Food & Flavor Chemist
Food chemists focus on the chemistry of foods, their deterioration, and the principles underlying the improvement of foods for consumers.
Few people recognize the science behind the food they consume. While food science involves chemistry, biology, physics, biochemistry, microbiology, nutrition, and engineering, the major portion of a food science curriculum is chemistry. Food chemists develop and improve foods and beverages; analyze methods of heat processing, canning, freezing, and packaging; and study the effects of processing on the appearance, taste, aroma, freshness, and vitamin and mineral content of food. These chemists also test samples to make sure foods and beverages meet food laws and labeling requirements and experiment with new foods, additives, and preservatives. Food chemistry encompasses everything from agricultural raw materials to consumer end-use products.
Food scientists often talk about their work as an art form. In the flavor industry, training is geared toward developing creativity as well as acquiring knowledge of the chemistry of flavor ingredients and the instrumental analysis techniques involved in making flavors.
Prospective flavorists usually have an undergraduate or graduate degree in chemistry, biology, or food science. They start out as lab assistants, doing compounding and general lab work under the tutelage of a senior or master flavorist. During a five-year training period, they maintain "tasting" notebooks and learn characteristics of flavor materials individually and in blends. Then they are eligible to be sponsored for apprentice membership in the Society of Flavor Chemists and undergo an interview that includes an assessment of their knowledge and skills. After two more years, apprentices may apply and be re-interviewed for an upgrade to become certified flavorists. With this rigorous training, it is not surprising that few trained flavorists leave the field. Many love the challenge, creativity, and variety of their work.
The Society of Flavor Chemists has designed a rigorous training process for flavorists, as described in this brief. However, the education needed to be a food scientist is more accessible. The Institute of Food Technologists has approved 50 schools with food science programs. Many food scientists start with an undergraduate degree in chemistry or biology and enter a food science program at the master's level. A Ph.D. may be required for those who wish to teach or conduct fundamental research. Well-known food science programs include those at the Universities of Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota, as well as at Cornell University (NY), Rutgers (NJ), and the University of California−Davis.
Mean Salary Range (2011)
Want to know more?
- American Chemical Society-Food & Flavor Chemists
- Chron-Food Chemist
- Society of Flavor Chemists Newsletter
Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.
- American Chemical Society
- List of Flavor Chemist Professional Societies
- List of Professional Organizations
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Information retrieved from American Chemical Society: Careers & the Chemical Sciences and Chron: Food Chemistry Salaries.
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