Meet Kate Sykes, Product Development Scientist at Ferrara

What’s a huge perk of being an R&D scientist developing a new Girl Scout Cookie™? According to Kate Sykes, “You get to eat cookies all day!”

Although sampling delicious cookies is a bonus, she says she’s equally excited to get into the intensive research and exploration that goes into bringing a new Girl Scout Cookie to market. As a product development scientist, Kate focuses on innovation on a molecular level. By creating formulas, analyzing data and evaluating recipes, she helps meet Little Brownie’s high standards of food quality and safety.

And the end product? A delicious new Girl Scout Cookie that customers can’t wait to try.

The science behind Adventurefuls Girl Scout Cookies®
The vision was clear from the beginning: Girl Scouts® and Little Brownie Bakers® would work together to create an indulgent caramel brownie-inspired cookie. Kate and her team set out with a goal to bring the vision to life.

“Our aim was for the customers to have a multi-textured, multi-flavored experience. Kind of like they’re going on an adventure while they’re eating,” she says with a smile.

She and her team took the product from the concepting stage to the lab, where they developed formulas for the main flavors. After the lab work, they ran small-scale pilot lines of about 100 pounds at a time and tested the results — all in lockstep with Girl Scouts.

“We tasted so many different brownie products and recipes to find the right flavor for the base of the cookie,” she recalls. “There was a lot of back and forth with the team with questions like ‘Is this brownie enough?’ and ‘Would a consumer think this is representative of a brownie in the market?’ That last question really drove our decision.”

Once they perfected the brownie recipe, it was all about finding the caramel that paired best with it.

“I must have tasted a dozen different caramels,” she adds. “That was the key: We wanted to get the best combination of flavors. That’s what we wanted the cookie to deliver.”

For the love of science — and Girl Scout Cookies
Kate has had plenty of experience developing products for iconic brands. Originally from the U.K., she earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Leeds. She took her talents to a major beverage brand and a global food brand before coming to Ferrara.

In her experience, being a food scientist offers a unique mix of opportunities.

“I would say it’s the perfect blend between creativity and science,” she says. “There are many different areas you can work in, focusing on the chemical or biological reactions between ingredients and foods.”

The variety of the work is her favorite part of her role, and this is what she thinks girls considering a STEM path might love the most.

“Every day is different,” she says. “You could be in the lab one day developing recipes and being really creative, and the next day you could be learning about different technologies and techniques. The day after that, you could be in a factory for a test to produce cookies at scale. You interact with loads of different people, you lead projects, and there’s a lot of problem-solving and analysis.”

As a former Girl Guide — the name for Girl Scouts in the U.K. — the most rewarding part of the process for her was developing a cookie that encourages and supports girl leaders.

She, of course, also has an all-time favorite Girl Scout Cookie — Thin Mints®. But like all of us, she’s looking forward to next season when she can buy Adventurefuls from girls themselves.

“I can’t wait until next year when I start to see Girl Scout Cookie booths and girls ask me, ‘Do you want to buy some Adventurefuls?’ It’s going to be an amazing feeling.”