Education, Career and Job Demand for Food Scientists & Food Technologists in Malaysia
Food scientists study everything to do with food from the flavours and nutrition content to product development, consumer appeal, food storage and safety. They apply knowledge of maths, chemistry, biology, biochemistry and microbiology to ‘look after’ your food from the time it is harvested until you buy and consume it.
Although ‘food’ might sound a bit narrow in focus, the food industry is actually the largest industry in the world which means Food Science and Technology offers a remarkably diverse range of options.
Food science and technology is about understanding the composition of food and, in a way, ‘reinventing’ it. It could involve enhancing the taste, making it last longer, making sure it’s safe to eat, or even boosting its nutritional content. If you love science and you’re interested in food production and preparation, this could be an ideal career for you.
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Find Out More About the Job of a Food Scientist in Malaysia and the Education Pathway to Become One
Food scientists ‘look after’ the food we eat
Food is one of the few things in life we can’t live without. That’s why the food industry is thriving. However, there are dynamic changes happening around the world in response to things like food shortages, soil depletion, lack of rainfall, competition for land and global warming.
As you can imagine, working in the food industry offers many opportunities that will become both challenging and fulfilling as time goes on. Right now, optimising the food we have for flavour, nutrients, and longevity is a priority that few can deny.
Almost all the products you buy when you do the groceries have undergone rigorous development processes to ensure that you, the consumer, get the best product possible.
It is the job of a food scientist to understand the nature of foods using their skills and knowledge in a combination of chemical, biological and physical sciences. They need to consider many aspects of food including flavour and nutritional content, quality, handling, storage and safety, processing, preservation, packaging and distribution.
What are the Main Areas of Work for a Food Scientist?
Food scientists work in areas like research and product development in food production companies, in university laboratories, and in research institutes. Here are some of the specific areas a food scientist might choose to focus on:
Food scientists create new products or enhance existing ones, developing new flavours, creating products that are more convenient, more nutritious, cheaper to produce or last longer. This could include participating in taste panels to work out what’s most desirable in a product so the product is successful in the marketplace.
Food scientists try to understand the structure and function of foods and ingredients so they can ensure things like stability and consistency of flavour and texture. They may also look at ways to make foods healthier by adding or modifying nutrients, lowering fat content or increasing fibre.
Food scientists develop ways to process, preserve, transport and store food so that it stays safe and ‘bug free’. Or conversely, that the fermentation processes have gone according to plan and produced a desirable set of characteristics, these might include probiotic characteristics.
Food scientists investigate ways to extend the food’s shelf life, enhance its flavour and preserve the nutritional content – all without compromising the food’s appeal to the customer. They may also look at new, more efficient processes that contribute to a better end product.
What do Food Scientists do?
Food scientists and technologists do pretty much everything from working with the pure science behind what the food is made up of to planning the efficient manufacture of food products. They:
- Supply nutritional information for food labels
- look for ways to keep food fresh, safe and looking good
- investigate cheaper and faster ways of producing food
- test the quality and safety of food
- invent new ‘recipes’ for foods using new ingredients
- make changes to foods, like creating sugar-free products
- design processes and machines that make the products on a large scale.
As a food scientist, what you do will depend on what you specialise in. You could work in quality assurance, monitor food production, or analyse the food for nutrient contents for correct labelling of products. Perhaps you could research better ways to preserve or package food or what additives you can use to make the food last longer. You could even work in product development, looking at and improving existing food products or coming up with new ones. Another option is to work helping industry to meet food safety regulations.
Food technologists may specialise in fields such as meat, dairy, seafood, cereal products, confectionery, snack foods, beverages and minimally processed fresh produce. On a day to day basis, however, food scientists could be called on to do the following things:
- Maintain safe and hygienic conditions during processing, storage and packaging of food.
- Check raw ingredients and processed food for nutritional value, safety and quality.
- Research aspects of food processing, food preservation, food quality, food deterioration, packaging, storage and delivery in order to improve them.
- Check food consistency for colour, texture and taste.
- Develop and look after food standards.
- Design new food products and the techniques needed to make them.
- Supervise cleaning and maintenance of food processing machinery.
- Do comparisons with products from other brands and write reports for management about new products and market trends.
- Supervise the effective transportation of foodstuffs such as fruit, vegetables and milk – making sure that the product quality is unaffected.
- Be the quality control king in a food manufacturing factory.
Where do Food Scientists Work?
A food scientist could work in any number of roles including, food technologist, new product developer, food testing, laboratory scientist, food microbiologist, quality manager, or even a nutritionist. Food scientists work in any industry which is related to food – from major food and beverage brands to research organisations, to flavour producers and regulatory authorities.
Another way a Food Scientist might specialise is by type of industry – like meat, dairy, seafood, cereal products, confectionery, snack foods, beverages and minimally processed fresh produce. Each have their own set of challenges and specialised knowledge.
It’s possible a Food Scientist may choose to work in related areas like marketing and management, production supervision, quality control, research and development or food standards and regulation.
Is Food Science and Technology right for me?
What do you Study in a Food Science & Technology Degree Course?
