Alumni Spotlight - Anthony Criezis, Class of 2005
The first time Anthony Criezis walked into an Evanston, Illinois grocery store and saw a package of Natural Sharp Cheddar Cheese Crumbles in the refrigerated dairy section, he was more than a little excited.
"It was a great experience," he says, looking back. "There is a lot of pride and excitement to see a product you've worked on with a team, that consumers can purchase and enjoy, and that supports our company."
In 2005, with bachelor's degree in hand, Criezis joined Kraft Foods, Inc. in Glenview IL. As an engineer in their natural cheese division, Creizis' main focus included the company's 2% Reduced Fat Mexican Crumbles blend and their 2% Reduced Fat Italian Shreds blend.
"I was able to work on products from the time they were concepts being bounced around between marketing and R&D through to the product launches," he says explaining a process that includes prototype development, internal "showings," external consumer tests, manufacturer negotiations, and a national marketing campaign. "We are the experts with the product itself. We can make any changes so that consumers get exactly what they're looking for while the products mesh with the direction marketing wants to go."
In August 2007, Criezis was promoted and moved up from the Natural Cheese group to its parent category, Cheese and Dairy. "This includes cream, cottage, process, sour cream…" he says, easily rattling off a long list. "I now have true project ownership, more responsibility through the different stages of development, and work on projects that can be of a larger financial impact."
What makes Criezis' job so unique is that it requires both technical engineering skills and a keen sense of business and marketing know-how. "In this business, the constant goal is finding a niche or opportunity to be successful and create a product that can fill that need."
"What I really like about working in the food industry is the opportunity to work on a project that can be launched fairly quickly which consumers can enjoy – the idea of working on concepts that can make it to fruition."
And those that don't? Criezis has an equally optimistic attitude. "It can be disappointing to work on a great idea and not see it launch. But, the reassuring thing is that you get to feel that you worked on a good product and it just wasn't the right time or market. And, eventually, those products might be launched when the consumer market has shifted."
"Even though I don't do direct chemical engineering, I use the principles I learned as an undergraduate," he says. "Problem solving, scaling up, mass balances and risk analysis. Learning on the fly and being able to learn quickly. Those are things I learned at Hopkins."