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When I reached the end of my first year in Food Science and Technology I decided my passion was to work in the nutrition field. In my second year I worked as an assistant with my local council helping the dietician with group sessions mainly focusing on diabetes education.
During my Food Science course I studies some fantastic subjects one being product development. I definitely thought I had what it would take to create new and improved food and beverages. At the end of second year I opened the yellow pages and called every food manufacturing company from A-Z, unfortunately all said they did not take students. I sought advice from my lecturer and he organised to find some work experience for me.
It did not take long before school holidays came around and I was whisked off to the far south-eastern suburbs to a quiet location with a huge factory inside. This was International Flavours & Fragrances (IFF) and I completed my work experience there for a couple of weeks. IFF is one of the largest flavour and fragrance houses worldwide, manufacturing to all the major food, beverage and cosmetic industries. I had such a great time working at IFF and my love for the flavour industry blossomed. At the end of my degree I received a phone call from IFF asking me to come back and work for them. My career in the food industry had begun.
I started in the laboratories, microbiology, analytical and sensory, three years later I was promoted to the job I do now. This job involves providing, updating and maintaining all customer documentation for the flavours we sell. A typical day would be completing product specifications, customer questionnaires, nutritional and ingredients statements, answering general queries and giving my taste-buds a work out. At IFF we taste all the flavours we make, the materials we use to make the flavours and sometimes the foods the flavours are used in for example flavored dairy products, snack foods, beverages and confectionary.
My technical / regulatory role is not easy. Everyday customers and especially consumers are incredibly demanding, they want answers and new flavour documentation with very tight deadlines and there is no room for errors. I really enjoy getting away from my desk and participating in the taste panels, however, I do not get to escape the demands and pressures. Tasting is challenging. There are three panelists and approximately 10-15 samples per session. We taste the newly manufactured flavour against the benchmark or standard and high concentration is needed to ensure there are no differences between the flavour samples. In order to be a taste panelist each participant must go through rigorous training including differentiating basic taste concentrations of sweet, salty, sour and bitter, associating chemicals with flavour profiles and passing spiked flavour sample tests.
With my job in the flavour industry I never stop learning, I need to keep updated on food law (Food Standards Code), technology and consumer demands (eg allergens and religious requirements).
My advice to students wanting a career in the food industry; be passionate about food and dedicated to servicing consumers, be able to adapt to the evolving food industry – new technologies, consumer preferences and legislation. Finally, the food industry is very small so be involved and connected with food industry groups (A.I.F.S.T., Nutrition Australia) and experience all the exciting avenues the food industry has to offer.