AMES, Iowa — For students in John Kaiser’s Chemical Engineering class at Iowa State University, the payoff comes, not so much in the grade, but in the chocolate samples. Kaiser knows all about chocolate after he retired from a career with the Mars Candy Company.

“I traveled to over 30 countries working on raw materials, like cocoa pods, and finished goods, like M&Ms. Snickers, and Three Musketeers,” said Kaiser. “I did that globally with my team so we’d start up factories in India, China, Russia, and Europe.”

After retiring from Mars Company, Kaiser was offered a job teaching Chemical Engineering. He was fine with the basic courses but offered to do something a little more, teaching the chocolate process from pods to the finished product.

“You go from one starting raw material into a finished product and kind of solving the problem within those steps,” said Emma Williams, a student from Bettendorf.

As a chemical engineer, the students learn not so much what tastes good, but the process to take it to a finished product.

“I never really enjoyed chocolate as a child,” said Kaiser. “I’m not tired of it at all in fact I love it a lot, and I’d like to eat more of it, but in moderation.”

Students enjoy the science and the tasting.

“I love dark chocolate, it’s my favorite chocolate,” said Maija Beckwith, a student from Rosemont MN. “I like the fact that it’s more bitter, and has a higher percentage of the chocolate liquor in it.” 

“I do white chocolate because I really want chocolate which is sweet, really sweet,” said Tien Pham, a student from Vietnam.

Kaiser said students in Chemical Engineering have no problem finding jobs. Thirty to forty percent of the students in this program at Iowa State end up working in the food industry.

“The food industry loves chemical engineers, and chemical engineers love the food industry,” said Kaiser.