Food processing is a branch of food science, which owes its existence to the prehistoric times. Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food for the consumption of humans and animals. Processing of food leads to preservation of food, enhances its flavor and reduces the toxins in the food product. It leads to better distributional efficiency and helps in the easy marketing of the food product. The modern food processing techniques have led to the feasibility of the development of the present day supermarkets. Long voyages would not be possible, and military campaigns would be more difficult and expensive to execute without food processing. Extra nutrients can also be added while processing the food and processed food is less susceptible to spoilage. The rising consumerism in the societies of developed and developing countries has contributed to the growth of food processing with techniques such as spray drying, juice concentrates, freeze drying and the introduction of artificial sweeteners, colorants, and preservatives. In the late 20th century products such as dried instant soups, reconstituted fruits and juices, and self cooking meals were developed for the convenience of middle class wives and mothers and for the working women.
In India Food Processing industry is gaining momentum as the consumer food industry, which includes pasta, breads, cakes, pastries, corn flakes, ready to eat and ready to cook products, cocoa products, biscuits, soft drinks, beer, alcohol beverages, mineral and packaged water and segment of consumer foods is seeing an upward trend.
The Cabinet of India on June 21, 2007, granted its approval to an integrated plan, which aims to promote India's food processing sector and boost the country's agricultural business (according to a press release). As per the report there are about 300 Million upper and-middle-class consumers of processed and packaged food in the country, and another 200 Million are likely to be added by 2010. Ministry of Food Processing Industries is planning to establish 500 food parks in the Tenth Five Year Plan across every parliamentary constituency. This will give a further boost to the growth and development of food processing industries and thereby is generating a huge job potential for those who have an aptitude for the work and required qualifications.
The food processing industry is still at its nascent stage in India. It thus provides ample employment opportunities. The areas where one can find employment in this industry are:
- Food processing companies and food research laboratories
- Food wholesalers
- Catering establishments
- Restaurants provide employment to candidates with degrees in home science and specializations in food technology, nutrition or food services management. Diploma holders in dietetics, applied nutrition, food science and preservation and those having certificate in dietetics or food and nutrition can also be employed in this industry.
- Bacteriologist, toxicologists and those trained in packaging technology, organic chemistry, biochemistry and analytical chemistry can find opening food technology laboratories or in quality control departments.
- A number of public sector undertakings in the department of food also require people in this field. The Food Corporation of India, which handles the purchase, storage transport and distribution of food grains and other food items, provide employment to large number of people. Modern Food Corporation which markets bread, fruit juices, edible oils, soft drink concentrates and North-Eastern Agricultural Marketing Corporation which markets and process fruits and vegetables also recruits people.
- Self-employment opportunities also exist in the form of dynamic delivery networks for those who want to work on their own.
- Private sector companies have been the key players in the food sector and even companies like ITC are now moving into the sector, seeing the potential in processed foods.
Some other back-end jobs in this industry are:
- Meat, poultry, trimmers, and fish cutters
- Slaughterers and meat packers
- Food batch makers
- Food cooking machine operators and tenders
- Food and tobacco roasting, baking and drying machine operators and tenders
The major players in private sector in this industry in India are:
- ITC Limited
- Parle Products Pvt. Ltd.
- Agro Tech Foods
- Perfetti India Ltd.
- Cadbury India Ltd.
- PepsiCo India Holdings
- Nestle India Pvt. Ltd.
- Britannia Industries Ltd.
- Hindustan Lever Limited
- MTR foods limited
- Godrej industries Limited
- Gits Food Products Pvt. Ltd.
- Dabur India Ltd.
Nature of Work
Food technologists, technicians, bio technologists and engineers are required in this industry for the practical application of the principles of many disciplines of science in the manufacturing or production, preservation and packaging, processing and canning of various food products. All this needs preparation of raw materials for processing which involves selection, or cleaning of the raw material, followed by the actual processing, which could be chopping, blanching, crushing, mixing or even cooking of the food item, the addition of preservatives and the final packaging along with keep in hygiene and maintaining quality of products. Following people are needed for the work in food processing industry:
- Food technologists: They are given the responsibility of determining whether a particular process is being performed in a certain specified way or not. They are instrumental in devising new ways and improving the older ones for preserving, conserving and processing food. They have to check for the contamination, adulteration and controlling the nutritional value of the food products which are to be processed. Food technologist are also assigned to determine to quality of the raw materials used in the plants aw well as the food which has to be dispatched to the market. They also look after the storage conditions and hygiene.
- Organic Chemists: They advise on the methods by which the raw materials have to be converted into processed food.
- Biochemists: They suggest improvements in flavor, texture, storage and quality.
- Analytical Chemists: They analyze food products to maintain quality.
- Home Economists: They are in a way expert in dietetics and nutrition. They test the food and recipes according to the directions on the containers.
- Engineers: Chemical, Mechanical, Industrial, Electrical, Agricultural and Civil engineers are also required for planning, designing, improving and maintaining the processing systems.
- Research Scientists: They carry on experiments regarding improvement in yield, flavor, nutritive value and general acceptability of the packaged food.
- Managers and accountants: They manage administration and the finances apart from supervising the processing work.
Following the personal attributes required in this industry
- Organizational abilities
- Particular about cleanliness and hygiene
- Hard working
Degree courses in Home Science, food technology and food science and in specialized areas like fisheries, or dairy sciences are offered by some Indian Universities. There are also short-term certificate, craft and diploma courses offered by various polytechnics, food craft institutes and universities. The Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies has several Food and Nutrition Extension Centers in different parts of the country providing short-term courses and training in home-based preservation of fruits and vegetables, preparation of bakery and confectionery items, rice milling, oil seed processing etc. M.Sc and Ph.D courses in food and nutrition, home science, food technology and biotechnology are also available in some universities.
For B.Sc. in Home Science/ Food Technology/ Food Science, one should have passed 10+2 examinations with Physics, Chemistry and Biology as the main subjects. For M.Sc/Management, the minimum eligibility is a B.Sc.
Colleges, Institutions and Universities
Some of the prominent institutes offering courses in this field are:
- MS University, Vadodara, Gujarat; and Central Food Technology Research Institute, Mysore (with branches in Karnataka and Mumbai) offers certificate courses in Bakery and Confectionary, BSc and M.Sc in Food Science
- Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Himachal Pradesh; Fruit Technology Institute, Lucknow offers degree and diploma course in Food Technology.
- National Sugar Institute, Kanpur, Chennai and Calcutta, offers associateship in Sugar Technology and Sugar Engineering and Diploma in Industrial Fermentation and Alcohol Technology.
- Central Institute of Fisheries Education with four centres in Barrackpore (WB); Kakinada (A.P); Lucknow and Mumbai, also offers various certificate and diploma courses.
- National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal and Bangalore, offers B.Sc quality control in dairy processing and B.Tech in dairy technology.
- IGNOU offers a certificate course in food and nutrition.
- Small Industries Services Institute, Okhla, New Delhi offers Entrepreneurial Development Programme on Food Processing Industries.
Food Technologists can specialize in any of the many fields of food processing such as sugar alcohol, bakery, oil, fruits and vegetables etc. one can do Ph.D in food technology or biotechnology or food preservation.
Earnings vary by industry, skill, geographic region, and educational level. At the entry level the food technologists can earn around Rs.5000 to Rs.8000 per month. Those who have an experience of around five years can draw a salary in the range of Rs.10000 to Rs.15000 per month. And those who have worked for 15 years can earn up to Rs.30000 per month.