Playback the Panel Discussion Live Stream
Food Innovation Center
1901 N 21 ST Lincoln, NE 68588-6206
June 9, 2023
1:30-2:30 Optional tours of the FPC labs, plants, and Suite Spot-
Food Innovation Center
2:30-3:15 Social hour and networking (light snacks &
UNL Dairy Store ice cream)
3:15-4:00 Program: Welcome -NIC Conference Center
Panel Discussion - Steve Taylor, Tessa Porter, Ashley Bernstein,
and Jessi Hoeft
moderated by Executive Director Terry Howell
Our 40th Anniversary Panelists
Steve Taylor, Ph.D
Dept. of Food Science
University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Steve L. Taylor, Ph.D. was named as Professor Emeritus in the Dept. of Food Science & Technology upon his retirement in 2019 after 38 years. Prof. Taylor first joined UNL as Professor and Head of the Dept. of Food Science & Technology and Director of the Food Processing Center in July, 1987. The Food Processing Center was founded in 1983 and Prof. Taylor served as its 2nd Director from 1987 until 2006. Under his leadership, the FPC program expanded over the years including impactful programs such as assistance to entrepreneurial start-up ventures, product and process development services, analytical and microbiological testing services, workshops, a role in the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and others.
Dr. Taylor received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in food science and technology from Oregon State University and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California - Davis. He received additional training in environmental toxicology and nutrition through postdoctoral training programs at the University of California - Davis. Before coming to the University of Nebraska in 1987, Dr. Taylor served for 3 years as Chief of the Food Toxicology Laboratory at Letterman Army Institute of Research in San Francisco and 9 years as a faculty member with the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin.
In addition to his administrative roles, Dr. Taylor conducted pioneering research in the area of food allergies and sensitivities that led to the development in 1995 at UNL of the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program, an industry funded consortium with over 110 member companies. He is an author on more than 350 scientific publications and has spoken to food industry groups within Nebraska and many other states and countries.
Tessa J. Porter
President and Founder Sprinkk
Tessa is the President and Founder of Sprinkk, an Omaha, Nebraska based company focusing on confectionery process design and small scale contract manufacturing. Sprinkk is on a mission to expand opportunity and reduce manufacturing hurdles for both new products and new businesses nationwide. The Sprinkk scale up process has been tested through the launch of Norma’s, a new natural fruit snack brand that Tessa developed in 2021 together with her grandmother, Norma. Additionally, Tessa uses Sprinkk to amplify the voice of women in STEM, introduce confectionery science to students, and advocate for careers in the trades and manufacturing. Prior to starting her own company, Tessa led at Ferrara Candy Company as the Head of Innovation and Technology. She is proud to have developed a unique and powerful R&D team, as well as many unique products ranging from RAP® Protein Gummies to the full line of Black Forest Organic® products.
Tessa’s background also includes managing contract manufacturing for Glanbia Performance Nutrition, innovating as a scientist and intern at The Hershey Company, and consulting for multiple small and mid sized food and beverage companies. Tessa serves on the Board of Directors for The Confectionery Foundation, is a 2019 NCA Future Leader, active on the American Association of Candy Technologists Education Committee, and dedicates time for inspiring science education through candy. She has a Masters in food science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In her free time you’ll find her in a yoga studio, hanging out with her family, or chasing the wind around the world to go kite-surfing.
Tessa is passionate about creating opportunities for others and driving for technical results. She thrives on building strong teams and converting off-the-wall ideas into profitable products.
Senior Sensory Scientist
Ashley Bernstein is a professional ice cream taster, self-proclaimed foodie, and champion for the consumer. She currently works as a Sr. Sensory Scientist at Wells Enterprises promoting innovation & development and ensuring satisfaction of Blue Bunny, Bomb Pop, and Blue Ribbon Classics frozen treats. Ashley started her R&D/sensory career by working in the FPC’s Product Development Lab during her undergraduate tenure from 2009-2012. She then returned to the department to complete her Master’s and pursue a focus in Sensory. Crediting the FPC for part of her career success, Ashley looks forward to helping develop the capabilities of the future generations of students and entrepreneurs.
Jessi Hoeft is the co-founder of Ensign Beverage and First Street Brewing Company out of Hastings, Nebraska. Her brewing background goes back to 1995 when she brewed her first batch of kombucha. Jessi currently serves as the Board-Chair at UNL Food Processing Center; Director at Little Blue NRD, and Director Co-VP at The Hastings Community Foundation.
1983UNL establishes the Food Processing Center.
1987FPC Micro lab was set up in Filley Hall with Dianne Peters as manager.
1989FPC establishes the National Food Entrepreneur Program.
Durward Smith was hired, and starts Better Process Control School at Nebraska. (He previously had taught it since 1974 at LSU & Auburn)
1990Dedication of Food Industry Complex on East Campus. (Micro lab moved here)
2011Students design “Big 10” Dairy Store giftbox.
USDA Rural Development awards FPC small business grant to assist small manufacturers.
2015FPC one of founders of Alliance for Advanced Food Sanitation.
Suji’s Cuisine moves to NIC.
NuTek Food Science locates at NIC.
2016Preventive Controls workshops first offered.
2020Grand Reopening of new UNL Dairy Store.
FPC produces 200k gallons of Hand Sanitizer.
FS&T and FPC offers work experience rotation program.
2021Dairy Store names “Carter Coffee Crunch” ice cream honoring NU President.
FPC formulates stage blood for "Dracula: Mina's Quest"