What is a food technologist?
A food technologist (food scientist) is responsible for ensuring that food products are manufactured safely, legally and to specific, high quality standards. This branch of food science is concerned with researching and developing food products and ingredients, often to create new goods or improve existing ones.
Food technologists can work in a variety of different settings – such as laboratories, manufacturing plants and offices – therefore specific duties may vary accordingly. Typically, the role will require individuals to:
- Modify and find improvements for old food products, and generate ideas for new food products, ingredients and recipes
- Research harmful food additives to develop substitutes and make foods safer and healthier
- Check quality, hygiene and safety standards at all stages of the production process to strive for continuous improvement
- Work with suppliers to choose materials and ingredients
- Be involved in the launch of products and run trials or experiments in order to gather consumer feedback
- Come up with innovative solutions relating to packaging and labelling
- Write reports on products
Types of employers
A wide range of companies require food technologists to be involved in their research and production processes – and specific roles will differ depending on the sector in which you are working. For example, some organisations require food technologists for quality assurance purposes, and others for the development of new processes.
You could look for jobs with the following types of organisations:
- Additives/ingredients manufacturers
- Food and drink production companies
- Research consultancies
To see who’s hiring right now, search the latest food technologist/scientist roles here.
Qualifications and experience required
A degree is not essential to gain a role as a food technologist; however, you may benefit greatly from having one in a relevant subject such as food science, food nutrition and health, or biotechnology. In order to progress into roles with more responsibility or those focusing on research, a postgraduate qualification may also be beneficial and some employers may require one. As a school leaver, you could undertake an apprenticeship or entry-level job with a company that offers full training schemes.
In terms of experience, it is highly beneficial to have some prior industry work experience gained through a placement or summer job. You could look into shadowing a technician at a company you wish to work for, or spend time on a food production line.
Networking is essential for roles such as this one, so it is important to spend time connecting with the right people and making sure your name is known within organisations.
How to become a food technologist
There are a number of skills required to become a food technologist, such as:
- Good teamworking skills, as well as the ability to work independently when necessary
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
- Problem-solving skills and creativity
- Attention to detail
- Leadership skills
- Good time-management and organisation
You should also be able to show that you have a genuine interest in food science as well as some knowledge of food legislation and industry standards when applying to jobs. Familiarity with quality assurance, food safety and allergen control can be highly beneficial, and it is important to get to know the sector you are aiming to work within.
Within an interview, you are likely to be asked questions that explore your knowledge of current food product trends as well as your technical experience with production or research methods. An employer may also want to hear about your experience of solving particular food related problems and working well within a team environment. You should be prepared to give examples that clearly demonstrate your competence – using the STAR technique is the best way to do this.
There are a variety of ways to search for food technologist jobs, depending on the type of company you are aiming to work for. University and hospital websites are a great place to start if a medical route is the one for you, or scientific publications such as New Scientist Jobs. You may also find opportunities listed on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Specialist recruitment agencies, such as CK Science, are another effective way to search for and land jobs, as they are able to offer tailored support and advice.
Download CV and cover letter templates here.
A starting salary for a food technologist will technically range between £20,000 and £25,000 per year, and will vary depending on the type of company and location of the job. With experience, this can rise significantly to around £45,000 and managerial positions can earn up to £55,000 or sometimes more.
You could progress into research-based roles within research consultancies or university departments. Alternatively, you may want to progress down a route in quality assurance as a technical food manager which will involve a lot more responsibility and the requirement of leading a team.