There has been a significant buzz around the Applied Biological Sciences field because of their exciting and dynamic nature, and direct implications on the human life.
Biomedical Science might seem to be the most popular branch within the Applied Biology domain. But, the field of Food Science and Agriculture is also gaining huge popularity of late. The field is very broad and interdisciplinary.
In this post I am going to give you an overview on the Food Science and Technology – Science meets Food.
What is Food Science?
Food science is the branch of applied sciences that combines the fundamentals of biochemistry, physical sciences and chemical engineering to study the physical, chemical and biological nature of food items. In simple words, food science (or food technology) deals with the manufacturing, processing, treatment, preservation, and distribution of food.
The ultimate objective of food science is to understand the principles of food processing and to improve the food quality for the general public. Whatever food item (especially packaged ones) you come across in the supermarket (or retail store), has had some contributions from a food scientist, food technologist or food engineer.
Food Science, Food Technology & Food Engineering
Though Food Science Food Engineering and Food Technology are very overlapping, there are few subtle differences. I am not going to get into too many details on this. But, I would like to provide the following illustrations that I found on ResearchGate:
- Food Technology: Fire can be used to cook food.
- Food Science: Burning wood produces heat, water, and carbon dioxide. Heat denatures proteins in food.
- Food Engineering: Building a fireplace and chimney makes it easier to cook with fire without filling the room with smoke.
I hope we are clear enough now. From now on we will take all the three disciplines as one broad field – Food Science & Technology.
What is the Need of Food Science & Technology?
Food is essential for all forms of life; and humans need food for survival. Like shelter, clothes, education and healthcare, food is also a basic necessity for mankind.
Majority of the food items are biological in origin. The process of harvesting, processing, distribution, storage and preparation is quite complex. Understanding the process, and solving various problems during the whole process, requires broad-based knowledge and training.
Food scientists are responsible for making safe and nutritious food along with innovative packaging, and that also in abundance. Thus, Food Scientists allow us to make the best use of our food resources and minimize waste of resources.
There has been a tremendous evolution of food system worldwide, thanks to food science and technology. Processed food items are more convenient to consume, and more importantly can be more tasty and healthy as well.
For example, raw milk could be very harmful if you consume as it is. You need to boil it (to remove pathogens) and then consume. Besides, the shelf-life is also short. In contrast, the pasteurized milk (e.g. Mother Dairy) is safe and has got longer shelf-life. Besides, milk can be processed to produce cheese, yogurt, butter, cream etc. For curious folks here is an article on pasteurized milk versus raw milk.
Another idea behind processed food is to enhance the compliance of few vital elements. There are quite a few kids who do not want to consume milk (contains various vital nutrients important for growth) vegetable or fruits.
Hence the food science gave us health drinks (rather brands) like Horlicks, Boost, Bournvita, Complan etc. They might not contain same nutrient value as proper milk, fruits and vegetables. But, kids do tend to drink them as they taste better; besides those brands are being endorsed by the kids’ favorite stars (Cricketers or Bollywood actors).
Some of the best examples (products) of food science and technology that we come across in our daily life are:
- Frozen Food
- Canned Food
- Snacks & Fast Food (chips, fries, pizza, burger, pasta etc.)
- Microwave Meal
- Ready-To-Eat Meals
- Bottled and Packaged Milk (long-life, skimmed, semi-skimmed etc.)
- Baby Food
- Low Fat Butter
- Coffee (Instant and Filter; don’t know the difference yet? Read here)
- Cereals (including cereal bars)
- Packaged Juice (Fruit and Vegetable)
- Aerated Drinks (Cola), Energy Drinks (Gatorade, Red Bull), Beer, Wine and other alcoholic beverages
Growing Demand of Food Science & Technology Professionals
Relatively Food Science is still a very new discipline, and it is growing due to rapid urbanization and lifestyle changes worldwide. Being a branch of applied sciences, Food Science is very multi-disciplinary in nature, just like Biomedical Science, Pharmacy or Translational Science.
Food Science involves chemistry (organic, inorganic and physical), biochemistry, microbiology, nutrition, chemical and process engineering. The holy grail of food science lies within the understanding of the chemistry and biochemistry of food components like proteins, carbohydrate, fats, minerals, vitamins and water.
So, the field needs highly qualified and trained Food Scientists. Due to advancements in technology and our hectic daily life, there is an increasing demand for easy to prepare (e.g. Maggi, frozen pizza) and easy to consume food items (e.g. ready-to-eat meals). Apart from quality, factors like safety and nutrition value also need to be kept in mind. Therefore, there is a growing market demand for more advancements and sophistication in the field of food science and technology globally.
Required Education & Training for a Career in the Food Industry
Ideally you need to have Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (PCB) combination in your 10+2, and may be Mathematics as well. At Bachelors level, ideal courses are 3-year or 4-year degree courses in Food Science, Food Technology, Food Science and Technology, or Food Science and Agriculture.