When you are studying food science and technology you’ll learn all about food from all different aspects of the industry including:
- Science – chemistry, biology, physics
- Food microbiology, food chemistry
- Food toxicology
- Food safety
- Food preservation
- Sustainable food manufacturing
- Product design and development
What skills should I have as a Food scientist or technologist?
If you think you want to be a food scientist or technologist ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you love science and maths?
- Are you interested in food production and preparation?
- Have you got really good attention to detail?
- Can you work with strict hygiene rules?
- Are you a good communicator? (You need to be able to communicate to different types of people from other scientists to factory staff.)
- Are you confident enough to enforcing rules and regulations?
- Can you work in a team?
What are the Career opportunities for Food Scientists and Food Technologists in Malaysia
Product Development: Graduates are involved in developing new food products or improving the quality, performance, and/or safety of existing products. These positions require a creative flair, sensory evaluation expertise, and the ability to work in teams.
Research and development: Persons employed in research and development for a food company use their microbiology, chemistry, engineering, or nutrition skills to investigate scientific principles and phenomena as they pertain to specific food components, food products, or food processes.
Technical support: Graduates in technical support combine their knowledge of raw materials and ingredients with food processing applications. Often they work closely with product development specialists in the manufacture of food products.
Management: Managers of manufacturing facilities are involved in the organisation, operation, and development of food processing companies. Their key role is to oversee employees and operations in the processing of specific foods.
Quality assurance: Quality assurance and quality control specialists analyse the components of food products and monitor the finished product for conformity to company and government standards.
Regulation: Graduates are involved at the state or federal government level with agencies such as the USDA, FDA, EPA, and the Patent Office. Positions include policy development, enforcing food sanitation and labeling regulations, or ensuring the safety of our food supply.
Extension education: Extension educators specialising in food safety, food processing, or human nutrition use a variety of educational methods, including group meetings, workshops, mass media, and electronic methods to deliver educational information.
International: Many larger food companies are multinational and employ graduates with international experience or who speak a foreign language. Graduates looking to expand their horizons can be involved with helping citizens of developing nations improve their food handling and storage procedures through agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation, or the Peace Corps.
What’s the Job Demand for Food Scientists in Malaysia?
According to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), The food-processing sector accounts for about 10% of Malaysia’s manufacturing output. Processed foods are exported to more than 200 countries, with an annual export value of more than RM11 billion (USD4 billion) which amounts to two-thirds of the total food exports of over RM18 billion. Although the export performance of this sector has doubled overthe last ten years, Malaysia continues to be a net importer of food products with annual import of more than RM30 billion (USD9.9 billion). Advances in processing technology have widened the usage of local raw materials, expanding the range of products and increasing the investment absorbing capacity in the food industry.
Malaysia’s current population of 28.58 million is growing steadily at an annual growth rate of about 2%. The country has seen a steady increase in the standard of living and with it, its purchasing power (per capita income exceed RM22,000 or USD7,000).
Lifestyle changes have led to an increase in the demand for convenience food and health foods. Exports of processed food recorded a positive growth indicating the increasing acceptance of Malaysia’s food products in overseas market. This is contributed mainly by products such as cocoa and cocoa preparations, prepared cereals and flour preparations, processed seafood and dairy products.
The same goes with ASEAN. With a population of over 600 million, this huge market still has a vast potential waiting to be tapped. Strategically located in the heart of South-East Asia, Malaysia stands to gain from the growing demand.
With a majority Muslim population, Malaysia has a ready domestic market for halal food. Recognised as a modern Muslim nation, Malaysia is well positioned to be an international halal food hub in the branding, processing and marketing of halal foods to Muslim populations. The halal industry in Malaysia provides immense opportunities for manufacturers. It was estimated that the potential value of the halal food industry
range between USD600 billion and USD2.1 trillion. The concept of halal is associated with food products which are of high quality in terms of cleanliness, sanitation and compliance with religious requirements.
An export-oriented sector, fish-processing includes the processing of prawns, frozen products, canning of fish and the production of surimi and surimi products. Exports exceed RM1.9 billion (USD0.6 billion) per annum of which frozen shrimps and prawns constitute more than RM1 billion (USD0.3 billion).
Cereal Products/Flour Based Products
The cereal products sub-sector, including the production of biscuits, bakery items and noodles, is well established in Malaysia. Although this sub-sector is dependent on imported raw materials, Malaysia is a net
exporter of cereal preparations/products, with a net export of more than RM1.3 billion (USD400 million) per annum.
Chocolate and Sugar Confectionaries
Malaysia is the 5th largest cocoa grinding centre in the world and the largest cocoa grinder in Asia. Malaysia is a net exporter of cocoa products including chocolates, exporting to more than 90 countries. Exports of intermediate products, i.e. cocoa butter and cocoa cake/powder exceeds RM3 billion (USD1 billion) per annum while exports of chocolate and other food preparations containing cocoa are valued at about RM350 million (USD117 million).
Pepper and pepper products
Malaysia is the world’s 5th largest producer of pepper, exporting more than RM180 million (USD60 million).
