And with a Postgraduate degree in Food Science from Lincoln University, she was given a great opportunity for a role at Formula Foods in Christchurch.
“My job is very diverse – I could be involved in anything from laboratory analysis, shelf-life studies, flavour science, and research and development work, where I can be developing an exciting new product for a client and also assist them when manufacturing it at a large scale. Flavour science is another aspect of the job. Because Formula Foods is unique, we have the ability to create and produce flavours.”
With a passion for food and a love of science, this career path was really perfect for Gemma. She enjoys the science behind food and finds the complexity of the physical and chemical reactions that take place in a single ingredient – how she can utilise an ingredient to achieve a desired outcome of a product – fascinating.
“I have great support from the team; we have awesome equipment and the knowledge set in which I can learn from is amazing. It’s fantastic working alongside clients who have a problem, and potentially helping them solve it. I enjoy both my R& D and the flavour science aspect of the job because while making a flavour from aromatics can be challenging, when you get the right flavour note, it’s indescribable.”
Gaining knowledge of food processing and production methods, quality and hygiene standards, and meeting current law and regulations around food through her degree, Gemma says that practical skills are extremely important as she is forever performing experiments and operating scientific equipment. However, having the analytical aspect to interpret the results and find a solution is also essential, as is creativity, working under specific timeframes, and writing skills for completing client reports.
“After completing a Bachelor of Science, I then gained a lot from my postgrad I completed at Lincoln University. I improved my thought process to reflect that of a critical thinker, as well as applying what I have previously learnt, whether from lecturers or my own research, and then relate that to a problem.”
For those thinking about a role in the food technology industry, Gemma has two words: “get involved!”
“A career doesn’t only begin from completing a degree; you also need to get yourself known by others in the food industry. The New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology (NZIFST) is a committee that has a broad number of members that work in the food industry and they also have great guest speakers and learning opportunities.
“At the end of the day, having the passion and enthusiasm for what you do is really important, and this will get you further opportunities in the industry.”