Being a Teaching Fellow in Food Science, I get asked quite a lot of times from students during our Open Days about what are the possible professional careers of people studying Food Science. I do really enjoy answering to that question because I have a lot to say about it and sometimes I ask directly to students what do they think a Food Scientist is.
If you scroll down until the end of the post you will find our new episode of The Food Science Addict – podcast where we are interviewing Kerani Kirakos, an Application Technologist at Sweegen.
The majority of students answer with a question: anaylize foods? Quality check? They are all right but they still do not understand the depth of activities and number of roles Food Scientists can cover during their career.
If you think about the production chain of a food product, we can identify many interesting roles for Food Scientists. First of all it is important for every raw material that enters the production chain to be checked in terms of quality and specifications in order to be used in the production of food products. Ingredients are checked not only according to their legal specifications but also on their physico-chemical properties and are accordingly categorised and stored with particular attention to documentation and traceability.
During the production chain, processes need to be carried out safely and there must always be someone ready to manage problems and issues related to production, that person will be in charge of ensuring that the processes are carried out safely and according to good manufacturing practices. Alongside the production manager, quality checks need to be conducted continuously during production. Quality assurance is also a very well known area of work for the Food Scientist, here it is important to check that regulations and safety standards are met. It has a wide range of aspects that deal also with the analysis of the quality of food from the point of view of physical and chemical properties as well as sensory.
When it comes to reformulation issues and the creation of brand new complex formulations, here comes Research and Development department. How exciting – and challenging – must be to develop new products and reformulate food, investigating the properties of new ingredients and include them in complex recipes? Think about your new product idea as a canvas and the ingredients as your colours however sometimes the results are not always what you are looking for.
Food Scientists are often also researchers on packaging and on sensory aspects working alongside material scientists and psychologists. They often interact with marketing department and most of the time also take care and have roles that deal with scientific communication.
In Food companies there is the need for a Nutritionist as well, they would naturally co-operate with researchers for new product development in order to have a guideline for recipe improvement and especially for nutritional information that will end up on food labels.
Talking about labels, regulatory aspects come spontaneously into mind. As it is a high regulated field, Food legislation must be carefully studied and applied. This is the reason why we have roles such as Food Law Advisors and specialists.
Many Food Scientist are also self-employed working as consultants or employed by universities as academic or research fellows.
Listen to our first episode of The Food Science Addict – podcast, on Spotify to learn from a real-life Food Scientist.