For Caroline Campbell moving half way across the world to Palmerston North was like coming home to her Idaho roots.
“What I love most about Palmy is how similar it is to America’s mid-west, there are just more sheep and less wheat fields. Everyone is so relaxed and friendly, you meet someone at a gas station and they just strike up a conversation.”
Caroline came to New Zealand through the Primary Growth Partnership programme before being offered a full-time job at Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre where she works as a Research Technologist in the Cultured Food group.
But while her home state of Idaho has a strong dairy industry, Caroline’s original career plans never involved any type of dairy.
“I swam competitively for 11 years and I actually used to dream of being in the Olympics. Once I got over that I realised I really liked science and cooking but I didn’t want to be a chef because the hours aren’t great. That’s when I decided to go into food science.”
She worked her way through university, getting her bachelor’s degree, then a master’s and finally a Phd. Her post-doctorate research centred on whey protein and it was that research that opened the door for a career with Fonterra.
“When I got the job with Fonterra I was really excited. I love that the Co-op is both a brands and an ingredients company. New Zealand’s market is so unique. In the States, you are only working on brands for an American market, but here the focus is so much more global.”
Caroline ultimately wants to use her food science knowledge to help improve people’s health and wellbeing.
“I think food science sometimes gets a bad rap because people see it as relating to processed food only, but it actually has a big role to play in people’s health particularly when we look at the role of food and medicine, we have a huge aging baby boomer population and we need to find ways to feed them without compromising on nutrition, taste or texture. Fonterra is doing some really advanced stuff in and around health and wellbeing, it’s really exciting”
And while she’s got her eyes on the future Caroline’s using the present to get to know her new home country.
“The cultural diversity in New Zealand is really impressive and I’ve loved exploring new foods. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised how quickly I adjusted to driving on the left-hand side of the road and to spelling “yoghurt” instead of “yogurt.” Measuring in centimetres is still a bit rough though, also the water here is so cold! I’ve entered a couple of open water swimming events and it’s the first time I’ve had to race in a wetsuit.”