The Food Innovation Center's in-house staff of industry professionals is dedicated to providing solutions for our clients. Our staff brings a wealth of experience from both the private and public sectors to help solve a variety of business challenges. Simply scroll down to read through all of the biographies.

 

Lou Cooperhouse
Acting Director
(856) 459-1900 x4516
Cooperhouse@njaes.rutgers.edu

Lou is a founder of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center and was its Director from 2001-2010, where he developed the strategy and infrastructure for the Center and hired an outstanding team that is still with the Center today.

He is recognized as a leading global authority in food business incubation and innovation, and has extensive business and technology expertise in both entrepreneurial settings and in larger corporate environments. During his 30-year career, he has successfully led cross-functional teams in a wide array of settings, including new business startups, mid-sized companies, global manufacturing corporations, and food industry trade associations.

Lou previously served as President & COO of F&S Produce, a leading regional supplier of fresh-cut produce and value-added refrigerated foods, and earlier as Co-Founder, President and COO of MenuDirect Corporation, a unique health, wellness and medical nutrition company. Earlier in his career, Lou was employed at Campbell’s Soup, ConAgra, and Nestlé, in the areas of business development, product development, quality assurance, and operations. He has also consulted extensively in the food industry, with projects in North and Central America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Lou is Past-President and Chairman of the New Jersey Food Processors Association, and is currently on its Board of Directors. He was previously President of the New Jersey Business Incubation Network; on the Board and member of the Executive Committee for the National Business Incubation Association; and on the Board and member of the Executive Committee of the Refrigerated Foods Association. In addition, Lou has served at Rutgers University on the Board of Managers for the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station, on the External Advisory Board of the Food Science Department, and on the Advisory Board of Future Farmers of America, NJ Region.

Lou received a MS in Food Science and BS in Microbiology, both from Rutgers University, and has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Rutgers Business School.


Margaret Brennan-Tonetta, Ph.D.
Exec. Director
(856) 459-1900 x4518
Brennan@NJAES.rutgers.edu

Margaret is Associate Vice President for Economic Development at Rutgers University and Associate Director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Margaret has a distinguished record of developing and leading economic development initiatives at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES). She played a key role in the development of the Food Innovation Center where she provided leadership and strategic direction as founding director. Margaret will continue to provide leadership for the center as Executive Director.  

Margaret is an Agricultural Economist by training and has conducted research focused on value-added business development, marketing and the feasibility of small scale processing. Other research interests include agricultural production economics, economic development strategies, industry cluster development and alternative energy policy. Margaret earned her Ph.D. in Planning and Public Policy, M.S. in Agricultural Economics and B.S. in Economics all from Rutgers.


Diane Holtaway
Associate Director, Client Services
(856) 459-1900 x4514
Holtaway@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Diane brings 30 years experience in the food industry.  In her current role as Associate Director of Client Services at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center she oversees a team responsible for development and execution of business and technical programs and services, essential to the growth of client companies.  Her strong skill sets in business development and marketing have proven to be instrumental to start-up and established companies and cooperatives.  As a senior member of the Food Innovation Center since 2002 she has served as a key team member to a highly diversified range of food businesses, some of which include business and strategic planning for the dairy industry, marketing research and marketing planning for the premium livestock industry, funding and marketing strategy for members of the New Jersey agricultural community desiring to expand from commodity sales into value added opportunities. She has also assisted a wide range of start-up companies with customized mentoring in branding, positioning, product development, primary market research, strategic planning, and sales strategies. In addition, she is highly involved with the outreach program of the center, working effectively to partner with local, state and regional constituencies on economic, health and social issues.  She is a recent graduate of Leadership Cumberland County and is committed to working across county sectors to enhance the region.

Prior to this position Diane held responsibility for Core Brand growth for food corporations, including Campbell Soup Company and Unilever.  She has extensive experience with monitoring consumer segment and food trends in a multitude of food and beverage categories, including, beverages, sauces, soups, breads, confectionary, fresh produce, condiments and prepared meals.  Utilizing her vast knowledge in consumer attitudes and behaviors and her strong culinary skill sets, she has participated in bringing many successful products to market including the successful repositioning and expansion of brands, such as Chunky, Swanson, and V8 which catapulted many of these products into multi-year double digit growth.  Diane earned her B.S. in Nutrition from Rutgers University and her M.A. in Food and Business from New York University.


