It is a little known fact that the food processing industry requires professionals from a vast field of specialisations
Food processing has come a long way since the prehistoric days of crude techniques like fire, smoking, steaming, fermenting, sun drying and preservation with salt. The Industrial Revolution changed all that and revolutionised technology. Most of the changes in preservation and packaging during this time occurred out of military exigencies. Change in food habits, consumers’ demand for better quality and the space race, required development in food processing. Introduction of spray drying, juice concentrates, freeze drying, sweeteners, colourants and preservatives are features of this period. Thanks to these, we now get ready to make soup, meals, parathas, and packaged beverages.
A report released by the Cabinet of India in 2007 predicted that the present 300 million upper and middle-class consumers of processed and packaged food will hit the 500 million mark by 2010.
Today we live in a consumerist world where the developing countries alone offer a large market. The proliferation of supermarkets is an indicator of the wide range of opportunities that are available to the youth now. Food technology constantly seeks to enhance and improve the edible life of food products and beverages.
What does it involve?
The transformation of raw food into finished packaged products is a long process that has several rungs of employment.
Basically, food technologists and engineers are to draw principles of the sciences and apply them to production, preservation and packaging, processing and canning of various food products. It involves selection, cleaning, chopping, mixing, and cooking of the raw items of food and addition of preservatives.
- Food technologists – To determine the most accurate ways of processing. Constant innovation in ways of preserving, conserving and processing food falls within the job description of technologists. They have to scientifically determine the quality, hygiene or contamination levels in the raw materials.
- Organic chemists – Responsible for developing methods for processing raw materials.
- Biochemists – Responsible for the flavour, texture, storage and quality.
- Analytic chemists – Quality maintenance is the task of analytic chemists.
- Home economists – Home economists are experts in dietetics and nutrition. They test the food and recipes according to the directions on the containers.
- Engineers – For the planning, designing, improving and maintaining of the system, chemical, mechanical, industrial, electrical, agricultural and civil engineers are required.
- Research scientists – innovations in the field of flavour, nutrition quotient, and yield of the product are carried out by research scientists.
- Managers and accountants – Like any other industry, managers and accountants are required in to manage and supervise financial and administrative aspects.
Undergraduate and post graduate courses are offered by most Indian universities in areas such as Home Science, Food Technology and Food Science.
There are diploma and certificate courses offered by polytechnic, food craft institutes and universities.
Short term training in home based preservation of food, bakery and confectionary lessons, rice milling, oil seed processing are provided by the SMinistry of Food and Civil Supplies in various parts of the country.
A food technologist should be hardworking, intelligent, committed to quality and hygiene. She should be innovative and interested in research for the development of health and nutrition. She must be able to work in a team and able to communicate effectively.
The public and private sectors are patrons of the food processing industry. The Modern Food Corporation markets bread, fruit juices, edible oils, soft drink concentrates and North-Eastern Agricultural marketing Corporation markets and process fruits and vegetables. The private sector companies are now slowly gaining entry into the processing industry. If you are a dynamic individual then you could also look into self-employment opportunities. The government of India funds several Self Employment Programmes for food processing.