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Food Technology: Bright future for food techies

Bright future for food techiesWith no dearth of demand for packaged and processed foods in the marketplace, there is a premium on food technologists, making it one of the more attractive career choices.

In the fast-paced contemporary age with dual income urban families having little time for preparing elaborate home-cooked meals, there is no dearth of demand for packaged and processed foods. This socio-economic transformation has created a new profession — food technology. The demand for food and coterminously for food technologists has ballooned, making it one of the most attractive careers of the 21st century.

Food technology is the study of manufacture, storage, preservation, canning, and packaging of food products. The technology embraces all types of food — fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, milk, cereals, spices, tea, coffee etc. The food industry is the fifth largest industry in the country. Currently, it generates employment for an estimated 1.9 million. It has the potential to become India’s largest industry.

Within this rapidly expanding fast-track industry, the food technologist is a key player. Apart from examination of foodstuff, checking for contamination and adulteration, and certifying its nutritional value, food technologists devise new and improved techniques for the processing, conservation, and preservation of food items.

To qualify as a professional in this emerging field there are a variety of study programmes which train students for jobs in small as well as large-scale units. For interested students who have completed Plus Two, short-term certificate, craft, and diploma courses are offered at various polytechnics in different states. The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore (Karnataka), is the premier postgrad institute for food processing and technology.

To enroll for a B.Sc degree in food sciences a Plus Two in physics, chemistry, and biology is generally required, though some institutions require maths as well. For the M.Sc programme the minimum eligibility criteria is a B.Sc degree in physics, chemistry, biology, and maths, or agricultural/chemical engineering, or agriculture/food technology. Among the prominent institutes offering study programmes in food science and technology are:

  • Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, which has a branch in Mumbai
  • M.S. University, Vadodara
  • SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai
  • Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Himachal Pradesh
  • Fruit Technology Institute, Lucknow
  • National Sugar Institute, Kanpur
  • Central Institute of Fisheries Education has training centres in Barrackpore (WB), Kakinada (AP), Lucknow, and Mumbai
  • National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal
  • Small Industries Services Institute, New Delhi, conducts entrepreneurial development programmes
  • Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar
  • College of Food Science and Technology, Andhra Pradesh

Food technologists with professional qualifications are readily absorbed by food processing companies, food research laboratories, wholesalers, retailers, and even by hotels, restaurants, hospitals and other catering establishments. They can also find employment opportunities in the manufacturing industry—for example, for monitoring the storage, hygiene, temperatures etc. Entry level pay and perks tend to be good for those who are professionally qualified in public and private sector companies — Rs.20,000–25,000 per month. After acquisition of experience and expertise, the sky is the limit. Moreover, the food processing industry offers excellent entrepre-neurial opportunities as this sector has attracted investments of over Rs. 20,000 crore during the past few years.

Food processing is a sunrise industry, an IT industry in the making. With the Union ministry of food processing finally getting the encouragement it deserves, this agri-industry is poised to take off in a big way soon and India, which wastes almost 40 percent of its horticulture produce, could well emerge as a global hub of the processed foods industry,” says Mehul Somaiya, director of the Mumbai-based Haveli Foods Pvt. Ltd.

Extensive Diversification. An alumnus of Mumbai’s upscale Cathedral & John Connon School, Somaiya graduated in commerce from H.R. College in 1994 and acquired an MBA from K.C. College in 1996. This was followed up with a short-term diploma course at CFTRI in 1997. His launch pad was the family-run Haveli Foods, which was started 20 years ago by his mother in Gujarat as a pickle manufacturing cottage industry. When Somaiya took charge in 1998 he commercialised the firms operations, diversified extensively, and moved to Mumbai. Today the closely held company exports its branded pickles, masalas, and papads to several European, Middle East and Far East countries.

Having established Haveli as a respected brand name we have test-marketed several dehydrated foodstuffs. Now that the Union government has announced proper facilities to investors for catering to the global demand for processed foods, we are all set to scale up our operations,” says Somaiya.

Given the huge expansion potential of this hitherto neglected industry, Somaiya feels there is need for more educational institutes to train food technologists and agri-industry professionals. As manufacturers create new products and develop consumer markets for them, a whole slew of job opportunities will become available in this growing industry. The future is very bright,” he enthuses.

For a sunrise industry, that’s inevitable.

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