Rene Lammers

Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer

The deafening roars of 1000 HP engines are all around you. Goosebumps rise on your arms while your heart is pounding in your chest. One by one, those five start lights come on red, and they all simultaneously disappear. Right there, with that signal, these engineering marvels, scientific wonders, and aesthetic masterpieces are unleashed into some breathtaking action from their starting grids.

These iconic racing cars are brought behind their starting grids through never-ending innovation, relentless striving for quality, and unparalleled teamwork spirit, all in an inspiring synch, just like the world of food and beverage research and development (R&D).

In this article, as Formula 1 enthusiasts and R&D professionals, we will draw parallels between these seemingly unrelated fields and welcome you to join us as we explore the grand prix of ideas where innovation, quality, efficiency, and dynamic teamwork produce extraordinary results. We aim to pique your curiosity and hopefully inspire you to consider how your passion for food science and technology can help advance our global food system. So, buckle up and join us!

Some Differences Before Similarities

Before we explore the striking similarities between Formula 1 World and Food and Beverage R&D, let us acknowledge some differences.

In Formula 1, the development and implementation times of simple innovations (other than breakthrough ones, like hybrid engines) can often be tested and implemented relatively quickly compared to food & beverage R&D. Sometimes, they can be as quick as during the race weekend or across back-to-back race weekends. In the food & beverage industry R&D, these usually have longer timelines. New products or processes require extensive and iterative tests to ensure safety, consumer liking, technical feasibility, and business viability.

The scopes of impact and the type of experiences between these two fields are also different. The upgrades and innovations in Formula 1 directly impact mainly the cars, the teams, and their performances. The fans are spectators to these changes, and their experience is intangible. It is more about the excitement and emotions evoked by the high-speed action. In food and beverage R&D, the impact of innovations has a much broader reach and directly affects billions of consumers worldwide. The result of innovations is tangible and can be directly experienced by these consumers. They taste, touch, smell, and feed themselves with these products. This means that scientists and engineers working in food and beverage R&D have this substantial opportunity and responsibility to influence people’s diets and their access to tasty, nutritious, and safe food in affordable ways.

While these differences help us acknowledge the unique features of each field, the striking similarities in their commitment to innovation through science and technology, driving quality and efficiency in tandem, and the importance of teamwork are fascinating. Now, let us explore them.

Innovation Through Science and Technology

In the ever-evolving world of Formula 1, innovation is a must. Teams continuously innovate through science and technology to improve their cars’ performance. They advance aerodynamics, tire technology, and power/engine systems to improve lap times. For instance, the arrival of hybrid engines in 2014 absolutely revolutionized Formula 1. These new power units replaced the V8 engines, which had been used for almost a decade. They significantly improved the performance of the cars, enabling 30% more horsepower (750 to 1000) while reducing the engine capacity by 30% (from 2.4L to 1.6L). All of this was done while achieving 35% less fuel consumption per race, which resulted in carbon emission reduction. This was mostly enabled by the deployment of Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS)[4], which recovers and stores energy (instead of being lost as heat during braking), powering the car later when passing an opponent. This innovation is a great example of “do more with less”.

In the F&B industry, food scientists continuously innovate through science and technology to help create novel products that meet individual’s needs and in some cases create valuable impact to society. The development of plant-based proteins is one example of revolutionizing the food industry. Food scientists have been exploring alternative innovations to incorporate plant-based proteins into delicious, nutritious, and more environmentally sustainable food designs that people like. These alternatives require significantly less land, water, and energy use than products obtained through traditional livestock. (The plant-based burger alternatives typically use ~90% less water and land, and generate ~90% ess water and land, and generate ~90% less greenhouse gas emissions than a beef burger.)

These examples showcase how R&D can drive new and exciting solutions through science and technology and illustrate the innovative spirit of the food and beverage industry as it is in Formula 1.

Driving Quality and Efficiency in Tandem

“Performance” is one of the most predominant words in the world of Formula 1, which is not only about speed but the harmony of speed, endurance, strength, and safety. These can be bucketed into two broader areas: quality and efficiency. Even a minor misbalance between these two can make or break things, a difference between winning and losing a race. Both need to excel in tandem, not at the expense of the other.

Let’s take F1 cars’ brake discs as an example. To stop an object in motion, its kinetic energy must be removed. This is achieved through friction, which transforms the kinetic energy into heat. Braking systems work by creating friction between the brake pads and discs. Formula 1 cars use carbon fiber brake discs that can handle temperatures up to 1000oC. These discs also need to be highly efficient to slow the car effectively. However, this efficiency cannot come at the expense of quality, as defects or quicker wear can negatively impact the car’s performance and even endanger the driver’s safety.

Similarly, in food & beverage production, efficiency needs to translate to producing higher volumes at lower costs without compromising quality or safety. When it comes to foods or beverages, safety is non-negotiable, period! And quality provides many advantages – from consumer appeal and brand loyalty to competitive advantage. In R&D, we strive to design our products and processes at the highest quality and safety standards to benefit from these advantages. We do this by carefully selecting the raw materials, designing the best equipment and unit operations, and testing protocols via robust science and engineering principles. In addition, we design new processes to streamline our operations and reduce waste, becoming more efficient and financially viable. While R&D is often associated with innovation and new products, continuously driving quality and efficiency for our products is another space that R&D is accountable for and adds substantial value.

