Food processing is a modern practice that improves distributional efficiency and enhances the marketing of the food products. It is considered as a branch of food science, where a set of methods and techniques are used to transform raw ingredients into food for safe consumption by humans or animals. Though food processing existed even during prehistoric period, the technology input to enhance preservation of food, flavour, etc and to reduce the toxins in the food product is relatively new and has revolutionised the entire food industry.
Though some jobs in food processing may not require a person to possess specific qualification in food processing, a certificate or diploma definitely adds to the curriculum vitae. The first step to get into food processing industry is to pass 10+2 with physics, chemistry and biology as it is the minimum qualification for most of the courses in food processing. Most colleges offering courses in food processing conduct entrance exams to admit students.
As is true with any other career, it is important to have the right aptitude to make a successful career in food processing. Sincere candidates start preparing for various entrance exams soon after 10th exam. Understanding various requirements of the industry and analysing the aptitude and set of skills necessary to survive in food processing sector is compulsory for any youngster looking to explore the avenue.
A SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threat) analysis is necessary before opting for a career in food processing industry. It is necessary to judge whether you are prepared to work in this challenging sector which is still at a nascent stage, although it has a bright future. The food processing industry offers extensive range of job opportunities for varied range of professionals: managers, food technologists, engineering graduates; therefore, a professional willing to explore his career in it definitely can look for right designation.
It is important to analyse the nature of work in food processing segment, it can even involve preparation of raw materials like cleaning of the raw material, chopping, blanching, crushing, mixing, cooking of the food item, adding preservatives, final packaging, etc. Whether the candidate would be able to handle these processes should be decided at an early stage to rule out future dilemma.
Various professional courses in food processing such as BSc in home science or BSc in food technology have high fees structure. The fee usually depends on the kind of institute and its infrastructure. Similarly, specialisation in food processing such as sugar alcohol, bakery, oil, fruits, vegetables, etc requires considerable money.
A number of scholarships are available to candidates willing to study food processing in India and abroad. NAARM ICAR Senior Research Fellowship and Ramalingaswami Fellowship are the two major scholarships for candidates willing to study food processing and who wish to do further research. Similarly, Agri Biotech Foundation - ABF PhD Fellowships in Agricultural Biotechnology can be availed which help in funding of education in food processing. SK Patil Loan Scholarships and JN Tata Endowment Scholarships are offered on the merit and requirement basis. Besides the scholarships, a number of financial organisations offer low interest education loan to deserving candidates.
Despite the fact that food processing industry in India is at developing stage, it offers exponential career opportunities to trained professionals in food processing as there are nearly 500 million middle and upper class consumers and food processing companies do not want to miss the opportunity. Moreover, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries has ambitious plan to set up more than 500 food parks across India in every parliamentary constituency so that a real food revolution can be brought about and employment can be generated.
With aptitude to work and requisite skills one can find employment in companies, food research laboratories, catering companies, food wholesalers, hospitals, restaurants etc. Higher education and special qualification helps in getting attractive position within the food processing sector. Qualification in home science and specialisations in food technology, nutrition or food services management can help you climb up the ladder in the industry. Similarly, certification in dietetics, applied nutrition, food science and preservation helps candidates advance in career.
Food processing industry offers compensation depending upon educational qualification, skills, work experience and contribution in the production process. Location of the food processing unit matters a lot in salary offered to candidates; however, professionals working in food processing units in metro cities earn attractive salaries. An entry level professional can earn salary Rs 8000 – 12,000. Similarly, those with work experience can earn Rs 15,000 – 25,000. Senior management persons with years of experience behind them can pocket very high salaries.
A significant mismatch in demand and supply of trained professionals in food processing industry implies that there is ample scope for anyone who wishes to make a career in food industry. With the setting up of new processing units a number of professionals such as bakers, trimmers, fish cutters, slaughterers, meat packers, food batch makers, food cooking machine operators, etc are required in substantial numbers; however, there is dearth of all these professionals.
Food processing industry in India has a very potent market for consumer food including pasta, breads, cakes, pastries, biscuits, soft drinks, beer, alcohol beverages, corn flakes, ready to eat and ready to cook products, cocoa products, mineral and packaged water, etc. This shows that in coming decades a boom can be expected in the sector with immense demand of trained professionals.
