Science and math were always in Robin Vogel’s periphery.
She had an uncle who worked for Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and he invited Vogel and her family to visit. As a junior in high school, she fell in love with math. And around the same time, Vogel’s mother had a cousin who was studying biomedical engineering, prompting Vogel’s parents to encourage her to pursue an engineering path.
Even with those influences, Vogel, now v.p. of procurement at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, said she would’ve liked more guidance as she mapped out her career.
“The problem-solving skills I learned have helped me no matter what role or job I landed in,” she said. “While it worked out in the end, looking back, I do wish I had more exposure and structure in helping me make my decision.”
Vogel and members of other Mars divisions will have a chance to offer such information and guidance to thousands of students, teachers and families attending the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. this weekend (April 7-8).
This is the first year Mars Wrigley Confectionery is participating — the Mars Symbioscience Team took part last year — and it’ll be joined by Banfield Pet Hospital, Wisdom Health, WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and Mars Food.
“This festival is a great place to share our message and help cultivate the next generation of scientists, researchers and innovators who play such a critical part in the future of our lives, food and planet,” Vogel said. “And in particular, it allows Mars to focus on addressing gaps in recruiting more women into innovation roles. We know that by increasing gender diversity in our supply chain and across our business, we’re opening the doors to even more candidates for roles at Mars.”
Vogel also pointed to Mars, Inc.’s Sustainable in a Generation plan, which will require science and innovation to help solve social, environmental and technological issues such as climate change, resource scarcity and poverty.
“Events like the USA Science & Engineering Festival give us the opportunity to not only inspire the next generation of leaders, but educate them on how the world is changing — from the way we source, manufacture and distribute products to the availability of resources that go into them — and how they can play a role in fixing the social and environmental issues facing society,” she said.
The Mars booth will include showcases from all participating divisions, with topics ranging from animal genetics and health, to developing confectionery flavors, and sustainable sourcing for rice and cocoa.
More specifically, Mars Wrigley Confectionery will have representation from its Flavor Science, Cocoa & Plant Science and Chocolate Science teams. The flavor science team will offer a behind-the-scenes look into the more than 1,200 flavors in Mars Wrigley’s chewing gum, mints, chocolate and candy. Visitors will also learn about a day in the life of a flavor scientist and will take students on mint’s journey from plant to product by mapping out different steps in the mint sourcing and flavor process.
The cocoa and plant science teams will focus on the sustainability of cocoa and how it grows, survives and thrives. Students will also learn the history of chocolate, as well as have the opportunity to see and feel a cacao tree and pods. The chocolate science team will offer visitors the chance to see, experience and taste chocolate science by trying coarse and fine chocolate nibs and taking a peek under a microscope to see what exactly they are tasting.
“At Mars, we have the freedom to think in terms of generations — not quarters — and we work to make our own business more sustainable so we can advance better lives, better food and a better planet,” Vogel said. “We are excited to leverage this festival to inspire and inform today’s youth about the opportunities available to them in the STEM fields.”
As Vogel notes, it’s absolutely necessary to a take a long-term approach to ensuring the survival of the candy industry, through both ingredient sustainability and outreach among young people. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to retire, it’s important to make sure our companies and supply chains have a strong foundation — and smart, capable leadership — for years to come.