Columns • Torbjörn Schelin is our product developer in the beverage area. Like many others at Bayn, Torbjörn has a background in natural science, but Torbjörn is also a food person. Over the years he has started a brewery, worked as a sommelier, restaurant manager and attended a variety of educations – from biology to brewing technology. But there has always been a theme in Torbjörn's life – the passion for food and beverages.
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 fibre. And these people are the ones that help you choose the right sweetened fibre and fine-tune the composition of 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.
Torbjörn has always been interested in the field of natural science and has cultivated a burning interest in food and especially beverages. This interest has taken on different expressions during Torbjörn’s life. Brewery and beverage skills have been intertwined with work as a sommelier, bartender and head waiter. But Torbjörn is also a trained biologist. This swirling knowledge journey has brought him to Bayn where he today has an evident role as a product developer in the beverage area.
Natural science is a broad spectrum – why did you start studying biology?
I got an environmental commitment early from my parents. They both had a background in natural science, my father as a chemist and my mother as a biologist. My parents had a strong interest in animals and nature, and not least the need to take care of the globe we all sit on.
After high school, it was off to Borlänge to attend the natural science foundation year. After that, I started studying electrical engineering but dropped out after the first semester. It wasn’t my cup of tea.
Instead, I went to Uppsala to become a biologist. Then I took the opportunity to immerse myself in botany. It seemed like a natural step given my interest in nature and the environment. It was an amazing time with wonderful student life as one would expect a university city like Uppsala to offer.
What happened after the biology studies?
The study period did not end. It was a little back and forth. I headed off to England to study winemaking in Brighton for two years. Wine production is very close to biology. Therefore, it seemed natural to attend a two-year education that was available at the time.
What happened then?
Back from Brighton, I learned about beverage knowledge at Måltidens hus in Grythyttan – the school that came into being thanks to Adjunct Professor and famous Swedish gourmand Carl Jan Granqvist.
During the year in Grythyttan, I immersed myself in the overall meal experience and the interaction between food and beverages. It was a nice time in Grythyttan, although a little sheltered.
You’ve also done some brewing?
My interest and focus have always switched between beer and wine. I have a great interest in alcoholic beverages in general. But after studying in Grythyttan, I wanted to deepen my beer knowledge and learn more about how it is produced. There was no return; I had to learn more about brewing technology.
Despite eight years of study, it was difficult to get a job. That’s why I founded Sandbacka Brewery. It was all or nothing. When our Imperial Stout received a medal at the Stockholm beer and whisky festival, it felt great. It really was a recognition.
But you also have solid experience from the restaurant industry?
I have been around a few restaurants and done most things on the serving side. I have worked as a bartender, head waiter, restaurant manager, but I have also got an outlet for my wine interest when I worked as a sommelier.
It is often tough working in the restaurant industry, and eventually, I got tired of rarely being vacant during the weekends. My social life was suffering. But I can sometimes miss the interaction with the guests and the end consumer. It was very stimulating to talk about food and beverages and really dig into it. It represented another dimension of restaurant life.
Do you have any favourite district when it comes to wine?
Very often I return to Californian wines. California has a wide variety of wines and they consistently maintain high quality. There is a theme of less sharp acid and fruitiness which I think harmonizes very well with food. But I can also get lyrical by a really good Riesling from Germany.
When did you become interested in sugar reduction?
It was at the same time when I started at Bayn and got into the subject. I had no direct experience of sugar reduction since before, but my interest grew as I learned more about it.
Is there a parallel between alcoholic beverages and sugar reduction?
Yes, in some way there is. It is not always the case that high-quality alcoholic beverages receive the attention they deserve. This is very obvious in the beer industry. But I experience the same thing in sugar reduction. There are very good products that do not get as much recognition as they deserve. In addition, there is a great potential for development, both in alcoholic and non-sugar beverages.
Are there any particular types of beverages that you see potential in sugar reduction using Bayn’s products?
Oh! After all, there is a lot of sugar in almost all beverages. Not least in soda. There is so much you can do. I work with soft drinks, juices and lemonades – yes, sugary drinks in general. But also niche products as slush consisting of crushed ice.
What happens on a typical workday?
It varies quite a lot. At our studio in Gävle, everything is close at hand. There is desk work as well as practical lab work. When it comes to sugar reduction of beverages, it is rarely enough to replace sugar with steviol glycosides; sugar contributes more than just sweetness. For example, one must consider the balance between sweetness and acidity and the body that the sugar gives to the beverage. The work in the lab is largely about trying out new things and experimenting. Of course, you make qualified guesses when you work, but you can never be sure of the outcome.
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