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Featured Career: Food Scientist

Updated: Nov 11, 2020


It sums up the dreaded Gemini question that every human, plant, and animal contemplates- “What am I going to eat?”

Whether it be Michelin Fine dining or TV suppers, picking what’s for dinner can be quite cringeworthy. It begins with the initial stare towards the direction of the fridge or pantry, as though a subtle romance has just commenced. Your stomach begins to growl as you blissfully enter the kitchen in search of a succulent morsel.

While cooking dinner may not exactly be rocket science; it is indeed a science.

In ancient times, it was a rarity for food to actually possess flavor and seasonings. However, in this day and age, cuisines are available in abundance from every country surrounding the globe. Thanks to famous chefs like Gordan Ramsey, the demand for food portrayal has taken a more elevated approach. Not only are consumers demanding a whimsical display of deliciousness, but they are also demanding it is healthy.

This new consumer-led insistence for nutritious, ethical, and convenient food products has resulted in a growth of opportunities for a very specially trained professional- The Food Scientist.

Table with food items and microscope for science studies

Food science is the study of the physical, biological, and chemical makeup of basic and complex culinary creations. These scientists study ingredients to make sure they are both tasty and safe for consumer satisfaction. Many are known for decadent creations like cotton candy-flavored grapes, bacon banana donuts, and the famous chicken & waffles duo. Nonetheless, their work extends far beyond the aperitive side of it all.

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Food Scientists spend countless hours finding, testing and developing alternative food options for people with severe food allergies and/or intolerances. They test and evaluate the effects certain food allergens have on our body, such as Gluten, Dairy, Nuts, Soybeans, Eggs, ShellFish, etc. Their research has prompted chefs worldwide to create new and amazing meals with other sustainable ingredients. Allergy-free food options have never been this good!

Food Scientists typically work in 4 main segments:

  1. Research & Development: Scientists aid in the development of new food processing methods. They create new or improved food items for customers with healthier and safer ingredients. They also run tests to confirm product shelf life and government/industry standards.

  2. Regulations: Scientists inspect food processing operations to ensure all proper procedures, industry standards, and regulations are being followed.

  3. Processing: Scientists evaluate all processing and storage operations, schedule food processing operations, develop production line specifications, and explore alternative manufacturing methods.

  4. Quality Control: For safety measures, scientists must check raw ingredients for freshness, maturity, sustainability, and also check finished products for quality, nutrition value, color, flavor, texture, and safety. Their work goes even further in testing food samples for particular types of molds, yeast, and bacteria that may be harmful. Quality Control also involves the creation of systematic QA programs and guidelines for organizations to follow, develop, and improve safety methods.

Male Food Scientist testing food samples

To become a food scientist, a Bachelor’s Degree in nutrition, microbiology, or chemistry is usually required. A food-related postgraduate qualification can also be used for candidates without a Bachelor’s Degree. Individuals possessing previous food industry experience often have an advantage in this field as their knowledge can rapidly help them excel.

Employers of food scientists include food manufacturers, retail companies, universities, government organizations, and specialist research associations. Many individuals also seek entrepreneurship in the renowned restaurant industry. Average yearly salaries range from $49,000 to $81,000. Although chefs like the remarkable Nobu Matsuhisa have a net worth of approximately $38 million! How’s that to marinate on?

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