UK supermarkets create around 800,000 tonnes of plastic which enters the ocean each year. Job roles like that of a packaging technologist play a pivotal part in the food industry’s mission to tackle their plastic production.
Packaging technologists are responsible for the design, development, and manufacture for packaging a range of products. Their primary role is to create packaging in response to briefs. However, due to the need to tackle plastic pollution and climate change, those briefs have drastically changed. In recent years, companies within the food industry would instruct a packaging technologist to create the cheapest and most durable food packaging in order to minimise costs and maximise food preservation. The best material to meet these needs has always been plastic. Now, many food Industry companies are prioritising sustainable materials over single use ones. Innovation is as important as ever for a Food Packaging Technologist who has the task of sourcing more sustainable, biodegradable materials while remaining commercially minded and ensuring that costs don’t impact on the business too negatively. Packaging Technologist for Kraft Heinz, Matthew McIvor, says PCR shrink film is a material often in Europe as a method to avoid UK tax.
What are the job responsibilities?
- Generating new packaging products in response to briefs
- Ensuring that packaging products meet set requirements and specifications
- Producing samples to try out different materials and designs
- Liaising with marketing, purchasing and production staff
- Identifying opportunities to reduce costs to maintaining quality
- Running trials to check for packaging for sustainability and testing for performance under various conditions
- Controlling production and quantity standards, including reporting packaging that doesn’t meet these
- Evaluating, selecting and negotiating with suppliers
- Identifying and choosing products from suppliers
- Writing reports
- Keeping up to date with technological innovations
Who might your employers be?
Food Packaging Technologists are typically employed by supermarkets, food and drink brands, government bodies and manufacturing companies.
What qualifications do you need?
You’ll usually need a foundation degree, a higher national diploma or a degree in packaging technology or packaging design.
Other relevant subjects include:
- Materials science
- Food technology
- Chemical engineering
- Manufacturing engineering
A postgraduate packaging technology qualification can be beneficial for graduates without a relevant degree.
IoM3 (institute of materials, minerals and mining) offer packaging courses and qualifications suitable for graduates just starting out in the industry.
Internships with food packaging manufacturers are also a good route into the industry. Entry requirements for these internships vary from employer.
Typical starting salary for a packaging technologist is 22k and can rise all the way up to 44k with experience.
The working environment
The working environment can vary between a laboratory or an office depending on the task at hand. A Food Packaging Technologist is highly involved in the research, sourcing and design of packaging as well as the scientific testing and trialling so the locations of this job role are versatile.
With experience, you can hold more responsibility in areas like marketing, sales, project or people management or artwork design and incorporate these factors into your packaging creations. With experience you can be given more creative freedom, take on senior Food Packaging Technologists roles and manage people.
With experience, freelancing as a packaging consultant is an option and the salary for an established freelancer has the potential to be much higher.
A Food Packaging Technologist has the potential to pioneer a company in the race towards an eco-friendly future. The priorities of this job role have completely transformed in recent years towards protecting the environment. The job is well suited for graduates who have the ambition to change the future of our planet through modern ideas and technology. Find out more about Food Packaging Technologists and the future of sustainable packaging at Food Matters Careers Week.