Despite the different contexts, the similarity in the commitment to driving quality and efficiency in tandem, not at the expense of each other, in both Formula 1 and R&D is indeed striking.

The Importance of Teamwork

Formula 1 is all about teamwork, not only with the first-to-mind “pit stops” but also during the entire race and even before the race. The whole team, the pit crew, drivers, strategists, engineers, support staff, and management all play critical roles in pushing the entire team ahead. The pit stop is one of the unique aspects of Formula 1, where both strategy and execution can cause or gain several places. In a pit stop, when the driver pulls into the pit box, almost simultaneously, a crew of about 20 people surrounds the car, and in a few (2-3) seconds, they change the tires, make repairs, adjust the wings, clean air ducts, etc. The coordination, synchronization, and precision are mind-boggling and can only be achieved through exceptional teamwork.

Similarly, in the food & beverage industry, developing or improving a product successfully involves collaborating with a cross-functional team of R&D, insights, operations, engineering, procurement, and marketing staff. Even within the R&D group, multiple food scientists, process engineers, consumer insight scientists, regulatory and quality assurance experts, and many others need to collaborate and function as a whole to produce the best possible outcomes. We all work together to design new products that are tasty, safe, nutritious, and sustainable. This requires a thorough and holistic understanding of the entire end-to-end chain with a systems-thinking mindset, which can only be achieved via multidisciplinary but harmonious team effort.

In both Formula 1 and R&D, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) enable a wealth of ideas, performance, and innovation. Diverse teams bring unique experiences, cultural richness, and perspectives, propelling both fields forward. For example, F1’s drive for diversity has enabled talented individuals from all backgrounds to rise, including Lewis Hamilton, the sport’s first black driver, who holds the record for most wins, and Hannah Schmitz, Oracle Red Bull Racing’s Principal Strategy Engineer, who guides the team through bold, race-winning strategy calls. Similarly, food science benefits from multicultural diversities, which result in the development of globally inspired flavors, can inspire eco-friendly packaging solutions through various regional materials or practices (such as the use of banana leaves in Southeast Asia as a natural wrapper for food), help the development of unique processing methods influenced by traditional culinary techniques. While we recognize and appreciate the DE&I efforts so far in both fields, the journey continues, and more work is to be done in both fields to fully embrace and harness the power and beauty of diversity for a better future.

Harmonious teamwork is a must-have ingredient for success in both Formula 1 and food & beverage R&D, either to win a race or design a winning product. This is achieved when individuals bring their unique talents and strengths and work towards a shared goal in synch. Next time you watch a Formula 1 race while enjoying your plant-based burger, recognize the amazing teams and their collective efforts behind these thrilling and tasty fields.

While we will not cover them in similar depth, there are more parallels to draw, like data-driven decision-making and adaptability. In both fields, accurate collection and interpretation of data are crucial for successful decision-making, establishing strategy, testing, and execution. Similarly, both fields require constant adaptability. Things like ever-changing regulations, track conditions, opponents’ strategies and performance, both before and during the race, demand adaptability. In food & beverage R&D, either throughout the product development project or when in the middle of test runs, conditions change. New consumer trends emerge, new ingredients and engineering solutions are developed, and competitive and regulatory landscapes shift, all requiring an adaptable product development and decision-making approach.


Whether it is the high-speed world of Formula 1 or the rapidly growing food & beverage R&D, innovation, quality and efficiency co-existence, and teamwork are crucial for success. As Formula 1 enthusiasts who are passionate about advancing our global food system through compelling R&D efforts, we drew parallels between these two seemingly disparate fields.

We also know that advancing our global system can be achieved only by great talent. The future of our humanity highly depends on our global food system, which will be crafted by the efforts of scientists and engineers through R&D in the food & beverage industry because R&D, at its core, is all about the future.

If you have a passion for science and technology, and if you are willing to make a positive difference for a greater cause, a career in R&D presents an exciting opportunity for you.

René Lammers is Executive Vice President and Chief Science Officer for PepsiCo, leading research, discovery and development efforts across product, package and processing for PepsiCo’s portfolio of global food and beverage brands. As head of R&D, René is also responsible for PepsiCo’s quality and food safety and regulatory affairs efforts. In addition to this work, René has direct oversight of PepsiCo’s global sustainability initiatives, working across sectors, categories, brands and functions in the creation and management of projects to promote a more sustainable food system.


 Kaan Demiryurek, author of “Food for Thought: Food Science and Engineering for the Future of Humanity,” is a passionate advocate for transforming the global food system through science and technology. As the R&D Director at PepsiCo, he leads the R&D strategy for sustainable packaging platform for foods. Kaan’s over two decades of experience at PepsiCo spans across geographies and product platforms. He has held pivotal roles leading various R&D teams for the regional development and execution of innovation, quality, and productivity projects, tailoring strategies to meet diverse market needs.

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