The food industry is more diverse than most realise; the career paths available can see people developing the newest products on the market through to being an Environmental Health Technical Officer at Heathrow like Ellie Vince. The BSc (Hons) Food Technology and Product Development graduate’s new role sees her inspecting food arriving at the border but it all began with an interest in food technology.
“After studying Food Technology at GCSE and A-Level, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the food industry,” Ellie began. “Harper was one of the only universities that offered such a unique degree at the time.
“When I visited Harper Adams at an open day, I knew it was the right university for me. The friendly feel of a smaller university where lecturers would know you on a name basis as opposed to getting lost amongst a larger university cohort is what appealed to me the most. The chance to do a year placement in industry or study abroad also made the course stand out above the usual three years offered by other universities.”
Talking about her studies, Ellie commented: “My course enabled me to develop an understanding of different aspects of the food industry from farm to fork, alongside a placement year to put theoretical learning into practise.”
Her first opportunity to put these skills into practise was Ellie’s placement year. She shared about her experience: “Although I found placement year fairly challenging due to having to relocate to an unfamiliar area, I overcame these challenges and gained two different experiences.
“I completed my first six months of placement at Sidoli where two of my main roles included being a marketing assistant and New Product Development admin. With a mixed set of responsibilities, I worked on setting up an Instagram account for the business; maintaining the website; attending exhibitions, and completing concept sheets and nutritional analysis on NutriCalc.
“I then went on to complete a further placement for six months - which led to the idea for my dissertation - with I Love Italia Ltd.
“In this role I would arrange packaging ideas with the manufacturer; run multiple social media accounts; act as a customer sales representative; and helped to organise our stand at Blenheim Palace Food Festival from beginning to end, assisting at Farm Shop & Deli Show 2019 / 2020 showcasing products.
“From this experience I learnt how I could make packaging more sustainable for some of the products sold by I Love Italia which is where the idea for my dissertation originated from.
“During my placement year, I learnt to never give up and always persevere no matter how many challenges you face.”
With her inspiration for her dissertation sparked, Ellie acquired as much data and research as she could while working. She then undertook her study on ‘An evaluation of recycled packaging on shelf life of dried pasta products’ to round off her final year. She said: “I carried out twelve weeks worth of shelf life trials between two pasta packing types – this included Polypropylene and EarthPouch. I researched the current pasta marketing and the impact on plastic on the environment, the food industry as a whole and what the future holds for continuing use of such plastic.
“I hoped to find out whether the quality of the pasta deteriorated between packaging types and whether this would be an issue amongst dry pasta. I was able to conclude that there was no effect on the new sustainable EarthPouch package and therefore propose the idea to I Love Italia to possibly think about and fund in the future.”
However, Ellie’s career route took a different direction to sustainable packaging. She now works as an Environmental Health Technical Officer at the Imported Food Unit at Heathrow. She commented: “I am really enjoying my role as an Environmental Health Technical Officer. I am undertaking a training programme and learning something new every day.
“My main responsibility is to inspect consignments of food when they arrive at the border inspection point at London Heathrow Airport. This involves a documentary check or a physical check where selected information is required in order for the consignment to be accepted into the country. This obviously involves a fair amount of paperwork and recording on the computer system. I will hopefully be able to complete a certificate in inspections in the future which will help me progress in my career path as an environmental health officer.
“We see all sorts of things including fish, fresh produce and the odd giant snail. Last week we even had two elephants in transit to Sydney zoo so life is never dull!”
Although Ellie’s path is more unique, exciting opportunities with a degree that matters await all of our students. Ellie gave her advice to others looking to study at Harper Adams: “Just go for it! Follow your own personal goals, inspirations and desires, work hard and you will be well on your way.
“Joining a club is a really good way to make new friends and connections for socials for Wednesday night at the SU. In first year I joined the equestrian club where I would take part in a group riding lesson each Wednesday.
“But, overall, the food industry will always be a thriving one with the likelihood of endless job opportunities as, at the end of the day, everybody is always going to need and want to eat! It would be rude not to use a cheesy food quote here so… The world is your oyster!”