Dr Debbie Parker

Dr Debbie Parker leads the Marketing Sciences Sensory Unit in Kent, UK. One of only eight female beer sommeliers in the country, here, she discusses tea, toilet rolls and traceability.


Describe yourself in three words.

Curious, perfectionist, professional.

What’s your biggest professional achievement?

Being awarded the status of beer sommelier – I view it as a great accolade and affirmation of the knowledge and experience gained in 25 years of brewing.

How did you get to where you are today?

A deep curiosity in all things around me, continuous self education and taking every opportunity that came my way. My parents gave me great support and encouraged me to take every opportunity that arose and to not be afraid to ask – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It’s very varied. Normally a mixture of leading sensory panels through evaluating key sensory properties of a whole range of different products – from toilet rolls to tea – analysing data and liaising with clients, plus the odd media interest of course!

What have been the highlights of your company’s history, in your opinion?

From my point of view it would be the rebuilding of the sensory lab to the fantastic facilities that I now take great pleasure in managing. The whole space, equipment and extraction are excellent.

What is your pet hate?

Rudeness, people with no manners or respect for others and people with no sense of taste – and I’m not talking aguesia (lack of taste sense) here.

Give us a positive prediction for the food industry over the next 12 months.

I can see consumers continuing their preferences for more natural and local ingredients in foods, less processing and greater traceability. Manufacturers will respond positively but it will be a challenge, and consumers will have to realise that more natural products will not have the shelf life they may be used to or expect.

There will be continued pressure to reduce sugar in foods and drinks and we will continue to work with our clients to help them in their quest to provide more nutritious and good tasting products.

What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?

Vision, empathy and honesty.

Who do you most admire?

My mum – caring for four boys and one girl all within a 10-year range is no mean feat when you are only five foot, two inches. Mum can rule with just one stare.

Which words do you most overuse?

Um – just watch my interview with Marketing Week.

If you weren’t in your current position, what else might you be doing?

I love all nature and my dream would be running an animal sanctuary while growing all my own vegetables and flowers and a microbrewery on site. Heaven.

Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

My piano teacher wanted me to go the Royal School of Music and become a concert pianist; I wanted to do science.

Any vices?

None – beer is not a vice when consumed in moderation.

What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?

A dog. We had our last dog for 14 years and I do miss having that happy go lucky, cheerfully optimistic influence to keep us grounded and keep things in perspective.

How do you relax?

Gardening and my allotment are my main relaxation at the moment. I am also trying to get back in to music and playing the piano again – it’s been some time since I played and I realise as you get older that it is a shame to let any talent that you have go unused.

How would you like to be remembered?


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