Food industry experts share career info

During the recent “Experience Food Science: Field to Package” virtual workshop, an industry panel talked to teachers about their educational backgrounds and current job responsibilities. These experts represented several of the many food-related businesses located here in Ohio.

Dr Dale Fortner from Sandridge Foods said one challenge is using less chemicals but providing a long shelf-life for the fresh deli salads his company produces. Engineering is also involved in making food efficiently with machinery that preserves the visual aspects of the ingredients with hand-made quality, rather than tearing or mauling them. Fortner also talked about the way engineering provides safety for workers, reducing risk and improving their work environment.

Dale Siebeneck, director of food technology at Cooper Farms in west central OH. The company’s products appear under a variety of private labels for stores such as Kroger, Meijer, Costco and Trader Joes. Siebeneck graduated with a bachelor’s degree in food technology from the Ohio State University. He talked about the importance of microbiology in food science. Products must be able to withstand bacterial growth, having familiar, appealing qualities while maintaining shelf life.

Anna Higbea works at Balchem as a food technologist, custom making powders to fit customer needs. She studied food science and technology at the Ohio State University. “We need students to become knowledgeable in food sciences. Companies need different practices because every food product is unique.

Higbea said nutrition is becoming increasingly important as customers become more aware of what is in their product. “They are starting to read labels, and companies want powders formulated for specific nutrition profiles.”

Higbea said her food-related experiences through FFA showed her the wide variety of food science careers, from quality to customer service to research and design. “It really opened my eyes to the different areas in food science.” She also praised a 4-H job shadowing opportunity.

CIFT, the Center for Innovation in Food Technology, provides two food industry credentials, Food Industry Associate and Food Industry Specialist. Check out GrowNextGen for lots of food science lessons and resources!