Pearlman relishes role as Berkey Creamery product development intern

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nathan Pearlman, a food science major in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has savored his senior year, thanks, in part, to an internship with the Penn State Berkey Creamery that has helped to launch his professional life.

"This internship has led to bigger and better things in my life," Pearlman said. "The Creamery has such a great reputation, and people always are impressed when I tell them that I work here."

Susan Watson, the Creamery's commissary manager, developed the internship with a number of goals in mind, including the development of higher-quality products and creation of a manual for more efficient production. The intern also would offer his or her point of view on current packaging and sanitation practices.

"I knew this would be an excellent opportunity for students to gain experience, as well as improve our products as a whole," she said. "Our intern would have the chance to evaluate our existing products, help us grow and continue to modify our products to ensure customer satisfaction."

Pearlman, of Altoona, was the perfect choice to serve as the intern to expand marketing and development at the Creamery. Watson explained that he has helped broaden the facility's product range by developing a few new products. "We are excited to release these as soon as possible," she said.

"Nathan has done exceptional work for us and we will be sad to see him go," she said. "He has a lot of patience tweaking the products until he is certain they will meet all customer needs."

Pearlman's love of food science dates back to his childhood. He enjoyed watching cooking shows, especially the Food Network's "Good Eats." "It came down to being a food scientist or a monster truck driver," he said with a smile.

Pearlman's parents are Penn State alumni, but what really attracted him to the University was the quality of the food science program. "It was a much better program than any of the other schools I considered. It was an easy decision," he said.

In addition to his studies and service in the National Guard, Pearlman wanted an on-campus job that would provide relevant experience for his major. His search on the University's career website led him to his position at the Creamery.

Pearlman's internship includes working on various projects, including market research and developing new products for the store. Pearlman produced a cheese snack tray and created recipe cards that are available to customers.

He conceded that when people think about the Creamery, the first thing that comes to mind is ice cream. Customers do not always realize that the iconic facility sells other products, such as plain cream cheese, flavored cream cheese, and cheddar spreads. The recipe cards are helpful in suggesting ways for customers to use these products, and the recipes are simple enough for students to make in dorms or apartments.

"When someone buys a block of cheese from us, you can do a lot more with it than just cut it up and eat it," Pearlman said.

The trial-and-error process is an important part of product development, Pearlman explained. "You never get things exactly right the first time. I have been working on a garlic-and-dill dip for almost four months now, but we have not quite hit on the perfect recipe yet. Most of the time, it's tweaking very small amounts to get the taste right. It is a lot of back-and-forth between the lab and the sensory taste tests. It takes patience, but it will be worth it in the end."

He praised the Creamery staff, especially Watson, with supporting his ideas. "Susan has allowed me the freedom to reach my full creative potential and try different things. I have gotten the chance to do a lot of things you wouldn't normally get to do in other internships."

Pearlman plans to hand over his research to the next product development intern. "We'll continue to pass down all the research, so in a few years this will be a really smooth operation with a lot of history to aid in further development of new products."

The Creamery has a great reputation within the dairy industry, Pearlman said, adding that his job at the Creamery and a summer internship at Turkey Hill Dairy helped him with his professional pursuits. In June, Pearlman will be moving to Jacksonville, Florida, where he will work as a quality control/quality assurance food scientist at Darifair, a family-owned and operated company that has been chartered as America's first national dairy supplier.

Pearlman will travel to Darifair facilities to complete audits and inspections to ensure that the company's products meet quality and safety standards.

"Since my job is focusing more on quality control than product development, the work will be a little different," he said. "I love the dairy industry and the processing side of it, so I'm really looking forward to this next chapter with a great company that's still growing."

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Last Updated April 25, 2018