Julie Elmer
Associate Director of Food Technology
(856) 459-1900 x4513
Elmer@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Julie has always had a passion for food and nutrition. A Bridgeton, NJ native, Julie has worked in food product development and technical services for 19 years. Most recently she worked with Johnson and Johnson, supporting the start up of several nutritional product companies. Previously she was Director of Food Product Development and Regulatory Affairs for the Wardley Corporation and Hartz Mountain.   During her college days she had the opportunity to work for small local businesses that produced products such as French goat cheese and European style wines.  Her responsibilities with the Food Innovation Center include providing technical support to all food technology activities for client projects.   

Julie received her Bachelor's Degree from Cook College's program in Food Science. Later, she completed the Master's program in Human Nutrition at University of New Haven.


Donna F Schaffner
Associate Director, Food Safety, Quality Assurance & Training
(856) 459-1900 x4528
DFSchaffner@aesop.Rutgers.edu

Donna is a Food Microbiologist who earned Food Science B.S. and M.S. at the University of Georgia. Her early experiences in the food industry spanned the spectrum from candling eggs to meat cutter and cooking/catering for large events, working as a veterinary technician then a laboratory technician for the UGA Food Science Department. While at UGA she taught lab classes for Environmental Microbiology, Principles of RadioIsotopes and other classes while serving as on the university Radiation Safety Committee. Donna worked as a technical writer and scientific publishing consultant before coming to NJ and joining the Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education as a lecturer for a number of classes including Good Manufacturing Practices, HACCP, Microbiology of Food-borne Illness, portions of the Better Process Control School and several others. Her professional career includes time as a HACCP Coordinator and Quality Systems Supervisor for the world’s largest egg processor, corporate HACCP auditor and experience setting up Quality Systems, Recordkeeping, Supplier Audits, USDA & FDA inspections, and Kosher, Organic and SQF certification. Donna taught HACCP and Food Safety classes for Rutgers and several county colleges for 20+ years and delivered customized training programs to food companies throughout the US under State and Federal Department of Labor Programs as well as through her private consulting business.

Since becoming Associate Director of the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, Donna continues to work with the food industry to solve food safety problems. She leads an exceptional Team of Food Safety professionals who work directly with food processors to assess their existing programs and to get documentation in place for higher-level audits and certifications. An invited speaker on many Food Safety topics to Professional Meetings, Donna’s worked with products ranging from baked goods to flavors and fragrances, pasteurized liquid eggs, canned vegetables and soups, fresh cut produce, frozen pasta, chocolates, ready to eat microwaveable meals, soy products, fully cooked meat and egg entrees, beverages, fresh cut meats, dried dietary supplements, nutritional meal replacement products and dry powder blend ingredients. Her certifications include “Eco Lab Food Plant Sanitarian”, “SQF Practitioner” and current HACCP Train-the-Trainer certificates for Meat & Poultry as well as for FDA Seafood HACCP. She’s recently expanded her training programs to include several Provinces in China that were seeking her expertise to improve their Food Safety record, and has recently become PI for a grant funding Food Security/Protection Training for food processors in New Jersey.


Regina Plaire
Business Specialist
(856) 459-1900 x4515
Plaire@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Regina is a business specialist with 20 years of experience in financial management, budget administration and information technology.  Most recently, she was employed with New Jersey Institute of Technology.  In that position, Regina was able to use her combined experience in Finance and Information Technology to perform grant receivable analysis, grant and information technology management. Prior to NJIT, Regina worked for many years with the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit in Finance and Budget Administration.  Regina is responsible for the management of financial and administrative activities at the Food Innovation Center.  

Regina received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Computer Information Systems from Bernard M. Baruch College and Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Rutgers University.


Robert C. Reitnauer Sr.
Quality Assurance & Technical Specialist
(856) 459-1900 x4512
Reitnauer@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Bob joined the Rutgers Food Innovation Center as Sr. QA and Technical Services Specialist in March 2013. Has 40 years of food experience in a number of food types such as fruit and cream pies, frozen breaded fish, fresh and canned mushroom, steak sauce, pasta sauce, tomato processing, fresh pasta, fresh & frozen pasta & meat entrees, meatballs in sauce, acidified foods, fruit syrups, caramel syrups and potato chips. Hands on experience in various thermal processing types including canning ( metal & glass), retorts (static, rotating and continuous), tube-in tube, hot fill & hold, modified atmosphere in flexible packaging and rigid containers.

