Leanne Blommaert ’94 used her Brescia education as a spring board to her dream job
Written by: Pat Morden
“I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to influence what people eat. I can go into a restaurant anywhere in Canada and say, ‘Wow, I had a hand in making that!’ That makes me feel really good.”
That’s Leanne Blommaert, ’96, talking about her job as Senior Research Technologist with Campbell Company of Canada.
Blommaert grew up in the small town of Delhi, Ontario, surrounded by farmland. “I got my first work experience doing really dirty jobs on farms.” Her parents had a two-acre garden, and Blommaert loved cooking with the fresh produce.
When it came time for university, she followed in her sister’s footsteps to Brescia. “It was a community, and coming from a small town that’s what I needed,” she says. “The residence experience was great and the faculty was very approachable.”
After a general first year, she realized she had to choose a major. She considered many possibilities, but in the end decided to try Foods and Nutrition program for one year. “I liked the idea of wearing a white coat and working in a hospital,” she says with a laugh. The moment she stepped into the food lab, she knew she had made the right decision.
In addition to the academic learning, Blommaert says her time at Brescia helped her life skills she still uses. “I got comfortable speaking up with my own opinion and I learned that it was okay to have a different opinion from everyone else,” she says. “I also learned how to really listen.”
When she graduated, Blommaert took a temporary job in quality assurance with Good Humour Breyers. It was there that she first got interested in food research and development. “My degree got me in the door,” she says. “I knew I didn’t have the experience for R&D right away, but I did have hands-on experience in food and chemistry labs. It wasn’t too hard to take it from there.”
Next she worked at Richardson Foods Limited, a maker of wet sauces and salad dressings. “My family was very disappointed – they like ice cream better than salad dressing!” Her role was quality assurance, and this time she worked right on the plant floor, testing and adjusting batches to ensure consistency. Then it was off to Cuddy Foods, a turkey processor, where she started off in quality assurance but eventually moved into an R&D role. Her work involved helping to develop private label products for stores like Loblaw.
Since 2002, Blommaert has worked at Campbell Company of Canada. Blommaert’s focus is on the Food Service division, working with some of Canada’s largest food service companies to develop soups and entrees. A specialized healthcare line includes texture-modified and low-fat, low sodium options.
Blommaert does her best to encourage commercial clients to offer better nutrition. “We gently influence,” she says. “I’m pretty passionate about that. If someone is launching a soup, it doesn’t need to have 1300 mg of sodium in it. I’m doing my part to bring down the amount of salt and still make really good food.”
Blommaert and her husband live on a one-acre property north of Burlington — what she calls her “country in the city.” Despite vowing as a child to ‘someday buy my food at a grocery store,’ she has a large garden, and cans, preserves or freezes whatever she can.
Although she enjoys the strategic aspect of her work, Blommaert has no interest in moving from the frontlines to the board room. “I don’t want to step away from getting my hands dirty,” she says. “I have no desire to wear high heels every day – I’m comfortable in a lab coat and safety shoes!”
Her advice to recent and soon-to-be Brescia graduates? “If you want it, go after it, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Make the plan, work the plan, and it will happen.”