Food technologists research, develop and improve food and drink products. They may also be involved in the processing, packaging, storage and safety of food to meet government and industry standards.
Food technologists with up to five years' experience usually earn
$50K-$75K per year
Senior food technologists with more than five years' experience usually earn
$75K-$100K per year
Source: NZIFST and Lawson Williams Consulting, 2019.
Pay for food technologists varies depending on skills and experience.
- Graduate food technologists usually earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year.
- Food technologists with two to four years' experience usually earn $60,000 to $75,000.
- Senior food technologists with five or more years' experience can earn $75,000 to $100,000.
Sources: New Zealand Institute of Food Science Technology, 2019; and Lawson Williams Consulting Group, 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Food technologists may do some or all of the following:
- develop new or improve current food and drinks
- make test samples of food products and conduct trials
- source and select ingredients for food products
- manage or supervise development and production of food and drinks
- improve efficiency of manufacturing processes
- develop new or improve current food packaging
- ensure food products meet specifications and standards (quality assurance)
- investigate the nutritional properties of foods.
“My food technology work is a good balance between the office and the lab.”
Alberto Gonzalez Jordan
Senior Food Technologist
Skills and knowledge
Food technologists need to have knowledge of:
- food and drink products
- food processing and production methods
- food hygiene and quality standards
- how to analyse and interpret research results
- how to perform experiments and operate scientific equipment
- how to write reports
- maths and computer skills.
- usually work regular business hours, but may need to run factory trials at night or on weekends
- usually work in laboratories, offices or factories
- may travel overseas to clients' companies or factories, and attend local or international conferences and trade shows.
What's the job really like?
Alberto Gonzalez Jordan
Senior Food Technologist
Where the passion started
Senior food technologist Alberto Gonzalez Jordan was interested in chemistry, physics, and science as a child. He says that having a curious mind is helpful for being a food technologist.
“When you’re cooking you ask yourself why is this food this colour? Or why do I have to keep this food in the fridge"?
Study in Spain, Ireland and France
Alberto studied for his first degree in food nutrition in Spain, followed by another degree in food technology. He then worked in clinical nutrition, creating healthy diets for hospital patients.
In Ireland, Alberto got his Masters in food innovation and product design. After that, he wanted to take on more innovative and complicated projects so he completed a PhD in France.
University programme offers variety
Alberto works on different kinds of food technology projects for Massey University’s FoodPilot programme. He is involved in developing new products of different categories, such as dairy, seafood, baking and beverages. He says clients are increasingly requesting plant-based products
as meat substitutes.
At other companies with specialised products he could spend many years working on just one food product.
“The advantage of FoodPilot is that we're not always working with the same products.”
Raw milk to premium ice cream
Alberto recently developed low lactose premium ice cream from a farmer's
sheep milk. He said the farmer was amazed to see the milk converted into a marketable product.
Food technologist video
Ashleigh talks about what it's like to be a food technologist – 3.01 mins.
I’m based in the dairy foods team. I’m involved in new product development and new technology development based on cream cheese and cheese products.
Food technology is not being a chef. You’ve got to know a lot about maths, chemistry, a bit of biology and a bit of physics. You have to be creative and think outside of the box. You have to think about something new and exciting that will catch the consumer’s eye.
So when I get to work in the morning I always start it up with a cup of coffee and then I always check my emails and see what’s ahead for the day.
My day normally consists of team meetings. I interact with a lot of researchers and technical officers in my team. Because we have projects that span quite a few different products I also work with people who are in the beverages team, in the engineering team and of course in the chemistry and microbiology team too. I also do lab work.
In the pizza lab today, we are testing our mozzarella on pizza bases. We want to see how much it stretches, how much it blisters and how much oil off it is. So when we make different mozzarella formulations we might be looking at the compositions or we might be changing the processing to be able to change our stretch or blister.
The consumer market is forever changing which changes our products quite a lot. But that’s part of the fun challenge I would say.
The main thing I have been working on here at Fonterra is processed cream cheese. You know our block products in the supermarket which are great for making cheesecakes.
Some of the other products I have worked on include portions and lollipops and jar cheese, and those are more common in the Middle East and China.
I also work with people overseas. So they can either be our customers, they could be based in China, Japan, Middle East, or I can work with our Fonterra officers overseas.
The most rewarding part I find is when you make a formulation and a customer in China picks it up and starts putting that formulation through their factory.
I love this job for the people. The people employed here are fantastic and I love getting my hands dirty. Making some sort of new product that’s never been made before
You have to love food to suit this role and wearing a hair net all the time. We do a lot of lab work and a lot of computer-based work.
To become a qualified food technologist you need to do a Bachelor of Food Technology, which is a four-year degree with a compulsory Honours. You can major in Food Product Technology or Food Process Engineering.
As an associate research technologist I can get promoted here to be a research technologist or a senior research technologist. There are also other pathways I can go down. I can go into marketing or I could go into management.
I would highly recommend this career to anyone who loves food as much as I do. I love seeing products on the shelves and knowing which processes and ingredients went into making that. So if you love that too, this degree is for you.
That kind of rhymed. Maybe I should go into marketing.
To become a food technologist most employers require you to have a Bachelor's degree in food technology, food science or food engineering. A Master's degree is preferred.
Food technologists often complete on-the-job training programmes for specific products and processes.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include home economics, maths, physics, chemistry and biology.
Food technologists need to be:
- patient and persistent
- able to work well under pressure
- good at problem solving
- good at planning and organising.
Useful experience for food technologists includes:
- food processing or production
- laboratory work
- quality assurance
- business management or marketing.
Food technologists need to have good hand-eye co-ordination.
Find out more about training
- Engineering New Zealand
- (04) 473 9444 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.engineeringnz.org
- NZ Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST)
- (06) 356 1686 - email@example.com - www.nzifst.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of skilled food technologists
Demand for food technologists is expected to continue as the number of positions will grow 3% a year until 2026, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Demand is strongest for qualified food technologists with three to seven years' experience.
However, the number of skilled, qualified food technologists is insufficient to meet demand. As a result, food technologist appears on Immigration New Zealand’s long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled food technologists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 1068 food technologists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Strong prospects for graduates with process engineering knowledge and industry experience
Some large food technology companies may have graduate recruitment programmes.
Employers prefer graduates with broader qualifications that include some process engineering, rather than just food science.
A postgraduate diploma can improve your chances of getting work if it includes an applied project for a food manufacturing company and getting hands-on industry experience.
Types of employers varied
Most food technologists work for:
- food manufacturing companies such as dairy processing companies, breweries, food and vegetable processing companies, cereal manufacturers and commercial bakeries
- private food research institutes such as Fonterra Research and Development Centre
- Crown research institutes such as AgResearch and Plant & Food Research
- De Barr, Tony, lead consultant, Manufacturing, Science and Technology, Technical Recruitment Solutions, careers.govt.nz interview, July 2019.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Lawson, John, managing director, Lawson Williams Consulting Group, careers.govt.nz interview, July 2019.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Food Technologist Occupation Outlook', 2019, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology website, accessed May 2019, (www.nzifst.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Food technologists may move into senior roles such as senior food technologist, senior research technologist or technical manager.
They may progress to jobs in areas such as:
- marketing and sales
- food safety authority
- university lecturers
Food technologists may specialise in:
- product development
- quality assurance
- policy and standards
- technical sales
- research and development.
Last updated 2 March 2021