Product improvement and development, customer service and quality control are all part of Bembenick’s job at Endangered Species Chocolate. But all that work is about more than making chocolate; it’s about trying to generate $1 million in annual donations to conservation causes. “What can be more inspiring,” she said, “than knowing each day everyone you are surrounded with has the same goal in mind?”
Getting here: The summer before her senior year at Purdue, Bembenick interned with Gatorade and was tapped for a position with Frito-Lay. After graduation, as the third-shift corn-processing manager, she was responsible for seven production lines, 12 employees and more than 140,000 pounds of chips per shift. Her passion for research, though, led her back to food science. At Sensient Flavors, she worked with Hershey, Pepperidge Farm and others to conceptualize and execute products that would then be tested for viability. When Sensient announced its move to Chicago, Endangered Species CEO Curt Vander Meer asked her to stay in Indianapolis for its newly created research and development manager position. In 2016, she was asked to join the company’s senior leadership team.
Major achievements: Bembenick named three. 1) Launching the first new major product line at ESC since its original three bars were developed. Brand growth increased 33 percent that year. 2) Launching the first new product under the company’s consumer research program, which contributed more than $3.5 million in revenue to the company in 2018. 3) The upcoming launch of ESC Duoz, a two-flavor chocolate bar which, she said, will be the most vetted and consumer-backed item launch in the company’s history.
Givebacks: Bembenick is an active member of the Purdue Alumni Association, providing career development and mentoring services to students of the food science department. She also serves as a volunteer leader of the Industry Working Group Councils for the Specialty Food Association and is a member of Centric Indiana.
Downtime: indoor cycling, yoga and “hitting up farmers markets”•
Check out more 2019 Forty Under 40 honorees.