Value-added pepper and pepper products include specialty pepper and processed pepper-based products
such as spice mixes and blends, seasonings and flavourings
Palm Oil-based Products
Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter and the second world’s largest producer of palm oil in the world. Malaysia and Indonesia account for more than 85 per cent of the world palm oil output and about 93 per cent of global exports of palm oil. Export earnings from oil palm products reached RM59.77 billion, an increase of 20.4% from RM49.66 billion recorded theprevious year. Major markets for oil palm products include China, Pakistan, the EU, India, USA, Egypt and Japan.
The main products are RBD palm oil, RBD palm olein and stearin, specialty fats such as cocoa butter substitutes, margarine, shortening and vanaspati. Further development is seen in the production of value-added palm oil-based specialty products to cater to the health conscious and vegetarian consumers.
It is a new trend that many Malaysians shift towards a healthier diet. By now, they are not willing to sacrifice food flavour for that.
Increasing consumer awareness in nutrition value and food fortification for healthcare has created the demand for functional/healthy minimally processed fresh food, organic food and natural food flavours from plants and seafood. Functional/health food produced in Malaysia is mainly in the form of food products that are enriched. Food ingredients such as customized formulations required by food manufacturers, natural food additives and flavors have the potential for further growth. Within the next years retailers are expected to launch healthier product ranges.
For example, Lee Kum Kee (M) Sdn Bhd has developed its Less Salty Soy Sauce, which contains 25% less sodium in comparison with regular soy sauce, in order to cater to the demand of Malaysia’s health conscious consumers
The demand for convenience foods that can be prepared within minutes is a growing worldwide trend. Locally made convenience foods include frozen foods such as TV dinners, spiced fish and chicken, traditional cuisine, instant powdered juice and retort pouch products. Malaysia is also in an excellent position to produce Asian recipes with convenience food technologies to meet the increasing global demand for specialty and ethnic foods.
Food Ingredients: Food flavours and seasonings, sweeteners and palm oil-based additives are some of the products that have vast potential for further development to enhance Malaysia’s presence in the developed markets in USA, UK, Japan and Australia. The quality of these products is backed by continuous nutritional research.
What are the Companies that Food Science Graduates Can Work in?
Companies that you can work for
- Nestlé Malaysia BerhadNestlé is a household name when it comes to nutritional and wholesome foods for everyone in the family. Brands such as Maggi, Nescafe, Milkmaid, Everyday and Milo, have claimed a special place in the hearts of Malaysians from generation to generation. Recently, the company celebrated its 100th year anniversary at a launch in Kuala Lumpur. Nestlé, in collaboration with its advertising agency, McCann Worldgroup, created a unique 3-minute TV advertisement which showcased the experiences of everyday Malaysians with the company’s products throughout the years. Nestlé Malaysia Berhad currently employs 3,500 employees and produces more than 300 world-class products.
- The Fraser & Neave (F&N) brand has been in the country since 1883, and continues to be as relevant as ever. Products under F&N include Red Bull as well as Malaysian favourites such as 100Plus, Fruit Tree and Seasons. Fraser & Neave Holdings Berhad is also a franchise holder for Sunkist, Ideal, Carnation and Milkmaid products. The company’s soft drinks factory in Shah Alam stands as one of the largest of its kind in South-East Asia, having the capacity to produce over 20 million cases of soft drinks per year.
- Guinness Anchor BerhadGuinness Anchor Berhad (GAB), a producer of alcoholic beverage is the beer and stout market leader in Malaysia. GAB currently brews, markets and distributes Tiger, the fastest growing beer in Asia, Guinness, the world’s leading stout brand, Heineken, the world’s leading premium beer brand and Malta, a non-alcoholic drink that has been a firm favourite amongst Malaysians for decades. The company has 4 out of the 5 top alcohol brands in Malaysia – the award-winning Tiger, Guinness, Heineken and Anchor. GAB is the first and only brewery in Malaysia to receive the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification from the Ministry of Health.
- Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia BerhadThe history of Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Berhad dates back to 1969. By 1972, the company was already producing the acclaimed Carlsberg Green Label beer locally. Since then, it is the leading beer brand with more than a 50% share ofthe Malaysian beer market. Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Berhad is the only brewer in Malaysia today that offers seven of the world’s top international beer brands, namely Carlsberg, Tuborg, Corona, Budweiser, Stella Artois, Fosters’ and Becks’. Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Berhad currently has a workforce in excess of 760.
- Campbell Soup
- Lee Kum Kee
- Secret Recipe, Old Town White Coffee,
- Berjaya Food
- Ramly Burger
- Hwa Tai
- QSR – KFC, Pizzahut, Ayamas, etc.
- Sin Sing Coffee
Lee Kum Kee, Nestle, Kawan Foods, Maggie, F&N, Milo, Auric ChunYip, Gardenia, Cadbury’s, Tesco, Aeon, Palm-Oleo (Klang) Sdn. Bhd., Palmaju Edible Oil Sdn. Bhd., Premium Vegetable Oils Sdn Bhd (A Goodhope Asia Holdings Company)