Ag Dawg on a Roll

Anastasia Buh creates food concepts for Cinnabon and helps the homeless along the way

When it comes to cinnamon rolls, Anastasia Buh (BSA – Food Science, ’11), senior manager of product development and commercialization for Atlanta’s FOCUS Brands, knows her stuff.

Buh, a 29-year-old from Eastanollee, Georgia, was recently promoted to this position and primarily works to create branded consumer goods in the quick-service restaurant, convenience and grocery channels. She partners with manufacturers to develop products that highlight the brands’ most recognizable attributes – such as Cinnabon’s heavenly aroma of Makara cinnamon.

Her job ranges from creating consumer packed goods, such as the Cinnabon Gooey Bites available in grocery stores, to developing high-end, branded goods with customers like The Cheesecake Factory. The Cinnabon Cinnamon Swirl Cheesecake that Buh worked to develop recently launched in The Cheesecake Factory’s 200+ locations.

Her favorite part of the job is coming up with “something out of thin air that no one has thought of,” she said.

Buh has always had a passionate interest in food. Her father, a chef, owned a restaurant, and she worked in the kitchen throughout her high school and college years. She says that this background, combined with her food science education at the University of Georgia, prepared her for her career today.

The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences food science program provided her with a solid foundation of technical and hands-on, industry knowledge. She attributes her insight into the industry’s inner workings to her now-retired professor, Robert Shewfelt.

“Being in his classes made me aware of all of the opportunities in the market,” she said. “Everything was focused around any kind of offering or pathway where you could use food science in the industry.”

While Buh loves her job, her true passion involves aiding those who are less fortunate. Buh found a way to combine her two passions, food and helping the homeless, by starting a food donation program at FOCUS Brands.

The company’s research and development (R&D) department was initially having to discard product samples and inventory due to lack of freezer space. With permission from the company, she found small shelters with volunteers willing to pick up this leftover food. The company has now partnered with an Atlanta food pantry, Intown Collaborative Ministries, for more than three years.

“We donate R&D samples: buns, bread, cakes, donuts, anything really. It’s great because they can be ready for quick takeaway meals or be kept for longer,” she said.

Due to the nature of the company’s work, many FOCUS Brands employees travel, which led Buh to start a health and beauty donation program, too. Employees of the company collect travel-sized toiletries, bundle them and donate them to food banks in addition to the food. They have been able to donate hundreds of pounds of these useful items.

“FOCUS Brands has been so good at supporting personal passions (that relate to) love of something in the industry,” Buh said.

Speaking of love, Buh met her husband through her first job assignment with Cinnabon for Burger King, where she inspected the quality of Cinnabon Minibons in Burger Kings nationwide. He now works in the information technology department of her company. Her attachment to both FOCUS Brands and Cinnabon runs very deep, and this enables her to integrate personal and industry-related passions in bettering her company and the lives of others.

By Sage Barnard

Anastasia Buh
Anastasia Buh, culinary innovation manager (photo by Shell Royster, Cinnabon)