Bob received an Associates Degree in Food & Dairy Science from the State University of New York and a Bachelors Degree in Food Science from Delaware Valley College. Certification received in HACCP, Safe Quality Food (SQF) Practitioner and Better Process Control School ( Penn State). Developed various levels of Quality Systems and Supplier Certification Programs. Conducted Organic, GMP, HACCP and Supplier Approval Audits in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America. Bob is a 40 year Quality Professional that has held quality positions with many of the leading brands/manufactuers of retail and industrial products for US and foreign markets.


Thomas A Catalano
Associate Director of Plant Operations
(856) 459-1900 x4517
Catalano@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Tom brings 30 years of food manufacturing experience to the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. Tom has worked in several disciplines of food manufacturing, from frozen foods (extruded and IQF), retail and food service, frozen entrees, dairy, citrus beverages, jams, jellies, sauces and most recently powdered nutritional beverages. Tom has held various positions through-out his career from Sanitation Manager to Production Supervisor, Production Manager, QA/QC Manager, and Director of Operations for the past 15 years. He has worked for companies such as Rich Sea Pak, Nestlé’s (Stouffers), Dannon, McCain Citrus a division of McCain Foods (Canada) and smaller privately held companies such as Allied Old English Inc. and Soluble Products Co, L.P. Tom has extensive hands on experience and his strengths lie in streamlining operations, continuous improvement, reducing waste and overall plant/production efficiency. Tom earned his degree from Lock Haven University, PA with a B.S. in Biology.


Shofiul Islam
Client Services Specialist
(856) 459-1900 x4511
Sho@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Sho is the Client Services Specialist with expertise in small business startup, economic analysis, and consumer research. He is a graduate of New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program (NJALDP) and is passionate about all things Jersey. He earned his BS in Environmental Business Economics and his MS in Food and Business Economics from Rutgers University. Sho is currently a PhD candidate in Public Affairs, Community Development with focus on entrepreneurship also at Rutgers University.


Jean Mahoney
Administrative Assistant
(856) 459-1900 x4510
Mahoney@NJAES.rutgers.edu

Jean has extensive experience providing administrative support for businesses in the public and private sector. Prior to working at FIC, Jean was Administrative Assistant at the Rutgers School of Social Work in Camden, where she provided administrative and technical support to the entire department, developed and maintained computer databases, created procedures and reports, advised students on the curriculum, and represented the school at recruiting events and fairs. Previously she worked as an Associate Technical Writer at Cendant Mortgage, where she was responsible for the development and maintenance of end-user systems for IT applications, and an Administrative Assistant where she provided support to 30 personnel in the department. Earlier in her career, Jean worked at Reliance Insurance Group, where she was Executive Assistant and provided secretarial and administrative support to the President/CEO and Executive Vice President of the Reliance Surety Company. She has excellent computer skills including proficiency in MS Access 2007, MS Excel 2007, MS Outlook 2007, MS PowerPoint 2007, MS Word 2007, Lotus 123 for Windows, Lotus Notes, RoboHelp x4.0, Visio, and WordPerfect 9.


Tom Orton, PhD
Extension Specialist
Department of Plant Biology and Pathology
(856) 459-1900
Orton@NJAES.Rutgers.edu

Tom has been involved extensively with the development and management of programs for the production, harvesting, handling, and packaging of processed vegetable crops.  He was Senior Director for DNA Plant Technology Corporation from 1986-1994 and worked closely with strategic partners such as Campbell Soup, Kraft, and DuPont. 

A geneticist and breeder by training, Tom has served on the faculties of two land grant universities, UC Davis and Rutgers.  He was the Chair of the Department of Extension Specialists and Assistant Director of Extension at Rutgers from 1995-2002, and is currently Professor with tenure in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, School of Biological and Environmental Sciences .  Academically, Tom has published over 100 books and research papers, and has been invited to present his research results internationally.  He has served on scientific journal editorial boards, grant review panels, and national advisory committees.  In addition to his interests in plant breeding and production and post harvest systems, Tom is also involved with exchange programs between the U.S. and Central Asia.

Tom received his Ph.D. in Botany and Genetics from Michigan State University in 1979, and B.S. in Biology in 1973.  He looks forward to bringing his experience and abilities to the FIC team. 



 

-----