Play with Your Food and Invest in People
Alumna Erica B. Hanchey’s advice for a fulfilling career and life.
“Plays well with food” isn’t officially on Erica B. Hanchey’s resume, but it should be. A food scientist with a penchant for mentoring and giving back, Hanchey earned her bachelor’s degree in food science from North Carolina State University in 2001 and has been playing with food ever since. The other tenet she learned at NC State: it’s worth it to invest in people and education.
“I grew up a Wolfpacker and food science was a big part of my family culture,” says Hanchey who now lives in Texas and works to develop food products for a major grocery store chain there. “My aunt Beth Turner worked in a lab in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science (FBNS) and my uncle Lynn Turner, was a professor of food science, and director of undergraduate studies, so it was only natural that I ended up at NC State for graduate school.”
She combined her passion for biology and chemistry in her food science degree, working in NC State Fisheries Lab and Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. During her work in the labs, she became torn about continuing with a career in academics or going into the industry side of food science.
“I have a very strong passion for teaching and mentoring others. It was a hard decision for me to make, but I ultimately decided that if I’m going to teach anyone or mentor anyone, I need to know what it’s like to work in the industry,” Hanchey says.
After interviewing with several consumer product goods companies around the United States, she ultimately accepted a position with Frito Lay in Texas.
“The FBNS professors and the staff members were very encouraging about finding your way and finding your path. They instilled in me to go into industry, make my mark by leveraging my studies, knowledge and leadership skills. That’s what I’ve enjoyed doing the most,” Hanchey says.
Those skills now translate into her role at H-E-B grocery store as a manager of product development.
“I get to play with food everyday,” she laughs. “I apply food science, chemistry, biology, engineering, manufacturing–all the principles of my degree–to develop products for their store portfolio.”
In addition, she collaborates with local area schools to give presentations, lead field trips and is very involved in her community. She also regularly gives back to NC State in myriad ways.
“The individuals I interacted with when I was at NC State really instilled in me the importance of education being a cornerstone to giving back to others,” Hanchey says. “And so I believe in giving financially, giving time, giving mentorship and giving within the community in any way that it’s needed. That was part of my upbringing, but it was validated in my time at NC State. I want to give forward as long as I’m able.”