Laxmi Pushpalatha: The food processing industry has grown substantially in the last few decades. The increase in the incomes of the working class has led to rise in the disposable income to be spent on processed foods. The increase in the number of working women who get less time to do kitchen chores also is another factor for increased preference for processed foods. The change in the food habits of the working class who prefer readily available convenient foods is another factor. India is one of the top producers of fruits and vegetables and other food stuff. Hence availability of raw material makes it conducive for the growth of this sector.
The food processing sector includes sectors like fisheries, fruits and vegetables, grains, milk products, meat and poultry, confectionery, plantation products, beverages (alcoholic & non – alcoholic) , packaged/convenience foods and health foods and supplements.
There are more than 30 companies listed in BSE/NSE in this sector. However, the major players are Dabur India, Gitz, Godrej industries, Haldiram, MTR foods, Parle agro, HUL, Britannia Industries, ITC, Nestle, Pepsi and Cadbury India. There is still a lot of scope for products related to meat, poultry; fisheries, milk products, beverages, grain processing etc.
The job opportunities in this industry are for organic chemists who work on the methods for converting the raw food into processed ones, biochemists whose job includes advice on the betterment of various factors like flavour, aroma and storage. There are analytical chemists who analyse food on quality aspects. There are opportunities for home economists who represent the end-users, who prepare the recipes as per the directions mentioned and test the viability of the product in real time and also the nutritional standards mentioned on the package. Opportunities are present for research scientists who conduct experiments to improve the quality of food in various aspects including the shelf life of packaged foods and product developers who research on food stuffs and invent/ innovate new products with longer shelf life and convenience for the end user.
The research and development division of the food processing sector in our country is still in nascent stage. Therefore there is still scope for new findings in this area.
There are around 15 institutes that have opportunities for aspirants in research. These include the National Institute of Nutrition in Andhra Pradesh and Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, Karnataka.