Alternative courses are Biotechnology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Chemical/Process Engineering, Nutrition, Pharmaceutical Sciences etc.
To have a career in R&D, QC and QA, you will require a higher degree (Masters or PhD). You can gain more advantage by pursuing a higher degree from abroad. If you are more inclined towards the sales and marketing (product/brand management) roles then an MBA will be very helpful.
In case you want to pursue a career as a Nutritionist or Dietician, a formal degree after Bachelors is not always necessary. You can do a Certificate or PG Diploma course in Nutrition or Dietetics.
Top Academic & Research Institutes in India
Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre (FDTRC)
National Institute of Nutrition (NIN)
Department of Food Science and Technology, Pondicherry University
Department of Food Science and Nutrition, SNDT Women’s University
Agricultural & Food Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur
Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE)
School of Health Sciences, University of Calicut
Top Universities in Abroad
Universities in USA
- Cornell University
- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
- Texas A&M University
- UC Davis
- University of Florida
- University of Missouri
- Michigan State University
- Iowa State University
- Purdue University
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Oklahoma State University
- University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Pennsylvania State University
- Ohio State University
- Clemson University
- University of Minnesota
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale
- Mississippi State University
- North Carolina State University
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Colorado State University
- Virginia Tech
- California State University long Beach
- California State University Los Angeles
- University of Arkansas
- New York University
- Tufts University
- Drexel University
- University of Connecticut
- Kansas State University
- University of Idaho
- Oregon State University
- Washington State University
- Texas Tech University
- University of Delaware
- University of Georgia
- University of Tennessee
- Rutgers, State University of New Jersey
- Utah State University
- Brigham Young University
- Bowling Green State University
- Florida State University
Universities in UK
- University of Leeds
- University of Reading
- University of Surrey
- Heriot Watt University
- University of Central Lancashire
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- University of Nottingham
- Teesside University
- University of Exeter
- University of Chester
- University of Greenwich
- London South Bank University
- Sheffield Hallam University
- Cardiff Metropolitan University
- London Metropolitan University
- University College Dublin
- University College Cork
- Dublin Institute of Technology
- University of Copenhagen
- Denmark Technical University
- Aarhus University
- Norwegian University of Science and Technology
- Wageningen University
- KU Leuven
- Ghent University
- ETH Zurich
- Bern University of Applied Sciences
- Swiss German University
- Lund University
- University of Gothenburg
- University of Auckland
- Massey University
- Auckland University of Technology
- University of Otago
- University of Queensland
- Curtin University
- RMIT University
- Victoria University
- University of Melbourne
- University of New South Wales
- University of British Columbia
- Dalhousie University
- University of Guelph
- McGill University
- University of Manitoba
- Carleton University
- Saskatchewan University
- National University of Singapore
Why Pursue a Career in Food Science & Technology
The food industry is one of the largest in the world. People will never stop to eat (essential for survival). Hence, it will be in demand always, and recession-proof.
You can choose any role within the food industry – behind the desk or in the lab. You can choose any function – R&D, Manufacturing, Quality Control, Sales & Marketing, Teaching and Consulting within the Government, Industry or Academia.
Popular Sectors for Employment
- Food Manufacturing & Processing (Grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat etc.)
- Dairy Firms
- Poultry Firms
- Bakeries & Confectionaries
- Academia & Research Institutes
- Food Packaging
Popular Career Paths & Job Profiles in the Food Industry
- Research & Development (Food Scientist, Food Technologist, Food Chemist, Product Development Specialist)
- Quality Control & Assurance (Food Chemist, Food Inspector, Toxicologist)
- Food Processing (Food Processor, Process Development Specialist, Manufacturing Specialist, Food Production Manager)
- Sales, Marketing & Brand Management (various roles like other industries)
- Others (Dietician, Nutritionist, Animal Nutritionist, Diet & Fitness Counselor)
Salary Structures in the Food Industry in India
As a fresher, a Food Technologist (or Scientist) can earn INR 20 – 25K per month (average) in India.
Within 5 years, you can reach INR 500,000 – 640,000 per annum. With an experience of 10 years on your CV, you can expect annual package of INR 900,000 – 1,180,000.
The salary structure for professionals within the Manufacturing function could be 20% (approximately) less than those in the R&D or QC/QA function. If you enjoy lot of frequent traveling, then go for the roles of Food Inspector.
Academic roles will pay as per the University pay scales. Then there will be more extra incentives as well for Sales & Marketing professionals. For nutritionist and dieticians, median annual wage is INR 210,000 for fresher; and Nutrition Managers can earn INR 750,000 per annum (average). As a nutritionist or diet counselor, you can also do freelancing.
Read here about Nutritionist Jobs and Dietician Careers in India. If you end up in the Sales & Marketing (including Brand Management) role, the salary levels will be 20 – 25% higher than the R&D and QC/QA professionals.
