Article contributed by Morgan Walker Clarke
Food science is a rapidly growing industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The duties you perform depend on the position you accept. Everyone needs to eat after all, and someone has to continue finding ways to make it nutritious and delicious.
If you love cooking and food but also want to enjoy a career in the scientific sphere, have a look at these six awesome and rewarding career possibilities in food science.
1. Meat scientist
As a meat scientist, you must understand the principles of biology, physiology and nutrition that make animals grow and be able to relate this to meat quality.
Meat scientists are well-versed in science, but they also have a great deal of practical experience. It is not a science entirely based in the laboratory. Research in meat science ranges from animal growth and development through fresh meats and processed and manufactured meat products.
Being familiar with factors from livestock management and welfare through to understanding how meat is processed and branded is essential to this role.
Meat scientists are involved in researching a wide variety of projects to increase production or to bring about new products. Some meat scientists study artificial meat grown in cultures, and you may be working with protein hydrolysis and how you can use enzymes to increase meat flavor and quality. Most employers require a degree in meat science.
2. Bakery scientist
Baking has been around for centuries. Baked products vary in complexity from very simple pastries to cakes with a long list of ingredients and techniques involved in their creation.
As a bakery scientist, you will need to know about all the chemistry that goes into our baked goods–what role each ingredient has, how they work and what methods are involved.
There has been a rapid progression in the baking industry, and consumers have shown a preference for natural products. This has led to an increase in the use of enzymes within this sector. We now use enzymes to replace chemicals, and you will need to know how they can best benefit your business.
Bakery science involves the study of grains and cereals and how we can manipulate them to our advantage, so you will become familiar with the different production processes. You will also hone your baking skills and work on some amazing new products and may be involved in modifying existing product lines.
Business management is also essential to a bakery scientist because you must learn how economic trends might impact this business. Knowledge and implementation of government regulations and production guidelines will represent another aspect of your job.
A broad range of degrees is accepted in this field from bakery science and management to fermentation studies. There are a variety of jobs this role encompasses, such as a food chemistry researcher to work in a food processing plant.
3. Technical brewer
Do you enjoy a beer or two? Well, this is the ideal career for you! You will have a hands-on role in the brewing process but will also be involved in the technical formulation of beers and possibly play a management role as well.
Brewing is similar to baking in that it has been around for centuries, and we enjoy beer all around the world. It also starts with cereal grains and science, just like baking.
Your work as a technical brewer will mean you manage the entire beer-making process from grain through to the finished and bottled product, working with your team to produce high quality and consistent product.
Thorough knowledge of the science underlying the brewing process and the ability to make improvements to it is required. An example of this would be that in recent years the use of enzymes in breweries and craft distilleries has increased to address issues such as low extract yields and flavor. You would be the person responsible for implementing their use and charting progress.
What will the role involve?
- Manage the staff who work on the production of beer, including the technicians.
- Responsible for the raw materials that go into the beer, including wheat and hops.
- Safety and smooth running of the brewing plant.
- Thinking up new products, recipes, and flavors.
If a large brewery employs you, it is more likely you will only be involved in one smaller aspect of the entire process. In a microbrewery, you might be overseeing the entire operation.
Your day-to-day responsibilities will depend on the type of brewery you work for and how specialized your role is, but it will include the following range of tasks:
- Ensure the beer is brewing correctly and all parameters are routinely recorded–g., temperature. Adjust the process as needed.
- Test the product to make improvements.
- Understand and apply the correct chemicals and enzymes to the brewing process.
- Design and formulate new products for specific markets or seasonal beers such as for the holidays.
- Understand new technology and procedures and how to implement them.
- Work with suppliers to ensure good relationships. Find new suppliers as necessary.
- Manage resources and the workforce.
- Maintenance and cleaning of all the brewery equipment.
- Budget and stock control.
- Keeping accurate inventories.
A typical degree for this role might be applied to chemistry, food science or biological science. Oregon State University offers a degree in the science of fermentation, and there are one-year certificate programs and shorter twenty-week master brewer programs at around 10 universities, including Central Michigan, San Diego State University and Auburn University.
As you progress in your career, you might be able to gain chartered scientist (CHsi) status. You will need to have worked in the field for around four years and have successfully completed ongoing continuing professional development (CPD).
4. Food technologist
Your job is to ensure the food products that end up on the plates of the consumers are produced within safety and legal guidelines. Keeping abreast of the vast number of ever-changing guidelines and regulations is key to this job.
Discovering new recipes and food concepts is also part of your job. Perhaps rethinking manufacturing processes to make them fit around new products or to make them more efficient might be part of your duties.
You might be working as part of the research and development (R&D) developing new items. Food technologists need to modify existing foods to create new versions such as low-fat or gluten-free versions.
Depending on the sector you work in, you may be dealing with customer complaints to determine what issues there are with the food products and how you can rectify these problems.
The Institute of Food Technology has a wealth of resources on food technology as a career.
5. Sensory scientist
A sensory scientist plays the role of a connection between the research and development department and the consumer. It is their job to find out exactly what the consumers are looking for in their food purchases. They can give technical recommendations because of their extensive knowledge of food chemistry. It is important they keep abreast of current advancements in the field and network with other colleagues and experts.
Sensory science has become more cutting-edge than the free samples they used to offer in malls. Generally, the sensory scientist works in partnership with product development and is responsible for conceiving, completing, analyzing and reporting a plethora of tests involved in consumer research. They can make the difference between the R&D department launching a successful product or a flop.
To become a sensory scientist, you will likely need a PhD in Food Science. You will also need a strong background in statistics, communications skills and business acumen. You might also need some good persuasion techniques to win over company executives!
6. Cereal scientist
Plants, including wheat, rice and corn, are classified as cereals. The grains that cereals produce is the foundation for the global food supply. This makes cereals a hugely important food for both humans and for animals, which are also part of our food chain. The availability of food worldwide would be drastically affected without cereal.
As a cereal scientist, you will study everything cereal! You will study how they grow, what their composition is, how their growth affects nutrition, their structure and how they transform under different conditions. This field of study and research is continually expanding because cereals are so vital to our lives. This discipline encompasses a range of careers.
Your job may be testing cereals to determine their biochemistry. This would be their levels of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and enzymes. Alternatively, you could be involved in food production such as the manufacture of pasta or beer brewing. A deep understanding of cereals and their make-up is necessary because the cereal scientist may be involved in product development or quality assurance.
Universities and the government undertake a great deal of research on cereal grains due to its massive importance. This research might involve developing new types and strains of cereal plants while working with the agricultural sector. It might be working to increase the nutritional yield of cereals that we already grow with success.
Not many universities offer education as a cereal scientist. Most scientists in this field qualify as food scientists or have qualifications in chemistry, biochemistry or agriculture.
There are many options in food science for those who wish to turn their passion into a career. As technology grows and evolves, so will the career options.