PB Careers: Whole Foods – Research & Development Culinologist

PB Careers: Whole Foods – Research & Development Culinologist

Department: Compliance, Quality Standards and Food Safety
Job Type: Regular
Location:Austin, Texas, United States of AmericaGlobal  Support

Job Description

The Research and Development (R&D) Culinologist will support fuzzy front-end R&D with a blend of culinary arts, food science, and manufacturing experience. Will actively participate and support activities of the Innovation Quality R&D group, drive innovation and differentiation for Exclusive (Private) Brand Products in conjunction with Product Development. Will execute objectives and Innovation & Quality (IQ) processes in order to ensure full alignment with WFM Brand & Quality Standards. Supports Exclusive Brand product ideation, scoping, culinary development, prototyping, sensory evaluation, consumer validation, business case, and technical requirements

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Supports the Innovation & Quality (IQ) team and Exclusive Brands (EB) by participating in the identification, conceptualization, and design of new products that will help to differentiate the brand and contribute to growth of the business in assigned projects or categories.
  • Support or lead assigned projects in research & development activities across multiple product categories including trend mapping/insights, scoping, vendor bench top/pilot plant prototypes, and coordination of aspects including, and not limited to: sensory testing, consumer insights/validation, and required documentation.
  • Act as the liaison support between ingredient vendor partners and IQ Product Developers on assigned projects, from concept through final formulation.
  • Support and make suggestions to improve the “Fuzzy Front End” R&D process including new products, product improvements, and gross margin improvements; encompassing product formulation and packaging innovations
  • Support team to evaluate vendor-proposed product samples using sensory analysis and reviews of related ingredient/product specifications for new and existing food ingredients/products in conjunction with the IQ Product Developer in the assigned category.
  • Co-establish and support the management of a rolling pipeline of feasible Exclusive Brands product ideas/prototypes and co-present to team and key stakeholders.
  • Supports, participates, and may lead ideation sessions and ongoing development efforts with ingredient and primary vendor partners.
  • Supports, participates, and may lead culinary activities (kitchen recipe development, gold standard profiling, etc.) in the Innovation Kitchen or at vendor partners’ facilities.
  • May collaborate with 3rd party culinary / product/packaging development consultants as necessary to expedite ideation, concepts, and prototypes.
  • Continually seek to identify and support the execution of renovation opportunities, sometimes in conjunction with suppliers and/or EB Procurement, to reduce overall costs or improve quality of products in assigned projects or categories.
  • May support and collaborate with Product Developer on assigned projects, the team feedback, sensory guidance and technical direction between Consumer Insights, Global Support EB Sensory Program, and the Product Vendor and/or other external technical resources at Pre-RFP stages.
  • Identify unique product attributes and benefits to achieve brand differentiation related to seasonal promotions, LTOs, key business shifts, and new product concepts in assigned categories
  • Coordinate specialized ingredient vendor education sessions with IQ and EB Buyers.
  • Travel, to and from vendor partner facilities (ideations, collaborations, vendor prototypes), trade shows, and will require overnight stays. Approximately up to 25% travel.

Experience Preferred or Required

  • Bachelors of Food Science or Culinary Arts certification/degree required.
  • 2 years of professional work experience required; 4 years preferred.
  • Experience in retail, culinary/foodservice, and food manufacturing environment, strongly preferred.
  • Working knowledge of product development, manufacturing and commercialization of food.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of culinary techniques, kitchen operation, food handling, and HACCP procedures.
  • Knowledge of food labeling and FDA/USDA regulations is helpful, familiarity to WFM Quality Standards.
  • Experience in building and nurturing brands; private brand management a plus.
  • Strong interpersonal skills and successful experience working in or on a collaborative team-based environment.
  • Must possess the ability to manage multiple projects and priorities and deliver against rapid development timelines.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft-based applications, including Adobe, Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint is required.


This job description in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to be performed by the employee(s) in this position. Employee(s) will be required to follow any other job-related instructions and to perform any other job-related duties requested by any person authorized to give instructions or assignments.

All duties and responsibilities are essential functions and requirements and are subject to possible modification to reasonably accommodate business needs. To perform this job successfully, the incumbents will possess the skills, aptitudes, and abilities to perform each duty proficiently. The requirements listed in this document are the minimum levels of knowledge, skills or abilities.

At Whole Foods Market we provide a fair and equal employment opportunity for all team members and candidates regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, or disability. Whole Foods Market hires and promotes individuals solely on the basis of their qualifications for the position to be filled.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.