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Q&A with food scientist and CALS alum, Luis Martinez

During Nov. 18-22, the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) celebrates “food science” as the major of the week. Check out our @ufcals social media posts and blogs throughout the week highlighting this major!

luis martinez portfolio imageLuis Martinez, an alumnus from CALS (BS ’05, MS ’07), is the Director of Research and Innovation for Darifair Foods LLC. Both of his degrees were in the major of food science and human nutrition. While earning his master’s in food science at UF, Martinez invented a novel coffee processing technology to enhance flavor and aroma of coffee which later got licensed by Coffee Primero LLC. In his role at Darifair, he leads the development of innovative products and technology that drive Darifairs’ research and development (R&D) initiatives forward.

Martinez has developed and commercialized more than 100 new food products over the last decade, which are currently offered/used in some of the major food service establishments. Prior to this position, Martinez was the Director of R&D and the Innovation Manager at Darifair. He also worked for the Coca-Cola Company in the Global Juice Innovation Center as a food scientist, where he developed food products for McDonald’s and other food service companies. Martinez has also owned two food companies over the last few years.

Martinez has served as a board member of the Florida Chapter of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) since 2012 and has led the Suppliers’ Night Expo every year since 2014. Martinez was awarded the CALS Horizon Award in 2014 for his contributions to UF/IFAS and Florida’s agricultural, natural resource and life sciences industries. He also received the UF Outstanding Young Alumnus award in 2015.

What first sparked your interest in food science?

My interested in food, the food industry and food sciences has been present since my childhood. I come from a family involved in food and agriculture for over three generations in different ways. I was particularly interested in food science as a way to look at foods from a different perspective, and to find innovative ways and develop nutritious and fun food products to feed the world, while being environmentally friendly and sustainable.

What brought you to CALS and the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition Department?

Having grown up in Ecuador, South America, I knew that if I wanted to study food science, I would’ve had to be abroad, as the only option available locally was food engineering. Through different recommendations and my own research, I found the University of Florida and the CALS/FSHN Department, which fit perfectly with my goals and expectations. I made the decision to move to the U.S. and attend UF as an international student, which has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Where there any particular CALS faculty/staff or other mentors who were influential in your education and early career?

I couldn’t have asked for better faculty and staff to help me and mentor me throughout my years at UF. I am particularly grateful of Janna Underhill, Dr. Charlie Sims, Dr. Murat Balaban, Dr. Marty Marshall, Dr. Allen Wysocki, Dr. Bob Bates, and Dr. Ron Schmidt, who I maintain great relationships with to this day.

luis martinez at an ift conferenceWhat do you find to be the coolest part of your job and career?

When I give a speech about food science, I often start by saying, “I get paid to play with food,” and it can’t get any better than that!

What are some of the exciting projects you’ve been part of over the course of your career?

Some of the most exciting projects I have been part of over the years have been the McCafe Smoothies, the Subway Frappes, the Dunkin Donuts Coffee RTD beverages, along with other projects that have touched some of the most iconic brands in the industry, such as Heinz, General Mills, Campbell’s, Minute Maid, etc.

What is most satisfying about your career?

Being a professional product developer and seeing how your products are consumed daily by millions of people is incredibly rewarding, but it also comes along with a huge degree responsibility.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to continue to grow professionally and lead an entire food organization in the near future, while continuing to search for innovative, sustainable, and environmentally friendly ways to feed the estimated 9 billion people in the world by 2050.

luis martinez poses with florida gator itemsWhat advice do you have for current and future students who may have similar ambitions as you do?

The best advice I can give students is to network as much as possible while they are in school via internships, involvement in professional organizations, study abroad programs, co-ops, etc., and continue to network post-graduation. The larger the network of contacts, the greater the opportunities.

The food science major uses engineering, biological, and physical sciences to study the nature of foods, the causes of food deterioration, the principles underlying food processing, and the development and improvement of foods for consumption. Students study organic and food chemistry, biology, physics, government regulations in the food industry, food engineering, and microbiology. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website.

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