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The bigger picture – work placement case studies

work placement in food science

Wow, what a year it has been! I am undertaking a BSc in Food Science with Industrial Training at the University of Reading and am currently completing my placement year. At present I’m the secretary of the IFST Student Group but am soon to take on the role of president. I also write the student newsletters along with Alice Bryant.

My placement year as an Ingredient Research Intern at Mondelez International, Reading Science Centre, has been fantastic, not only for the technical knowledge I have gained about chocolate, fillings, emulsions and powdered beverages, to name but a few, but also for the development opportunities I have had.

As part of my placement we had an intern challenge; my group focused on sustainability and we worked with a supplier that produces reusable cups for everyone on site. This was a great way to connect with external suppliers and other members of the team, and gave us a valuable opportunity as interns to make a positive impact. It was also an extremely fun project and rewarding to see the impact of our cups reach as far afield as Mumbai!

The main project I have worked on has come with several challenges along the way and many hours spent in the pilot plant! I initially took over a project from an external university partner. It was an emulsion technology at the milligram scale. As a result of much searching of the literature and discussions with my colleagues, this technology has been translated and improved such that it is now at kg scale! When I first started this project, I found it difficult to see the bigger picture of where the technology could end up, however placement has really taught me business awareness. Through the wonderful art of reformulation, I have been able to start incorporating this emulsion into a fillings product and learnt how tiny changes can make a big difference.

Each day on placement is varied and interesting and, as an intern, you get exposure to so many different tasks. I’ve helped many team members with large scale projects; my latest feat is hand tempering and filling 3024 chocolate shells with crème. Placement definitely teaches you perseverance – you grow in confidence and the experience is great to add to your CV. It gives you examples to talk about in interviews and allows you to see what it is like to work in the food industry. You no doubt will get exposure to different departments (if this isn’t the case definitely ask!), so you can see which areas you really like and the ones you’d prefer not to work in.

Each day on placement is varied and interesting and, as an intern, you get exposure to so many different tasks.

To any of you thinking of doing a placement, I couldn’t recommend it strongly enough! It’s a year without exams (great!), a year with multiple freebies (really good ones if you work for a chocolate company) but in all seriousness, a year where you’re on an exponential learning curve. All the training and development opportunities I’ve had on placement, from seeing Cadbury caramel being produced at top speed on the factory line to being trained to use the equipment of the pilot plant, have been invaluable to help me progress on my journey through the food industry. If you have the opportunity, please go for it!

Alice Nield


The broad and varied opportunities in the food industry encouraged me to study Nutrition and Food Science with Industrial Training at the University of Reading. While taking my A-Levels (biology, chemistry, food technology and physical education), I had a keen interest in nutrition and food so a degree that combined my love for food technology and science was ideal. I also undertook work experience in the food industry before going to university.

Many people think that studying food means you are learning to cook and are training to be a chef. It is miles away from that, however. You work in laboratories and pilot plants and learn about everything from nutrition to sensory science and microbiology to equip you for the vast opportunities the food industry can offer.

Most food science courses offer an industrial placement year, which I would recommend. My industrial placement year was at Hovis and has been a truly amazing experience. The year has given me valuable insight into the food industry and a whole new skill set.

The year takes you out of your comfort zone at university and throws you into the world of work. Initially, I expected to be given odd jobs and paperwork, but it was quite the opposite. From day one, I was given responsibilities and challenges and over the year I was responsible for redeveloping our current recipes and developing and trialling a new product.

My role at Hovis was very varied but was based on development, test baking and bread testing. I was based at the head office, where there is a large test bakery for new product development projects and trialling new ingredients in current recipes to continually improve quality. This gave me the opportunity to get hands-on experience and learn about the science behind baking first hand. Once recipes were signed off from the test bakery, I’d take them to plant and try them on a much larger scale. It was daunting at first but a great experience and an opportunity to learn a lot about production, quality and scaling up small recipes.

When applying for a placement it is important to think about the type of job you want, for example a production-based job, an office job, a laboratory-based job or a sensory science job, so the job is right for you! My top tips for anyone wanting to study a food related degree or looking for a placement are, firstly, to try to get some work experience in the industry beforehand. Secondly, look for a placement that excites you and is new to you. Finally, network as much as you can at events, for example conferences, talks or shows like the Good Food Show; this is the best way to get to know people in the industry and find new opportunities.

Alice Bryant

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