05 Spotlight
Cereal Foods World, Vol. 65, No. 1
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Interview with Supriya Varma

© 2020 Cereal & Grains Association

Abstract

In this interview, Supriya Varma describes her involvement in the cereal grains industry and her participation in Cereals & Grains Association programs. She also offers her perspectives on the global food supply chain and offers insights on the role consumer trends and technology will play in the future of the industry.





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Q: What is your current position and what type of work do you do?

A: I am a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP. I help my clients in their business transformation journey.

Q: When and how did you first decide you wanted to work in cereal grain science?

A: I became interested in cereal and grain science while taking an undergraduate class on cereal processing. For the very first time, I was introduced to the challenges of processing grains and making them available for consumption by consumers. I continued to learn about the biochemical aspects of grain processing while pursuing my Ph.D. degree in food science from Rutgers University.

Q: How have you been involved with the Cereals & Grains Association? How has your involvement with the association enriched your career?

A: My involvement with the Cereals & Grains Association dates back to when I was a young graduate student! I had the opportunity to lead student competitions, present research papers, judge research papers, chair the Engineering and Processing Division, organize symposiums, participate on the Annual Meeting Technical Program Planning team, etc. In fact, I got my first job upon graduation through the recruiting process organized by the association!

My involvement with the Cereals & Grains Association has been a great learning experience and has enriched my career in many ways. It has provided a solid platform for sharing my intellectual curiosity and learning from eminent leaders in the field. Meeting them face to face and seeing them being passionate about their area of research was inspirational. I got the opportunity to build my technical, networking, and leadership skills and to create a well-knit network of professionals with similar backgrounds. During my involvement in the association, I have enjoyed successful mentoring relationships with experts. I am very thankful to each of my mentors because they helped shape my professional outlook toward the food industry.

Q: In 2020, Cereal Foods World (CFW) is focusing on the global food system (GFS). Please offer your perspective on how global societal and technology trends are affecting cereal science and the cereal grain industry overall? How will cereal scientists need to adapt to these global trends?

A: There is an increasing level of awareness by consumers concerning food, and they want to know more about the foods they are eating on a daily basis. They are constantly seeking optimal value from the food products they purchase. Consumers are curious about different aspects of foods, ranging from nutritional to quality, safety, and sustainability aspects, to name only a few, and the list continues to grow. The competitive product landscape is also continuing to change rapidly. Cereal scientists will need to start thinking about the end-to-end traceability of the products they are creating and about innovative ways in which they can accelerate time to market for new products.

Q: This issue of CFW explores Food Safety and Analytics in the context of the GFS. Do you have any perspectives on the challenges and opportunities associated with the global expansion of the food chain and the dynamics of the global food trade?

A: Food safety and analytics is a pertinent topic that needs to be addressed in a timely manner. Traditionally, the food industry with its underlying supply chain complexities has been unstructured in terms of managing data. Data management is siloed, thereby lacking end-to-end visibility (from farm to fork). There is increasing pressure by regulatory authorities, customers, and consumers to improve the traceability and compliance of food products. Regulatory authorities in many regions have very strict audit requirements, with a short turnaround time to provide evidence of compliance. There are functions and departments within the food industry that are forced to reinvent the wheel because the pertinent information is dispersed in multiple locations and not easily accessible.

The pressing demands made by compliance authorities, customers, and consumers has created several opportunities for the food industry. Companies have started thinking outside the box and are planning to use available technological solutions to manage the life cycle of the products they manufacture.

There is a dire need to create a single “source of truth”—data that supports compliance and provides traceability. This source of truth is expected to feed data up and down the supply chain, connecting with manufacturing sites and distribution channels. A single source of truth takes into account inbound activities (e.g., sourcing raw materials) and outbound activities (e.g., shipping products to customers). Connected data enables faster change-impact analysis. Becoming efficient, organized, and structured with regard to technical data is the need of the hour and will build a strong foundation for future digital transformations.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: As they say, every day is a new day in the consulting world. I am excited about working with CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies as they embark on their transformative journeys.