Today we have a short Q&A with Meabh Manning, a recent graduate from our MSc in Food Business & Technology. We will explore their dissertation, discover why they focused on their particular topic and ask them to share some lessons for future MSc students!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi there! My name is Meabh Manning and I am from Kildare. I originally studied Nutraceuticals in Health and Nutrition for my undergraduate degree in TUD. From there I entered a graduate programme with O’Brien Fine Foods who are best known as the producer of Brady Family pre-cooked meats. My graduate programme was split into rotations covering branded NPD, quality, process improvement and own label NPD. Recently I have moved into a new role in O’Brien Fine Foods as a branded innovation technologist.
Why did you choose to study with Innopharma and TU Dublin?
Since moving into the area of food production and business, I felt my own knowledge of the management of a food business was lacking particularly as my own degree was mostly science based. This master;s degree allowed me to continue with my graduate programme while also improving my own knowledge on the management of a food business.
Can you provide a brief overview of your thesis?
My thesis centred around the implementation of recyclable packaging within the pre-cooked meats business. While it is readily accepted that recyclable packaging is the direction future food packaging innovation must move towards in order to achieve a circular economy, the impact on the food business and the potential for greenwashing techniques must also be examined. This thesis compared the ethical vs the economic viability for a pre-cooked meats business to implement a recyclable base web into their branded range.
What inspired you to choose this particular research topic for your thesis?
Sustainability is incredibly topical and is not always heavily associated with the pre-cooked meats industry. I was inspired by the efforts to offset the carbon footprint of the production of pre-cooked meats through the introduction of a recyclable base web. I was also interested about how changing one element of a product can have effects in multiple areas such as product quality, shelf life and raw material costs.
Did you encounter any challenges or obstacles during your research and, if so, how did you overcome them?
The time in which you carry out your research is quite short. I had to focus in on certain areas in order to fully investigate them in the time given.
What are the key findings or results of your study, and how do they contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your field?
The key findings of this study were that while ethically it is essential for recyclable food packaging to be placed on the market in order to achieve a circular economy, the challenges facing the food business through its implementation are a major roadblock. Challenges such as achieving shelf life, operational difficulties and cost of raw materials were established as the central obstacles to the implementation of the recyclable substrate.
What are your goals after graduation?
My goal after graduation is to continue to learn. The food industry is vast in its opportunities for learning, there are so many areas and products to explore.
Looking back, what advice would you give to other students embarking on a similar dissertation in the field?
I would advise for students to conduct interviews with people in industry in order to get a more well-rounded idea of the challenges of implementing packaging changes in the pre-cooked meats industry. Particularly focus on areas which may see the most impact from a packaging change such as operations, quality and commercial.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today Meabh, some great insights there. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours.