The man behind the sauce

01/06/2009 - 00:00
Richard van Donkelaar, research and development manager of Heinz, shares his secrets to creating the nation's favourite sauces…

Where do you find inspiration for new products? All around me. Inspiration can come from just above anywhere – popular culture, the internet, day-to-day life. We observe and respond to current trends in dining and shopping – especially taking into consideration how and where people are spending money. How do you go about creating a new sauce? Once we have a new idea for a sauce, we work with a team of chefs who help us experiment with ingredients and create a recipe that we refer to as the 'gold standard' – we see this as our culinary benchmark. Once the recipe is ready, we create a sample batch which is tested by consumers. We then use their feedback to perfect the recipe. How would you define the British sauce consumer? Traditional, but very daring and eager to try something new. We consider them to be 'the gateway to the rest of Europe in terms of R&D. Do tastes vary from region to region and country to country? Enormously – taste can conjure up many emotions with familiar flavours reminding us of the tasty foods we've grown up with. This is something we always take into account when developing new products. What do you enjoy the most about your job? I love that we're always being challenged in our roles in R&D. We're continually questioning ourselves to ensure we're improving on our previous achievements and perfecting the products and tastes that best suit the consumer. What are the most bizarre ingredients or products you have worked with? I actually think tomatoes are the most bizarre ingredient I work with. In spite of working so closely with them, there are over 500 varieties in total and I am still taken aback with how complex they are as an ingredient. They're on par with olive oil and wine. Finally, what's your favourite Heinz Sauce, and what do you like to eat it with? I'm a big fan of accompanying canapés with Heinz Tomato Ketchup. I also love the new Heinz Deli Mayo range and a real favourite is a grilled chicken sandwich with the Tikka variety.

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