Q&A with Lisa Rutherford

Behind the scenes with a Fonterra research technologist

NZMP ingredients are well known for their high quality and unmatched performance. We caught up with Lisa Rutherford - one of the team at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre (FRDC) - to get a glimpse of the science behind our ingredients.  

Q: Tell us a little about yourself

Lisa: I’m a Principal Research Technologist in the Cultured Foods team at FRDC in Palmerston North, New Zealand. I graduated from Massey University with a Bachelor of Food Technology (Hons) and then completed a Graduate Dairy Diploma as part of Fonterra’s Graduate Programme in 1992. After that I worked at the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute as a Research Officer in confectionery. Since 2007, I’ve specialised in application areas such as confectionery, cultured products and beverages and the functionality of milk proteins in these applications.

Q: What kind of projects have you worked on or are you currently working on?

Lisa: My key area of focus has been high-protein yoghurt and developing ingredients to improve texture and flavour. Increasing the protein content of cultured foods generally has a negative impact on texture (powderiness, stickiness, lumpiness) and flavour (bitter, sour, protein off-flavours) so we have developed texture solutions that can produce high-protein yoghurts with the consistency of liquid drinking yoghurt through to thick, Greek-style yoghurts using only our ingredients and no changes to processing or formulation.  

Q: Tell us about Fonterra’s commitment to innovation and research.

Lisa: Innovation and research is key to the success of Fonterra and to that of our customers. We have more than 250 staff working in this area, and we invest around $80 million (NZD) every year in R&D. That makes us the biggest investor in dairy research and development in the world. The upshot of all of that is that we can develop new ingredients to help our customers meet the ever-changing demands of their own customers, and we can make ingredients with quality and performance that is superior to those of our competitors.

Q: How does your work at FRDC help our customers around the world? 

Lisa: We’ve been leading the world in the development of protein ingredients such as MPCs and WPCs and have been able to apply these specifically in cultured applications to give benefits to our customers - such as cost reduction, replacing stabilisers and reducing fat and sugar content.   

Customers benefit from our expertise - our scientists working on the chemistry and structure of ingredients, the engineers developing processes to produce new ingredients, technologists formulating and understanding ingredient performance in specific applications and our consumer and sensory capability understanding final product characteristics. Working with all these people and delivering solutions to our customers on a regular basis helps keep us and our customers ahead of competitors.