SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Loni Mowbray

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Written by | March 30th, 2021

Meet Loni Mowbray, our Quality Control Manager, one of SōRSE’s newest team members, but a seasoned veteran of the food and beverage industry. Loni joined the company in 2020 and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role in managing product standards. Loni has been working in the food industry since she was a teenager, and today develops food safety and quality programs for SōRSE. She’s excited to be part of an industry that is constantly evolving and changing, helping implement processes that ensure that products powered by SōRSE are of the highest quality possible.     

What compelled you to pursue a career in food safety? How did you get to where you are now?  

I had seen the movie “Outbreak” when I was 12 or 13, and it was really the first thing that ignited my desire to “do science.” I kept driving towards that through the Running Start program where I was able to take classes at my local community college and use the credits towards my high school diploma. Part of the Running Start program was a “learning into action” requirement, where I needed to find work in my potential field, and there weren’t a lot of science-related jobs in Mount Vernon, Washington at the time.  As a result, I ended up getting a job at Advanced H2O as a Quality Control Technician for bottled water and sparkling beverages. After gaining that experience, I had the opportunity to work for several different food manufacturers  Nature’s Path Foods, Da Vinci Gourmet (which became Kerry Food and Beverage), then to Stockpot Soups which was a subsidiary of Campbell’s, then back to Da Vinci when a quality assurance (QA) lead position had opened up.

At that point, I’d been working in QA for about five years and felt confident in my ability to be a QA manager, but I was lacking the necessary education. I enrolled at Washington State University with the intention of changing career paths to go into medicine and earned dual Bachelors’ degrees in Microbiology with a Medical Technology emphasis and Genetics/Cell Biology. I was hoping this would lead me to a career as a med tech, but in the end my degrees took me back to the food industry. I eventually worked my way through Trident Seafoods and Coca-Cola as QA Supervisor, to being offered the position of Ivar’s Quality Control Manager, where I focused on training, food safety, and food quality issues.

In the food and beverage industry, we learn new things every day; new issues pop up, and some old issues don’t get resolved. My feeling is, I want to make myself valuable by finding solutions to these problems and communicating the results to all levels within the company, with the end goal of developing a robust food safety culture.     

What drew you to SōRSE? What intrigued you about the position?   

A year or so ago, I hit a point in my career where I had found my place in the food industry, yet I was rethinking what I was doing and the direction I was headed. At the same time, I had started using cannabis and was interested in the science behind it and the different ways that it helps people. Compared to other industries, cannabis is brand new, and a lot of people who work in it know a lot about cannabinoids and extraction but not a lot about quality assurance or food safety, especially in the edibles space. I kept my eyes open for a QA manager position, and eventually saw one open at SōRSE. I was a little daunted because it seemed very chemistry-heavy and highly technical, but I went for it and applied. After a full day of back-to-back interviews, I knew that the SōRSE people were MY people. From the interviews I could see how super-smart, driven, and motivated the team is. I was thrilled when I was offered the job.    

What do you love about your role, and what do you find challenging?  

I love that, since day one, I have been in a state of constant learning, though the curve has been steep at times. There was a lot to figure out up front; I asked a lot of what I thought were inane questions, but I needed to get grounded in the science and the data. I’m learning more about cannabis than I ever expected, and I’m ecstatic to have the time to research. Topics like the Entourage Effect are really fascinating, and it feels good to take the skills and experience I have and make a positive impact on the business. It’s also great to be working for a company where people are legitimately happy I’m here; often in the food industry, the QC manager is the person people avoid because they feel as though the person in that position is more of a hindrance than a help. At SōRSE the level of appreciation my colleagues have expressed is a testament to how my work is being perceived, and how I am truly contributing to the quality of what we are doing here. I also love being able to see the positive impact our work is having in the industry, and helping people understand why quality control is so important in terms of legitimizing our products through gathering data, planning, creating processes and documentation. Once you get the processes in place, it’s just a matter of doing daily monitoring to make sure you are getting the results you want.  

One of the challenges I have in my role is switching between creating, planning, and executing programs for QC and being able to react in a moment’s notice if an issue arises. I to keep an ear out for what is happening in the lab and be ready to stop what I am doing to help out. Switching gears like that has helped me develop my ability to prioritize and find new tools to get things done.   

What do you think a consumer should know or be aware of when they are purchasing infused products?   

Consumers should definitely do some homework on the products they are interested in buying, who is making them and with what ingredients, and buy products from retailers that they trust. They should request documentation like the Certificate of Analysis (COA) on the product they are purchasing so they can be sure the potency on the label is accurate and that it has been tested for residual pesticides amongst other things. They can also look into the labs where the products are tested to make sure they are legit and are on the up and up. If the lab is reputable, then the results should be accurate, and consumers can trust the numbers. If consumers are going to dispensaries to purchase products, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about how the products are tested for potency and safety. Consumers should also avoid brands that make medical claims – that is a huge issue with the FDA, since cannabinoids have not yet been approved as a food ingredient and as such any claims made have no federal scientific backing.  

 Can you share something about yourself that not a lot of people know?   

For me personally, one of the worst things about the social distancing required by the pandemic has been no karaoke. Karaoke has always been a huge outlet for me, and I really miss going with my sister. My three favorite songs to sing are “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos, “Misery” by Pink and Steven Tyler, and “Zombie” by the Cranberries. My favorite karaoke bar was a place in Kent, Washington called the Golden Steer; the KJ was an absolute rock star! I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get down there again, once it’s safe to do so.