"I’m proud to connect different worlds"
"Working at Brenntag Vietnam as a Senior Lab Technician in the Food Application Center in Ho Chi Minh City, I help to ensure dairy products are accessible to all regions of the country.
When I was a child, milk was a luxury in rural Vietnam. Due to the warm climate and long distances, it’s difficult to ensure an uninterrupted cooling chain. I’m proud to be involved in solving this problem by exposing dairy products to ultra-high temperature processing and thereby extending their shelf life by up to eight months.
Using ingredients from various suppliers, we develop new solutions for our customers’ products. That is our understanding of ConnectingChemistry."
Knowing the rapidly developing food market in Vietnam and the needs of suppliers and customers is essential for the work of Nguyen Thuy Diem Phuong as Senior Lab Technician at Brenntag Vietnam. With its Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pilot plant Brenntag Vietnam is at the forefront of the rapidly developing dairy market in the country. In this interview Phuong explains how she successfully connects suppliers and customers in the dairy business, thereby adding an enormous value to the supply chain.
I was always interested in food and its preparation which was influenced by the noodle shop my mother had in front of our house. Back then I watched and helped her prepare the noodles. Nowadays I enjoy preparing them for my two daughters. This interest for food led me to the decision of studying Food chemistry, which was the right choice for my career and also for my private life as I met my husband during this time.
I joined the company as a technician for the savory lab and after two years moved to the sweets lab. Last year I was promoted to Senior Lab Technician and I’m now focusing especially on the yogurt business. When I joined Brenntag I noticed the dynamic and fast-paced working atmosphere which was different from my previous job. I liked the fact that I was learning many things and was able to expand my knowledge and experience quickly.
I’m responsible for technical projects with yogurts, like stirred yoghurt, set yoghurt, Greek yoghurt or ESL (extended shelf life) yoghurt as well as beverages. As a Senior Lab Technician I prepare formulations and product prototypes, evaluate the results and meet the sales team to discuss about product performances and recommendations towards the customer.
On a typical day, I work on one to two product prototypes, but on a very busy day I can work on up to six, provided the formulations are not complicated. Sometimes I join the Sales team at customer visits. That way I receive direct feedback about the performance of the product and can be quicker in setting up new tests and adjusting the formulation.
Last year, I supported our customer developing a formula for drinking yoghurt. I utilized the UHT pilot plant to run it to identify the suitable stabilizer, color, and flavor. Our business with the customer increased thanks to two new ingredients used in the newly created formulation.
Foreseeing the growing demand of UHT products in Vietnam, Brenntag Vietnam invested in an UHT pilot plant as the first company in the country in 2014. The UHT technology enables us to provide more value added services to both customers and suppliers by reducing the product development and innovation time with pilot trials prior to full production. Before customers had to travel for instance to Singapore to test their products in small batch sizes.
Since we have the UHT pilot plant customers come to our lab and utilize the system to test small batch sizes of new formulations. This saves them money and time which was especially important considering the rapid development of the dairy market and the need of UHT products. Customers can test many options at once and can then come up with the final end product. We support them in developing recipes or they use the machine on their own to run trials.
The UHT treatment is a technique for reserving liquid food products by exposing them to brief, intense heating, normally to temperatures in the range of 135-140°C. The heat destroys micro-organisms and gives products a long shelf-life of six to eight months without the need to cool the product. This is important as in Vietnam especially when delivering to rural areas the cooling chain is not self-evident. The UHT pilot plant at Brenntag Vietnam is suitable for dairy products such as fresh milk, recombined milk, fermented milk drinks, formulated dairy products as well as other applications such as juice, soy milk, tea and coffee.
The UHT pilot plant is a system that imitates the actual UHT system at the factories. With the UHT pilot plant, we can run small batch size. That is min. 7kg/batch vs. min 10ton/batch of the actual UHT system (depending on factories). Customers can utilize our UHT pilot plant to test formulae and processes with small batch size as soon as they request. This way they save the cost of raw materials, production as well as time. The performance of the products at the pilot plant and the actual plant are almost the same. So, we can exactly evaluate trial samples.
For me, ConnectingChemistry is about the relationships I have with other teams or departments at Brenntag in which everyone is connected or interlinked like a chain. Just like the DNA! It is the way I work with the sales teams and customers for whom I provide technical expertise and also to suppliers whose products I test and develop formulations. I feel like a link between the supplier and the customer.
Ho Chi Minh City
She has been married to her husband for 13 years. They have two daughters who are 9 and 11 years old.
Phuong studied Food Chemistry at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology for 4.5 years. That was where she also met her husband who was studying Chemistry with focus on industrial and machinery.
Prior to Brenntag, Phuong worked in a local soy sauce company in the savory lab. For two years she was a stay-home mom and had her 2nd child.
A friend recommended her to apply for Brenntag which she knew little about, and she submitted her CV. She joined the company in 2010 as a technician for the savory lab. After two years, she moved to the sweets lab, which encompasses beverage, confectionery, dairy, and functional foods. In 2016 she got promoted to Senior Lab Technician.
Her interest for food and preparation was influenced by her mother who she watched and helped preparing noodles for customers at their small noodle shop in front of their house. Being the eldest child, she helped a lot around the house and also helped take care of her three younger brothers and one younger sister.
In her free time, Phuong likes to watch television – either movies or comedy shows. She also likes to go shopping with her husband and children on the weekends and visit her parents who live not too far from their house. During long holidays or vacations, she and her family like to head to the beach.
Phuong prefers milk coffee in the Vietnamese way.