Editor's note: This story is one several about HCC alumni who are working in the food industry. You can read the others in the Spring 2016 issue of the Alumni Connection.
By JUDITH KELLIHER
Sometimes, when Stephanie Granfield, '04, is in the frozen food section of a grocery store and spies Friendly's S'mores, Eggnog and Sundae Nut Football ice cream selections, she proudly proclaims, "I made those."
The Holyoke Community College graduate is hardly exaggerating. As a senior food technologist working at Friendly's headquarters in Wilbraham, Mass., the 32-year-old is responsible for developing, testing and creating the ice cream flavors that fill the familiar red tubs mass produced at the company's plant.
"My friends make fun of me because I am guilty of saying I made them," she said with a laugh. "It's kind of a surreal feeling. When I see people at the grocery store pick another brand I am tempted to tell them to buy Friendly's ice cream."
Granfield grew up learning to cook with her family and initially took nutrition and science courses at HCC because she wanted to become a registered dietician. While she enjoyed learning from the talented faculty, particularly in the nutrition field, she ended up graduating with an associate degree in liberal arts. (Her father, James Granfield, is also an HCC graduate, Class of 1984.)
From HCC, she transferred to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she earned a degree in food science. During her junior year, Friendly's contacted the university looking for a student to fill a part-time position as a food technician. Granfield got the job and worked 12-14 hours a week while in school. She was responsible for everything from keeping the food lab clean and stocking shelves to serving as an assistant to the food technologists.
"As soon as I got to Friendly's, everything I saw excited me, like going out to production and seeing what was happening there," she said.
After Granfield graduated from UMass in 2007, Friendly's hired her full time as a food technologist.
Creating new ice cream isn't just about mixing some flavors together. Granfield needs to understand the science behind it so she can combine the proper ingredients and amounts and develop accurate nutritional labels for the packaging.
In 2013, Friendly's sent Granfield to "ice cream school," a 10-day training in Penn State University's Ice Cream Short Course to learn more about making ice cream, proper use of equipment and even how to break down milk into all its components. Granfield said she emerged from the class more confident about her skills-as evidenced by her finishing third in her class of 131 other students.
For the S'mores product, which mimics a frozen version of the campfire dessert of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate, the marketing team at Friendly's provided Granfield with the project request. It was up to her, though, to figure out which ingredients would work together as a tasty treat good enough to sell to the public.
She contacted food vendors to obtain a toasted marshmallow-flavored liquid she mixed in the company's lab with other ingredients together in an unflavored ice cream base made of cream, milk and sugar. Once she had samples available, she arranged meetings, which she called "eatings," with other departments, such as marketing, purchasing, quality and manufacturing, for taste tests.
Based on their feedback, Granfield put the S'mores ice cream through a couple of iterations before the group agreed on one. Sundae Nut Football, another one of Granfield's creations that went through a similar development and testing process, features a vanilla frozen dairy dessert with chocolate-covered peanuts, swirls of fudge and peanut butter-filled chocolate shaped like a football.
The work keeps her busy, but she still finds time to enjoy her favorite Friendly's flavor: Butter Crunch.
PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) Stephanie Granfield, '04, in the Friendly's laboratory kitchen in Wilbraham. (Right) Friendly's food technologist Stephanie Granfield, '04, cooks up some ice cream.