Salary structures have been mentioned after referring to sites like PayScale & Glassdoor, and peers (working in top FMCG companies like Nestle, Heinz, Hindustan Unilever, and GSK Consumer Healthcare).
Product & Brand Management within the Food Industry: Most Challenging & Rewarding
The Food industry (and FMCG is broader sense) is huge in India. Each and every role/function is vital in this industry. R&D and QC/QA assure nutritious and safe food for us. But, Product Management and Brand Management (and Strategy) are arguably the most functions from the industry point of view.
Remember how Cadbury revived its image by roping in Big B as Brand Ambassador after the incidents of worms in Dairy Milk. Last year Nestle flexed muscles (R&D, QC, QA, Operations and Brand Management) to revive the Maggi Brand. Read here about the Nestlé’s Half Billion Dollar Maggi Debacle in India and How Nestle Revived Maggi Brand.
These functions require a lot of strategy as the competition is fierce. Here is a comprehensive case-study of the Patanjali – INR 2,500 Crore FMCG business.
So, if you are a foodie, like challenges, good with creativity and making strategies, and want to be wealthy – go for these two roles. Know more about Job of a Product Manager and How Akshay Vasan Got into a Brand Management Career in India.
Scope of Food Industry in India
The Indian Food Industry is currently valued at USD $39.71 billion, and the value is likely to reach USD $65.4 billion by 2018 (Govt. of India and IBEF).
According to DIPP, the Indian Food Processing sector has received around USD $6.7 billion as FDI between April 2000 and December 2015. The investments are poised to reach the value of USD $33 million in the next 10 years.
Besides the investment factor, the opportunity factor is also there – as per the data from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, 42% of the Indian Food Processing Industry is still unorganized (D&B) – so opportunities are also there for prospective entrepreneurs. Overall, signs are very promising for the future within the food industry. Here is an infographic from IBEF to give you another overview.
Still not convinced? Here are few key points as quoted on the IBEF and MakeInIndia website:
- India ranked 6th in the World in exports of agricultural products in 2013
- India has got 2nd largest arable land in the world, and possesses 20 agri-climatic regions with all 15 possible major climates, and 46 of 60 possible soil types in the world
- The contribution of the food processing sector to the GDP in 2012-13 was INR 845.22 Billion
- Food Processing Industry is one of the major employment intensive sectors in India, contributing 13.04% of employment generated in all Registered Factory sector in 2012-13
- Food is the biggest expense for an urban and rural Indian household constituting share of 38.5% and 48.6% of the total consumption expenditure of households in 2011-12 respectively
- Rising income levels, affluence and a growing middle-class, along with a population size of 1.22 billion of which 604 million were under the age of 24 in 2011, is likely to increase India’s overall food consumption
- One-third of the population will be living in urban areas by 2020 and there will be increasing desire for branded, packaged and ready-to-eat food items
- Food Processing has been recognized as a priority sector, and Government had announced setting up of special fund of INR 2,000 Crore (2014-15) in NABARD to designated food parks and the individual processing units in the designated food parks at concessional rates
- Services of pre-conditioning, pre-cooling, ripening, waxing, retail packing, labeling of fruits and vegetables have been exempted from Service Tax
- Lot of exemptions and rebates are available on Transportation Costs, Income Tax, Profit Tax, Service Tax, Custom Duty and Central Excise Duty for the Food Processing sector
- Various investment opportunities are available, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in addition to infrastructure such as cold storage, abattoirs and food parks
- 100% FDI is permitted in the automatic route for most food products, and RBI has classified loan to food & agro-based processing units for Priority Sector Lending (PSL) subject to aggregate sanctioned limit of INR 100 Crore per borrower
- Many foreign players from all around the globe are showing huge interest to invest in the Indian Food Processing sector; notable ones are Kraft (USA), Mars (USA), Nestle (Switzerland), McCain (Canada), Danone (France), Ferrero (Italy), Kelloggs (USA), Pepsi (USA), Coca Cola (USA), Hindustan Unilever (Anglo-Dutch), Heinz (USA), Hershey (USA)
- Last but not the least – there is enough room, and in fact, demand for Food Tech Startups. There have been many players in the Food Tech domain. But, all of them have been working on the verticals like Discovery, E-Commerce (Ordering/Booking) and Delivery (logistics). I haven’t come across a major player who is actually working on “Food”. There is enough room for innovation and value creation in this segment. Read more on Food-Tech Startups in India by Meha Agarwal on Inc42.
If you are a foodie and passionate about science, then you can definitely think about having a career in Food Science and Technology. The Food and Beverage industry in India is one of the among the top ones. According to my analysis, Food Science & Agriculture is also among the top trending subjects for study abroad; and I believe you have got the reasons after reading this post.
In the next post I will write about the Agriculture (Agricultural Science & Technology). Till then keep eating, be healthy and enjoy science.
NOTE: We are NOT accepting new queries on this article. Instead, please post here – Career advice for Biotechnology careers
Image source: centennialcollege.ca