About food science and technology

Food scientists ‘look after’ the food we eat

Food is one of the few things in life we can’t live without. That’s why the food industry is thriving. However, there are dynamic changes happening around the world in response to things like food shortages, soil depletion, lack of rainfall, competition for land and global warming.

As you can imagine, working in the food industry offers many opportunities that will become both challenging and fulfilling as time goes on. Right now, optimising the food we have for flavour, nutrients, and longevity is a priority that few can deny.

Food scientists are the wizards of the food industry

You probably take your food for granted a bit. It doesn’t just ‘appear’ on the shelves at the local supermarket. In fact, almost all the products you buy when you do the groceries have undergone rigorous development processes to ensure that you, the consumer, get the best product possible.

It is the job of a food scientist to understand the nature of foods using their skills and knowledge in a combination of chemical, biological and physical sciences. They need to consider many aspects of food including flavour and nutritional content, quality, handling, storage and safety, processing, preservation, packaging and distribution. 

What do food scientists do?

As a food scientist, what you do will depend on what you specialise in. You could work in quality assurance, monitor food production, or analyse the food for nutrient contents for correct labelling  of products. Perhaps you could research better ways to preserve or package food or what additives you can use to make the food last longer. 

You could even work in product development, looking at and improving existing food products or coming up with new ones. Another option is to work helping industry to meet food safety regulations.

Food technologists may specialise in fields such as meat, dairy, seafood, cereal products, confectionery, snack foods, beverages and minimally processed fresh produce. On a day to day basis, however, food scientists could be called on to do the following things:

  • Maintain safe and hygienic conditions during processing, storage and packaging of food.
  • Check raw ingredients and processed food for nutritional value, safety and quality.
  • Research aspects of food processing, food preservation, food quality, food deterioration, packaging, storage and delivery in order to improve them.
  • Check food consistency for colour, texture and taste.
  • Develop and look after food standards.
  • Design new food products and the techniques needed to make them.
  • Supervise cleaning and maintenance of food processing machinery.
  • Do comparisons with products from other brands and write reports for management about new products and market trends.
  • Supervise the effective transportation of foodstuffs such as fruit, vegetables and milk – making sure that the product quality is unaffected.
  • Be the quality control king in a food manufacturing factory.

Where do food scientists and food technologists work?

A food scientist could work in any number of roles including, food technologist, new product developer, food testing, laboratory scientist, food microbiologist, quality manager, or even a nutritionist. Food scientists work in any industry which is related to food – from major food and beverage brands to research organisations, to flavour producers and regulatory authorities.

Career opportunities

Product Development: Graduates are involved in developing new food products or improving the quality, performance, and/or safety of existing products. These positions require a creative flair, sensory evaluation expertise, and the ability to work in teams.

Research and development: Persons employed in research and development for a food company use their microbiology, chemistry, engineering, or nutrition skills to investigate scientific principles and phenomena as they pertain to specific food components, food products, or food processes.

Technical support: Graduates in technical support combine their knowledge of raw materials and ingredients with food processing applications. Often they work closely with product development specialists in the manufacture of food products.

Management: Managers of manufacturing facilities are involved in the organisation, operation, and development of food processing companies. Their key role is to oversee employees and operations in the processing of specific foods.

Quality assurance: Quality assurance and quality control specialists analyse the components of food products and monitor the finished product for conformity to company and government standards.

Regulation: Graduates are involved at the state or federal government level with agencies such as the USDA, FDA, EPA, and the Patent Office. Positions include policy development, enforcing food sanitation and labeling regulations, or ensuring the safety of our food supply.

Extension education: Extension educators specialising in food safety, food processing, or human nutrition use a variety of educational methods, including group meetings, workshops, mass media, and electronic methods to deliver educational information.

International: Many larger food companies are multinational and employ graduates with international experience or who speak a foreign language. Graduates looking to 

expand their horizons can be involved with helping citizens of developing nations improve their food handling and storage procedures through agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation, or the Peace Corps.

Past graduates have been employed within these companies and industries 

  • Mars Australia (major food brands)
  • Givaudan (flavours)
  • Lion Co (beverages)
  • Uncle Toby’s & Kellogg’s (snacks and cereals)
  • CSIRO (research)
  • Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (regulatory organisation)

Is Food Science and Technology right for me?

Click here to view Food Science and Technology undergraduate degrees at UNSW.