Whether it’s manufacturing, product development, ensuring safety and cost-efficiency, or packaging – a food processing engineer juggles all these tasks. They may be required to work with equipment and navigate management systems in factories, as well as create new products in kitchens or labs.
Food processing engineers can work across a wide range of categories within the industry, from meat and processed foods to milk and plant-based proteins.
What are the job responsibilities?
– Overseeing manufacturing processes in food production facilities
– Ensuring health and safety guidelines are followed and the food produces is safe to consume
– Working with management systems to meet the quality and quantity requirements of the food produced
– Managing internal and external audits evaluating processes like safety and quality measurement as well as suppliers
– Streamlining packaging and delivery processes
– Using technology to analyse the chemical composition of food
– Designing and developing new food products, as well as cost analysis and business development plans
Who might your employers be?
Food manufacturing and production companies are the most common employers for food processing engineers. Food businesses looking to streamline processes, increase efficiency, maintain and improve quality, and develop new products are always on the lookout for food engineers.
Beyond the manufacturing industry, you could also be working for retailers as an in-house engineer tasked with managing safety and quality processes, as well as working with suppliers on new innovations. And in the public sector, you could be devising policies for government departments and performing administrative tasks surrounding food, as well as assessing environmental and sustainability strategies by working with food authorities.
What qualifications do you need?
Having a food-related degree is essentially a necessity for those seeking a career as a food production engineer. Relevant degrees would revolve around food safety, nutrition and health, quality management, and science and technology. More general courses that are helpful traverse scientific subjects, including microbiology, applied chemistry and even medical science.
If you have an unrelated Bachelor’s degree, you can look into more specific Master’s courses. Some of these include:
– Food Technology for Industry (MSc, Cardiff Metropolitan University)
– Food Manufacturing and Technology (MPhil/PhD, University of Lincoln)
– Food Science (MSc, University of Leeds)
What is the salary like?
According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a food processing engineer in the UK is over £36,000 per year. With experience, your salary can increase up to £45,000, and if you take a role in senior management, it could be upwards of £50,000 per annum.
Where will you be working?
Depending on the industry, you could be working in factories, production facilities, development kitchens, laboratories, retail head offices and government workspaces.
In the food manufacturing sector, shift work is common up to management level, so flexibility is key. Based on the role, you may be working the traditional 9am to 5pm hours from Monday to Friday. But the nature of the industry and this job means extra hours and weekend work are possibilities – however, you’ll likely be given that time back.
Part-time work and flexible hours may be available, but in most cases, this won’t be a work-from-home role as it requires hands-on management.
What’s the career progression like?
Experience usually dictates job progression in this role. You would most likely start as an apprentice under experienced engineers, but as you grow into the job, you can become a technical specialist, senior product developer or lead technologist. This could follow a promotion to supervisory and management roles. If you’re working for a large company, you could move into strategic management, which would involve greater responsibilities around staff and resources.
Is there demand for this role?
Food and drink represents the largest manufacturing sector in the UK (accounting for 18% of the total output). It also employs 15% of the manufacturing workforce. The industry is estimated to need 49,000 new skilled professionals by this year alone to meet the demand, so this is likely to increase in the future. With new companies innovating in the food industry and sustainability becoming a key target for all businesses, the opportunity is rife for food processing manufacturers.
For more jobs in the food industry, visit Food Matters Live’s Preparing for a career in food