Food science is exactly what it says on the tin - the science of food. It is a multidisciplinary field of science that includes elements of chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology and engineering, equipping you with the knowledge and expertise required to solve real problems associated with the multifaceted food system.
Food science is still a relatively new and growing discipline. Brought about largely by the social changes taking place in much of the developed world, food science has become a trend in itself now responding to new market demands seeking more convenient and sophisticated products. According to Deloitte, Ireland’s food and beverage industry has an annual turnover of over €25 billion and exports of in excess of €10 billion, sustaining a quarter of a million jobs. Additionally, Ireland is the largest net exporter of dairy ingredients, beef and lamb to Europe. What might have previously been viewed as a sunset industry, is now anything but.
Ireland has evolved steadily from predominantly exporting live animals and freshly harvested crops to adding more and more value through the development of sophisticated products with the use of modern production technology. Food science has been at the forefront of this progression.
Without food science we would have little understanding of how any food behaves during harvesting, processing, distribution, storage and preparation for example. Still not convinced? Take a look in your fridge and food cupboards – you’ll quickly see you probably interact with food science on a daily basis without even knowing it. From canned foods to microwaveable meals and UHT milk, these are all as a result of food science in practice.
When it comes to working in the food science field the most common misconception is that food scientists only work in labs. While laboratory work is an important aspect of many food science jobs, food science is a dynamic and multifaceted field that offers a wide range of career opportunities. Coupled with Ireland’s stellar reputation for producing high-quality food and the ever growing global population, a food science qualification is one of the best courses to study in Ireland. Keep reading while we take a look at some of the roles available and what lies ahead for food science graduates.
Research and Development
In the food sector, 91% of businesses see Ireland as a good location for research and development (R&D) activity (Deloitte). Kerry Group is spending €135 million on its new research and development centre; Glanbia is an international leader in Global Performance Nutrition; Aryzta is a leading innovator in baked products. These companies are just a sample of the R&D opportunities in Ireland today.
So, where does a food scientist fit into the R&D agenda? Food scientists use their expertise in chemistry, processing and sensory sciences to research and develop products that meet and keep up with consumer demands, while also ensuring products meet the relevant safety and quality standards. If this sounds like your cup of tea, keep an eye out for roles, such as Food Technologist, R&D Manager, Sensory Scientist, Product Development Specialist or Culinary Scientist to start or progress your career in R&D.
Many of these roles will require a strong background in science as well as skills such as problem solving, communication and project management. If you haven’t got all the pieces of the puzzle yet, don’t worry - we offer Food Science courses for all levels that will help you in your journey of becoming a food scientist.
Quality Assurance and Food Safety
As customers, we all want to receive quality when we make a purchase. However, when it comes to what we eat, this statement takes on a new level of importance.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are more concerned than ever about what they are putting into their bodies. Thus, quality assurance (QA) and food safety are crucial for protecting consumer health - ensuring food products are correctly labelled and handled hygienically reduces the risk of product contamination, which could cause serious health problems for consumers, or even death.
QA also plays a critical role in building consumer trust. Food processors who fail to deliver on quality run the risk of customer dissatisfaction and reduced demand, leading to falling profit and potential closure.
If leading the food safety and quality agenda is up your alley you could work as a QA Technician, Quality Manager or Food Safety Specialist.
Product Development and Innovation
Food innovations keep the market relevant and exciting by finding more ways of addressing consumer product demands, as well as safety, security, and sustainability issues.
With innovation comes opportunities to grow and expand into new markets. The process allows for businesses to gain a competitive advantage over competitors as it allows you to better your products and services for your customers. Product development and innovation is not isolated solely to the product itself but is a far reaching practice that can incorporate new tools and technologies, new methods or ingredients, packaging solutions and sustainability.
Roles in this space can therefore be equally as vast from food product developers to food packaging specialists and food process engineers.
Food Marketing and Sales
The primary goal of sales and marketing in the food industry is to promote and sell food products to customers. Both functions work together to create a strong brand image, promote products, build relationships with buyers and distributors, and ultimately drive sales and revenue.
Our Masters programme in Food Business Management and Technology delves into all the different aspects of the food industry and has a module dedicated entirely to sales and marketing.
If you're interested in roles, such as Product Manager, Sales Representative, and Marketing Executive, this might be the right branch of the industry for you.
Academia and Education
Without academia, we would not be able to create the next generation of food scientists.
Roles in third level education institutes, such as curriculum developers and food science lecturers or professors ensure rigorous academic programmes are created ensuring students and our future food scientists gain a deep and thorough understanding of food science which can be applied in industry.
As well as educating students, food science research in academia is critical to advancing food science as a field and food manufacturing technologies for the industry.
Only through study and research can we continue to grow and progress our understanding of the complexities of food systems and develop new food technologies.
Entrepreneurship involves the creation and management of new businesses, products and services. It’s not hard to see where food science and food product development can fit snugly in here.
Take the highly successful Irish entrepreneurial duo David and Stephen Flynn. Graduating with a food science and technology degree each, the energetic twins went on to create The Happy Pear - a highly successful, multi-faceted food business incorporating a cafe, grocery store, online shop and a series of cookbooks and TV appearances. The Happy Pear is now a household name in Ireland (and beyond), their entrepreneurial spirit and food science backgrounds the driving force of their success.
When one initially thinks of the government, food science may not be the first thing that comes to mind.
However, food science plays a vital role in the government and governmental policies ensuring the food produced in Ireland is of the quality and safety required to be supplied to the public and further afield.
Statutory bodies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and governmental departments such as the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine (DAFM) are reliant on food science and food scientists to research, develop, and enforce food safety regulations protecting public health.
Non-Government and Charity Organisations
Food science can also play a vital role in charity organisations, operating both in Ireland and abroad, by helping to ensure that the food provided to those in need are safe, nutritious and of high quality.
Food donations must be nutritious and safe for the intended beneficiaries, and food scientists can assist by providing charitable organisations with guidance on correct food storage, preservation and preparation practices. They can also advise on preservation techniques to reduce food waste, maximising the food donated.
Have you heard of FoodCloud? FoodCloud is an Irish social enterprise that exists first and foremost to reduce the environmental, social and economic impact of food waste by redistributing surplus food to a network of Charity and Community Group partners. Here, the role of the food scientist is to ensure the surplus food is safe and suitable for redistribution.
Crosscare, Simon Communities of Ireland, and The Society of St. Vincent de Paul are just a few other examples of charities and voluntary organisations involved in food donations where food scientists can play their part.
Get Started With A Career In Food Science
It’s never too late to change career paths to get into food science. But the road may be different for everybody, depending on each individual’s background and experience.
Whether you have a degree and are looking to get your teeth stuck into some postgraduate study, or you’re just getting started on your food science journey, we offer a range of courses that will help you on your way to working in the industry.
From our Level 6 Certificate in Food Science and Technology to our Level 9 MSc in Food Business Management and Technology, our courses allow students to delve into different aspects of the food industry - right from manufacturing, processing and quality assurance to product development, process improvement and food regulatory affairs.
View all of Innopharma’s available food science and technology courses here:
If you’re ready to start your food science career or just want to explore and learn more, we’re here to help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353 1 485 3346 and explore our food course learning opportunities today!