What is the role of food technologist?
Food technologists are crucial to new product development activities and innovation projects. They are the brains behind most products you see on the shelf in a supermarket. From product initiation to understanding regulations and food safety aspects they can help with an array of things.
Starting with, a food technologist aims to understand the reason behind why your product should exist and how it aligns with your brand and vision. They try to understand what attributes your product intends to have along with the possible claims (such as vegan and nut-free) and certifications (such as organic) you’re trying to associate your product with. This is a crucial step towards developing a new product. Based on this discussion, a food technologist conducts market research and carries out competitive analysis and gap analysis to ensure your product stands out in the market. This is followed by idea creation which is partly intuitive and partly based on experience.
One of the most important aspects of any food product is its nutritional value. The range of macronutrients one is aiming to highlight in the product, the ingredients that will make the product allergen-free and still delicious, the labels (such as clean label) one is aiming to have on the product- all of these a food technologist helps with making sure it aligns with your product.
She or he will also devise appropriate flavours or SKUs- ingredient sourcing, detailed recipes, flavour, colour, additives or no additives, and ideal texture for the food item. They will conduct some basic benchtop trials to give you an idea of what the product could be like. This is where multiple “prototypes” are worked upon to make sure the aim is being fulfilled at its best. After this, they will help conduct appropriate shelf-life tests with respect to its taste and appearance and back it up with how the product might be changing chemically, microbially, or physically. They can also help extend the shelf life if that is one of the important attributes you wish to have in your product.
The overall outcome of the product pertaining to the packaging is also something a food technologist helps with. This includes details like the possible serving size, number of servings per package, and the type of packaging you possibly envision your product in. They help you understand the feasibility of the packaging.
Lastly, once all the recipes are locked in kitchen trials, a food technologist helps with scaling up the product to see how the product reacts when made in bulk. This scaling up is a gradual process that starts with a pilot trial and eventually a production trial. A food technologist teams up with production managers or contract manufacturers to make this happen successfully and helps with any possible fixing that might be required in this process.
Before commercialization, all of these trials consisting of prototypes are documented (adhering to the compliance for quality assurance and regulations), suppliers for the ingredients are finalized, nutritional fact tables are created, the packaging is locked in and that is when your product is ready for the big day!