The Food Corporation of India requires numerous bacteriologists, toxicologists, professionals trained in packaging technology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, analytical chemistry, etc. Similarly, Modern Food Corporation recruits professionals who can process and market products such as bread, fruit juices, edible oils, soft drink, etc. A number of units of North-Eastern Agricultural Marketing Corporation have come up which require food processing and marketing professionals in large numbers for various positions.
Western countries and the USA have developed food processing units which in fact pioneered the concept of food processing with technological input. Food processing companies based in the US and Europe hire candidates with skills and qualification in food processing technology and students from India for their skills and hard work can get attractive jobs in various food processing companies in these countries.
Whereas food processing industry offers attractive job opportunities, it requires specific qualities and personality traits. The industry is in a developing stage and has a lot of potential. Salary packages are attractive. But there is no scope for egotism as a highly trained professional may have to supervise different processes and work with employees who are otherwise not very talented. Odd timings can also not be ruled out. Therefore, there are pros and cons of working in food processing industry. Despite the efforts new food processing units are not coming in pan-India basis therefore, quality jobs are centred majorly in metro cities.
Like any industry, food industry too offers varied range of roles and positions to professionals.
Research Scientists: Research scientists work towards enhancing yield, flavour, nutritive value, etc. of packaged food so that they have greater acceptance among consumers.
Food technologists: The fundamental work of food technologist is to offer techniques for preservation, conservation and processing of food items to be packaged. Additionally, they check the compliance of procedure during the food processing and ensure that there is no contamination and adulteration. Ensuring top quality nutritional value in the food products by putting quality raw materials is an additional job for a food technologist.
Engineers: The food processing industry is so broad that it employs the services of various engineers for planning, designing, improving and maintaining the entire processing system of a unit.
Organic Chemists: Qualified professionals in organic chemistry working in food processing industry ensure that there is proper method to convert raw materials to processed food.
Biochemists: Looking after the flavour, texture, storage, quality of packaged food products, biochemists ensure that there is nothing the consumers have to complain about.
Analytical Chemists: Working as quality analyst and checker, analytical chemists ensure prime quality packaging of foods and beverages.
Home Economists: Ensuring congruency of the instructions on the containers and the food products contained in it is the job of home economists.
Managers and accountants: Besides technical professionals, non-technical jobs such as managers and accountants work towards the management of the processing unit and in the supervision of the production process.
Some of the leading food processing companies in India have come up in joint collaboration with MNCs operating in India. While companies from developed nations provide technical expertise, Indian firms offer cheap labour and production centres. Leading food processing companies in India include:
• Godrej Industrial Limited
• Dabur India Ltd
• PepsiCo India Holdings
• Nestle India Pvt Ltd
• Britannia Industries Ltd
• ITC Limited
• Parle Products Pvt Ltd
• Agro Tech Foods
• Perfetti India Ltd
• Cadbury India Ltd
• Hindustan Lever Limited
• MTR Foods limited
• Gits Food Products Pvt Ltd
The expanding food processing sector offers extremely attractive employment opportunities to those who possess technical qualification in food processing. However, there are specific requirements which are needed to get hired from top notch food processing firms. Some tips can be:
o Early start to study food processing can be beneficial in getting a job at early age and for that one should start preparing for various entrance exams conducted soon after 10+2.
o Possessing some soft skills such as being conscientious, meticulous, organizational, cleanliness and hygiene focused, prudent and hard working can give edge over rest of candidates.
o There is no match for technical acumen in food processing; therefore, candidates possessing excellent domain knowledge always have higher employability.
Despite the fact that it is a new discipline, various universities and institutes in India offer comprehensive range of courses in food process and food technology to students looking for making a career in it. Some of the leading institutes are as follows:
• National Sugar Institute: Located in Kanpur, Chennai and Calcutta, it offers internship program in sugar technology and sugar engineering as well as diploma program in industrial fermentation and alcohol technology to candidates.
• National Dairy Research Institute: With two centres at Karnal and Bangalore, it offers BSc in quality control in dairy processing and BTech in dairy technology.
• MS University, Vadodara
• Gujarat and Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore
• Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Himachal Pradesh
• Fruit Technology Institute, Lucknow
• Central Institute of Fisheries Education