The people behind the products: Meet David Hosking, Fermentation Manager, Felixstowe Yeast plant, U.K
David oversees selenium yeast fermentation (ALKOSEL) as well as specialty yeast strains for winemaking, distillery, and baking.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is David Hosking. I have been working for Lallemand since 2018. I joined the Felixstowe yeast production site as a process engineer. I was then looking at how to improve the production of specialty yeast strains, such as ALKOSEL. In late 2018, I moved to the fermentation manager role. I now look after the direct production of all of our specialty yeasts at the Felixstowe plant, which includes ALKOSEL. We serve quite a wide range of customers in different markets, but the selenium yeast represents a significant part of what we do here.
How did you come to work in yeast production?
I used to be a brewer. I studied engineering at university, then went into brewing and beer making. For me, this was really focused on the biological side of brewing, and how the yeast grows. Brewers take the malted barley — and through enzymatic action — make a kind of sugary medium that we feed to the yeast, and the yeast grow. It’s important to control this process. After four years in the brewing business, I had the opportunity to join the Felixstowe team. Because yeast was such a big part of what I loved about brewing, this was a kind of step even further towards my passion!
What do you like about your job at the Lallemand yeast plant?
There is so much to it! There is a huge amount of variation in the challenges we face in our day-to-day tasks. We make yeast for animal nutrition, for baking, for distilling, for ethanol production, and for winemaking. They are all different. Let’s take ALKOSEL for animal nutrition: it has to have these qualities that you typically don’t associate with yeast when you’re making yeast for the brewing industry, for example. There’s a huge focus on strain purity. For fermentation, for example in baking, we need to find out how alive is the yeast? How much can it do? Because of the effects that it will have for the customer. It’s these varied daily and weekly challenges.
According to you, what is most important to produce quality yeast?
To me, it is the attention to detail and the kind of feedback loop we get from the quality analysis. Yeast is a wonderful organism. It will grow, it will do something regardless of how much or how little effort you put in. To really make it shine — and to get the kind of really exacting specifications we’re trying to get here — we have to focus all the time on the small changes. For example, if we have a change in the raw materials, how is that affecting our production? How does that flow through? If we produce yeast with some slight change in the recipe or in the raw materials, we need to get back to the final product performance. Not just the final specification, but all of the other parameters that we measure internally? Then see how it is different? Where is there a change? Is this better or worse than we expected? There really is a huge focus on the details and how the deliberate changes we make will affect these. If we let those details slide, we could very quickly find ourselves in a position where the quality of the yeast, would just not be there.
How is it to work with Lallemand?
It’s a lovely company to work for, really engaging, with lots of flexibility and autonomy. For example, if I want to change the way I run a fermentation, regardless of how big or small I want to make a change, I can try. There is much of a kind of free-thinking attitude. It is only by pushing the boundaries that we will succeed and improve. Yes, we will accept that sometimes it’s not going to work, but if we never try then, we will never improve! At the end of the day, the most important thing is that our customers receive the consistent, high-quality product Lallemand is known for. It is about freedom of thought and freedom to operate, and that is very hard to find in a company, especially in a company this big. It is something you usually find in small startups and in companies with 50 people maybe, but not in a big group.