Q&A with Lorin Debonte, winner of the Edible Applications Technology Division Outstanding Achievement
A brief bio: Lorin Debonte is the leader of the global Food Service Oils Category R&D team in Cargill’s Global Edible Oil Solutions business. He is passionate about combining health and functional oil solutions to meet the demands of today’s restaurant operations and food complexity. Lorin leads the global R&D team in bringing deep-frying and food expertise to customers supporting the optimization of their frying systems and the introduction of new products.
Over a 25-year career at Cargill, he contributed to establishing the high oleic canola oil genetics and production base to deliver high stability frying formulations without trans fats in North America, Australia, and China. Lorin was a key developer in high oleic and low saturate oils frying oils, and omega-3 canola oils into the market. Since 1990, he has been a contributor to more than 21 patent families with over 100 patents in oils, seeds and genetics. In 2018, Lorin was named Cargill Corporate Fellow, which is the most prestigious technical designation that a Cargill R&D employee can receive.
Lorin earned a B.S. degree from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, and a Ph.D. in Botany from Miami University in Ohio. Following post-doctoral work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined DNA Plant Technology in 1986, Lorin went to work on the nutritional improvement of plant oils for the consumer market. He was also a founding member of InterMountain Canola in 1991, which lead to the introduction of canola based high stability frying and ingredient oils to the market.
1) How did it feel to win the Edible Applications Technology Division Outstanding Achievement Award?
I could not believe it! Over the years, I have watched outstanding colleagues receive this recognition. Their contributions to our core understanding of oil chemistry have demonstrated their leadership in the EAT Division. To be counted among them is truly an honor. My career in the food industry seems like it started just yesterday when we were creating high oleic oils. Reflecting over the years, I felt overwhelming joy in what the teams I have been part of accomplished.
2) How did you get started in the field that you are studying or working in?
I always enjoyed the study of plant biology and wanted to harness the power of plant genetics to bring healthier food solutions to the world. Joining DNA Plant Technology in the late 1980’s I found the path forward with visionaries in food science that shared my passion. After landing in Cargill, the commercial opportunity was clear for high oleic oil solutions on a global scale.
3) Can you tell us about your current research?
We are developing functional oil solutions around the globe to meet the demands of restaurant operations, food complexity and nutrition. The new commercial introduction of high oleic low saturated canola oils provides new development opportunities to solve the demands of consumer health and food performance. Connecting the kitchen operations back to breeding and the field is driving the next generation low saturate products building on the performance need we are seeing. We are looking at the future of frying and how oil formulations will need to evolve to deliver functionality.
4) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study or your career?
There have been many ups and downs in my career. A challenge was how to adapt from an entrepreneurial mindset to creating commercial value in a large commercial company that was focused on commodities. Securing long-term commercial commitment and investment in new seed and oil products to the world such as high oleic low linolenic, very high oleics, low saturate high stability frying, and the new Omega-3 oils during a 10-year R&D vision was challenging. Turning science into commercial value does not come easily.
5) What advice can you share on how you have achieved success thus far in your career, whether that be entering a graduate program or a lengthy career in a prestigious position?
a. You must stay true to your passion keeping the focus on key opportunities ahead. Put your whole heart and mind into it, make it happen.
b. Reinvent yourself by pushing new boundaries that drive what is next. Continue an active learning journey in your life.
c. Make the time to develop the people around you for their career success.
d. Be part of great teams as no one can accomplish great things alone.
e. Seek honest feedback and do something with it.
f. Build internal and external networks that you can rely on for support and guidance.
g. In your product development stay focused on the real consumer need.
h. In the business world, communicate as a businessperson, not as a scientist.
6) How has AOCS helped you in your career?
AOCS is a foundational pillar in my career success. It is a community of knowledge that is indispensable for learning and exploring new ideas. The journals provide real science that we discuss and learn. As a global leader in Foodservice oils at Cargill, the global connection to other oil scientists is extremely valuable. The AOCS annual meetings have been a place to bring people together to share ideas and build external technical opportunities. This fuels the innovation pipeline in your work.