Meet Srdjan Solaja – food engineer with extra everything
Columns • He is a man with many hats. Srdjan Solaja is our sales and quality manager working from Serbia. But he is never far away. Srdjan is our expert in product development, quality and logistics. That’s why we consult him countless times a day. He is a food engineer with a vast knowledge of, and passion for, the food industry. And he is one of our heroes.
Our heroes. That is what we call our colleagues, who work with research and development of our sweetened fibres. It is their knowledge, experience and diligent work that makes Bayn the leading supplier of sweetened fibres. And these people are the ones that help you choose the right sweetened fibres, and fine-tune the composition for your application, or create your own solution for sugar reduction. Although they are heroes, they are rarely seen and heard. We should remedy that. In a series of articles, you get to meet our heroes.
Srdjan Solaja is a name that is constantly buzzing in Bayn. If we need a speaking partner regarding development, quality or logistics, yes, then we consult Srdjan.
Srdjan Solaja was recruited to Bayn Solutions in 2015. His broad background in the food industry made him an obvious choice. Then there was something about the chemistry too – the personal, that is. It said ‘click’ between Srdjan and Bayn’s research and development team, and the rest is, as it’s called history.
But this is a distance relationship. Srdjan lives and works in Novi Sad in Serbia. The distance to the head office in Stockholm is 1,570 km. And the distance to our innovation centre in Gävle adds another 170 km.
Srdjan regularly travels to Sweden, but daily contacts are made by telephone. At least a dozen times a day.
Meet Srdjan Solaja – one of Bayn’s heroes.
What background do you have?
I am a food engineer. I studied at the faculty of technology at Novi Sad University in Serbia a master of science with major in food preservation – everything from vegetable oils and fats, meats and dairy products to fruits and vegetables.
Why did you choose the academic path?
I’ve always been interested in natural science.
My main interest was chemistry, but finding a job as a chemist was hard. The only alternative would have been to work as a chemistry teacher. But I had a hard time seeing myself in that role. So that’s why I chose food science – an area where things are happening all the time.
In the food area, there is a constant pursuit of learning new things and developing food technology. And you have to work methodically, analytically and also be creative.
After studying, I worked at a biscuit factory for a few years before I started working with sales.
How did you get in touch with Bayn?
I worked with raw materials and special ingredients at Barentz, a major international distributor of ingredients, when Lucy Dahlgren and Suzanne Preddie-Atterby from Bayn came on a customer visit. I was the one who welcomed them and showed them around. We liked each other.
Both of them had a nice energy, worked with steviol glycosides and wanted to expand their business. And I think they noticed that I was passionate about the food industry; the more I worked with ingredients, the more interested I became. I also enjoy making people in the food industry thrilled about new ingredients and to inspire them to test new things. At that time, I was very interested in hydrocolloids, which are used in foods, because they really do miracles.
I was also quite successful as a salesman and could see myself in such a position.
What happened then?
When Lucy heard that I had left Barentz, she contacted me and offered me a job. I had the basic knowledge about steviol glycosides, did my own research and accepted the offer to work for Bayn.
What role did you initially play?
I started as a customer manager and worked a lot with sales. Afterwards, I got more roles. Before Bayn, I had many different functions. In short, I had the industrial knowledge combined with commercial experience. I understand both salespeople and technical people. All of this has shaped my role at Bayn.
At Bayn, you are known as the ‘man with many hats’. How is it that?
I am responsible for sales and logistics, as well as quality management.
With the sales hat on, I work with distributors and provide technical support for the products we sell.
In the role of quality manager, I make sure that all of the company’s products and services meet quality standards before they enter the market. It also includes understanding customers’ expectations and needs, describing quality standards and developing processes for quality control.
Is it possible to describe your daily work?
It’s quite complex. I start the day with the sales process, follow up on ongoing projects, send offers and close agreements. There are always new leads and inquiries that I take care of.
Quality control is also part of my daily activities, as well as documentation on sales and food safety. This is why I have contact with my colleagues in Sweden up to a dozen times a day.
We have outsourced the production of Eureba, and one of the most important tasks I handle is to organize the logistics, ensure that the production is following food safety standards, and to make sure everything is done according to plan, in collaboration with our partners.
How is your view of the food industry today?
There is a constant need to improve the foods we eat and to succeed, we need knowledge of food science. We see that people are becoming more sensitive to certain ingredients and foods. People are also more aware of what they eat and drink. The food industry has always followed consumer demands, and right now, everything points to the fact that consumers want to reduce their intake of sugar. That’s the right way to go. And that’s the way Bayn is taking.
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