How's the career in food technology

Careers in food technology

If the yoghurt pot can be opened gently, the biscuits in the pack stay crispy and fresh, the chocolate bar fits perfectly in the box and the vegetarian schnitzel looks really tasty, then engineers have done a good job. The food industry is the third largest branch of industry in Germany, around 570,000 people work here to ensure that the whole of Germany is full and that delicious goods are on the supermarket shelves. An exciting industry for engineers.

Develop the yogurt with the corner

One of them is Felicia Hammann, who has been a trainee for packaging development at the Theo Müller Group since September 2015. Thanks to her and her team, the corner of the yoghurt is given a wooden cup design or new cup lids with integrated spoons end up in the refrigerated shelf. "The on-the-go trend is huge," explains the food technologist who specialized in packaging during her studies. »I am allowed to work on new packaging developments in the innovation team. Together with our colleagues from Marketing, we then look at what the customer would like and how we can implement it. "Several times a day she visits the production halls where the dairy products are processed, checks the opening behavior of the cups, whether the systems are running, where there is still a problem.

Entry also works without studying food technology

You don't have to have studied food technology to work as an engineer in the food industry. Industrial engineers, biotechnologists, food scientists and life science technology graduates also work at the Müllergroup. At Mars Chocolate Germany, for example, engineers are deployed in production, technical maintenance and as project engineers to produce chocolate bars such as Snickers and Twix. Those who do well can become production or factory managers or end up in a completely different area, such as sales or human resources.

Diverse perspectives in the food industry

"The prospects for engineers in the food industry are really diverse," confirms Dr.-Ing. Regina Schreiber, professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering for Food and Packaging Technology at the University of Kempten. Engineers are particularly in demand in research and development, she explains, but also in manufacturing, plant engineering and purchasing. "From the taste, through the ingredients, the manufacturing process to the packaging, we engineers help shape the entire value chain," says Schreiber.

One product, many interfaces

Hannes Timmermann does the same, he is a product developer at the sausage manufacturer Rügenwalder Mühle in the research and development department.

»Our job is to develop recipes and manufacturing processes for new products. It's about finding the right ingredients that have the desired properties and processing them «,

he explains. To do this, a small version of the manufacturing process is run through beforehand to test whether production also works on a large scale, for example when a new vegetarian sausage is to go into production. When developing new products, there are many interfaces with other departments: »When looking for suitable ingredients, you exchange ideas with purchasing, which procures new raw materials, but also with quality management. Because we not only want to produce tasty, but also safe products and there are food law regulations to be observed, "explains Timmermann. “I'm responsible for a product from start to finish, so to speak. And when I see 'my' product on the shelf in the supermarket - it's just an unbelievably great feeling. "

Well-trained engineers are needed for new technologies

But before that happens, the engineers are in demand. You have to get machines running, optimize processes and produce a lot, with the lowest possible costs and few rejects. "Companies must and want to produce in a more sustainable, energy-saving and environmentally friendly way," explains Ulrich Kulozik, Professor at the Chair for Food Process Engineering and Dairy Technology at the Technical University of Munich. »Whey from cheese production or the amniotic fluid from potato starch production are also used today with new technologies. In addition, all agricultural products are easily perishable, so new methods are always needed, such as ultra-high pressure technology or pulsating electrical fields, to make them more durable. Well-trained engineers are needed for such innovations, ”explains Kulozik.

It should be safe, long-lasting and tasty

One of the great challenges for engineers: hygienic design, i.e. the cleaning-friendly design of components and production systems that produce food safely. At the same time, yoghurt, sausage and the like should keep for as long as possible, but not lose their taste, nutrients or color. To this end, engineers are working on appropriate manufacturing processes, checking raw materials and temperature settings, from processing to the finished product.

Exciting tasks for food engineers

The food industry is a high-tech industry. But consumers want natural, tasty food that is nicely packaged, has a long shelf life and is available for little money. At the same time, the convenience food market and online food retailing are growing. This creates new fields for engineers when it comes to delivering perishable goods to customers as quickly as possible. Companies such as the biscuit manufacturer Bahlsen are therefore primarily looking for applicants with initiative and willingness to change. "In return, the employees are given exciting tasks, a lot of creative freedom, flat hierarchies and short coordination channels," explains Bahlsen HR Director Arthur Starnofsky.

Enjoyment

For Felicia Hammann, the trainee program at the Müller Group comes to an end this year. "I would recommend the industry to everyone," she says, "an engineering degree gives you a good foundation on which you can then build on, depending on the area of ​​application." And yes, she adds, beginners should also bring a little pleasure in eating and enjoying themselves.