I don’t think being a food scientist is for everyone.
The reason I talk about it isn’t because people don’t want to work with food all day, but rather, they have no idea what a food scientist is.
However, there are some downsides to being a food scientist and I want this article to be more about the various potential consequences that might make you reconsider this path.
1. You’ll Get Fat
I gained like, 10-20 pounds since I joined my weight loss company. The irony is terrible, but true at the same time and many food science jobs are like that.
We as food scientists have to sample food every day and if you love food, it’s inevitable you’ll take 3x the amount of food you’re supposed to sample. This of course, adds up. It wouldn’t be so bad, but when you have a whole team who loves food, likes to try new things, and they bring you the newest holiday cookies “for research”, calorie counting goes out the window!
The worst part of all, is that vendors love you and will use their devious powers to buy you lunch, or dinner, or since you’re so food obsessed, you will not only eat an early lunch with the CSO, but also drive to visit your teammates for lunch round 2.
I will shamefully say, I did this.
2. You’ll Have To Travel
This will affect some more than others, but once you get good at your job, you have to travel often, and at many points, due to moments of crisis.
I had a chat with a frustrated food scientist and her client doesn’t even care about her well being. He will send her to trips within a 2 day window leaving no time to prepare and many cancelled plans. This is seriously messed up when people with kids get involved.
A lot of my friends get travel fatigue and this isn’t your average travelling like a salesman, this is potentially landing in Chicago at winter at 11pm to drive 1 hour to a plant to see a trail run of your product at 2am.
Sometimes these trips can last one day, or a month. It depends on how vital it is, but just the thought of failing a successful launch will give plenty of reasons for you to live in a hotel for a week.
3.Your Pay is Average
I get paid nothing special. Most of my colleagues complain about their pay.
My writing implies I live a very minimalist existence so the money is enough for a single male who’s frugal. Of course, in the back of my head, I always want more.
No, you won’t get paid as much as an engineer. Engineers get paid more for the specific reason that their output sells for a generally higher price than your output, or what they accomplish is either a matter of safety or luxury. In general, the courses they have to study in college are a lot harder than your classes.
However, you’ll have more stability and probably higher pay than a bachelors of science major.
In a world where we always want more money, it’s hard to justify average pay. I don’t want to get into a tangent about the value of money, but wanting more is the cause of many problems. It’s up to yourself to justify what you have to either sacrifice or risk to get “more”, and really think hard on what’s truly enough.
Advice is scattered through the whole internet, but you will have to choose your own advice.
4. You’ll have zero textbook training because everything is a trade secret
Everything you learn is word of mouth. Documents about process are usually outdated, impossible to read, or you need a lecture just to read it. Did I mention that there are millions of them?
Those who share knowledge will ask you to pay quite a bit whether it’s the from a conference or consultant.
There are people who are trying to share their knowledge, like Bakerpedia, but there’s not enough to be an expert in a specific food.
If process frustrates you, in a sense that every food product in the world has their nuances and bend to their strange laws of nature, then you shouldn’t be a food scientist. If you go into deli meats, you might be stuck in deli meats forever for maybe about 20 years. I might be stuck in protein bars forever.
If you can’t find the common threads between one food and another, you’re going to not want to change. You shouldn’t be a food scientist.
5. You Create Things You Don’t Like (or are impossible)
Sometimes I hear my friends say “yea I never eat that stuff” even though they’ve worked on that product for years.
Every day, I eat my products (except for one). Because they’re free and they taste great. Yet, I had to work on products that were terrible and I had no idea what marketing was thinking.
At the beginning, if you can’t do it, people will hate you. They’ll say you’re close minded, or that you don’t believe in the impossible. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re dead wrong and they eat it when sales plummet.
Oh by the way, if sales plummet, it’s all your fault.
If you can’t handle the pressure, then get out of the….lab.
If you truly love food and want to feed the world.
If you truly want to express your creativity by creating products that people can eat all around the world
If you dream to visit cities and towns and try their cuisine
Then this is the profession for you.
Because what I listed are hurdles. If those hurdles are the main reason for you to not be a food scientist, then that’s fine. There are more comfortable jobs that will feed you and maybe pay more.
But if you truly love food, then you should be a food scientist.
Author: Adam Yee
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