For The Love of Food
A lot people call themselves a ‘foodie’ but not everyone can take their passion one step further and turn it into a fulfilling career. UNSW School of Chemical Engineering alumna, Coral Colyer, shares her story on the where her Food Science and Technology degree has taken her and the life lessons she’s learnt along the way.
Coral who currently leads the Scientific and Regulatory Affairs team at Coca-Cola South Pacific, has come a long way since graduating from UNSW, School of Chemical Engineering in 1992 with First Class Honours (she was Associate Professor Jayashree Arcot’s first Honours student).
She accredits her interest in food technology to her home science teacher in high school who convinced her not to become a chef but instead encouraged her to take her strong chemistry skills and love of business/economics and suggested food science as a viable career path. Although she was set on becoming a dietitian, she felt that completing a food technology degree first would provide her with a better understanding of food.
After much research and a visit to the Open Day, she found that the Food Science and Technology degree here at School of Chemical Engineering provided the best foundation. She was also awarded a scholarship which helped support her during her studies and thanks the sponsor (her current employer Coca-Cola South Pacific!) as it paved the way for her career ahead. She then went on to complete her Master of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Sydney.
As there were no predefined expectations, it really allowed me to be innovative and pave my own way
After her studies, she had a number of different roles including working at Westmead Children’s Hospital as a paediatric dietitian. She went on to work for Goodman Fielder in 1996, at first as a contractor but then helping to develop new products as a Junior Dietitian in their R&D department.
Coral says, ‘It was an exciting time to be working in the food industry. It was quite new for a dietitian to be working alongside the Marketing and R&D teams. As there were no predefined expectations, it really allowed me to be innovative and pave my own way.” She worked her way up the ranks to be Group Nutrition Manager for AUS and NZ until 2003 when she went to work for the National Heart Foundation of Australia and ended up managing their flagship Tick Program. In 2011 she returned to Goodman Fielder to head up the leadership for nutrition, but this time also managing the team for regulatory affairs, product data systems and sensory science.
Now, in her current role at Coca-Cola, which she moved into late 2016, she works closely with the marketing, R&D and technical teams to look for new opportunities in the market for innovation with beverages. Drawing on knowledge from her degree and her industry experience, she provides advice on how those ideas comply with regulations and also represents Coca-Cola in various industry working groups. Working with such an iconic company, she feels a strong stewardship around how the brand behaves and its reputation.
During her time at UNSW, she had built a strong relationship with her A/Professor Jayashree Arcot and now retired Prof Ken Buckle and they’ve stayed in touch ever since. “The relationships I have built with Jayashree and Ken have added richness to my career. They have always been there to help coach and mentor me and also gave me a reality check from time to time” says Coral.
When asked what the most valuable thing she took from uni to the workplace was, she responded “there’s a couple, first the strong foundation in science – the second year Chemistry block was very painful at the time but very valuable now as I regularly refer to it in my day to day work. And the course was also great at connecting students to industry and gave us the opportunity to visit and hear from those companies.”
Advice to current undergraduates?
- Network with others while you are studying: Find genuine common interest and build on that - that’s how I landed my first job at Goodman Fielder
- Before you graduate, get to know the Australian food industry as much as you possibly can. It’s an advantage to know the key strengths and weakness of our industry, the key players and bodies that shape and influence it
- And finally, keep in contact with other alumni once you graduate! You never know how those connections may be of help later in your career.
For more information on the Food Science & Technology program, please click here.