You come home from work tired and exhausted. In no mood to cook, you grab something “Ready to Eat ” .

Ready to Eat foods, or RTE as they are called, have become such an integral part of our lives. As inconspicuous as they might seem, they are one of the key ingredients of our busy lives.

However, the instant nature of RTE food trivializes their long development cycles in the lab, to make sure they are healthy, tasty and meet the needs of their target audience.

Pratiksha, our next pathbreaker, talks to  Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about how she became a Food Technologist and her journey so far.

Pratiksha, tell us about your background ?

I grew up in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra and studied science in 11th & 12th. At that time 12th was considered as a turning point of your career and everyone amongst my friends were taking admission to different streams of engineering and medical. But I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer whole day and was not ready for medical also. 

While going through brochure of different colleges I came across the name “Food Technology”.  I did research on internet, talked to my parents regarding this and decided to get admission for Food technology.

 I did my graduation from UDCT, Maharashtra and masters from NIFTEM in Food Technology.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

My approach to entering food technology was to learn and experience basic things in this new field. With practicals, theory, industrial visits and conferences I started becoming familiar and excited about food technology.

Like every other field, practicals in the lab and real world manufacturing in the industry are different things except the method. I did my first internship at a bakery plant in Mumbai. I was a quality control intern there. From raw material inspection to finished goods checking I was involved in almost every department.

My second internship was at a factory which manufactures “Ready to Eat” food products at Pune. I was in the research & development department. I worked on various projects there. I tried to develop gluten free pizza. It was a challenge to make a gluten free pizza like regular pizza. I took more than 35 trials for developing a product. So I learnt there that you need be patient while developing a product.

I also worked on shelf life of food. Shelf life testing is to check how long your product is good for consuming. For that, we need to check physical, biological and chemical parameters after a particular time interval and then come to a conclusion. In the food industry, research is critical and one has to continuously stay updated on customer demands and work on them.

After my masters, I joined as a fresher in one of the Startup in Mumbai.

What were some of the challenges you faced? how did you address them?

Sudden transformation from academics to industry was difficult. To work in an industry you have to come out of your college lab. The beginning is always hardest but eventually you will get into that.

As I started working in a startup, there were many challenges. In most of the startups one person has to play many roles. So, managing many things at a time was a challenge. One has to prioritize the things to finish them in time. 

In a food company, food technologist can work in any department like Research and Development, Quality control & assurance, Production, Supply chain, Packaging, Auditing, Import-export, marketing & sales, Consultant, blogger etc.

In my company, I was in product development. After some time I got shifted to supply chain management. Challenge was to handle supply chain smoothly. In a startup, you will face many problems in the initial days, but finding alternative vendors, minimizing transportation cost for raw materials will help to solve this. Also change in weather, availability and other factors also need to be taken into consideration.

Where do you work now? Tell us about your current role.

I am working in the same company (Shemade Gourmet Foods) where I joined as a fresher.  We have problems related to the shelf life of food, to keep food fresh for a long time without using chemical additives. By conducting many trials with different ingredients and natural solutions we get closer to the solution.

In our daily life, we have variety of products which we can eat for breakfast and snacks, like granola, biscotti, crackers, protein bars, trail mix etc. When I joined my company, I initially worked on modification of these products like creating new and trendy flavors in the same category, change in packaging and labeling, reduction in cost, change in shape and size, change in weight etc.

Being patient is a much needed trait while developing and launching a new product because the product cycle is long. Also, never give up. 

While handling supply chain, one may face shortage of material, low quality raw material, longer transportation times, sudden increase in cost etc. So you need to be continuously updated about your material. If any problem occurs, you have to keep alternative solutions ready, because you cannot stop the production and delay the deadline. My director told me to keep a minimum 2-3 vendors for every raw material.

For every job role, you will require different skills. As you start working and gaining experience you will automatically acquire those skills. 

A typical day goes in, working on a new idea for product development, taking follow ups for material, and managing every part of supply chain.

However, my job is not monotonous, and that is what I love the most about it. As I mentioned earlier, I am working in a startup, everyday is different and challenging. 

 How does your work benefit the society? 

Nowadays people are more aware about what they eat, and a food technologist plays a very important role in their food. Demand for packaged and ready to eat food products has increased. Developing a new product, creating labels, spreading awareness about food, testing food, are all helpful for society.

Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) is a government organization which provides license and certification to every food business in India. It has came with so many initiatives for good health of society like Eat Right India, Swastha Bharat, hygienic practices etc. You can visit below website for more information.

Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!

I worked on a product in which Gluten (a protein in wheat and maida) was an allergen. So for making bakery products we usedflours other than wheat and maida. For one of our customers, we wanted to develop a gluten free product, but condition was that the product should be tasty and cheap, compared to our existing product. 

So by using different raw materials and taking many trials, we finalized a particular combination and recipe and today that product is in the market. 

 Your advice to students based on your experience?

I must say, believe in yourself and follow your passion, only then you can go ahead and ahead. Accept the challenges, keep going forward and never give up.

Future Plans?

I want to work independently in my field. As of now, I am at the beginning of my career, so Iam keen to learn new things. Also, I am writing articles related to food technology. In future, I would like to give more time to this work also.

Below link will take you to the articles. supekar