Food Processing Technology Engineering And Management

The technology of food is intertwined with the business of selling food. Although this is not unique to food technology, having insight into the food business will provide some insight into the motivation it provides for the development of new technologies and the maintenance of old ones. Decision making in the food industry requires knowledge of both the business of selling food and the technology of producing, holding, and delivering food. The right information about the technology and the business, coupled with organized approaches to decision making, can yield important benefits to those responsible for making decisions in the industry.

Some generalizations about the food business are that it is high volume, low margin, multiple product, transportation intensive, and end-user marketing intensive. Because of the need for food to be ubiquitous, the business requires multiple distribution points and complicated distribution networks. The nature of food as material and as a perception of the consumer both defines and constrains the food business. The intent is to deliver safe, palatable, and profitable product to the purchaser. Technology constrains the business by specifying what can and cannot be done with food materials while maintaining a viable product. The reality is that the technology and the business of selling food are inseparable.

Because profit per sale is usually low, food businesses must make many sales to gain a reasonable profit. This emphasis on volume requires food technology to provide speed in production. This makes the production facility challenge one of turning out salable foodstuffs by the ton. In the food industry, great value is placed on technological innovation that enables automated handling of materials and scale-up of processes and procedures from small to large volumes. In such a high-volume business, small improvements in efficiency of the technology or distribution or the decision making can have important consequences for the profit (or even survival) of an enterprise.

Most food companies see opportunities for growth in the introduction of new products. This has led to varieties of products from single companies and much product differentiation within categories of products. The technology to develop, manufacture, and distribute these new product entries must be invented and applied in order for such growth to happen. This perception of how growth is attained, and the perception that growth is important, provide important spurs for technological development.

That food must be ubiquitous leads to situations in which the business and the technology cannot be separated. Although lengthening shelf life is a regular goal and concern of the food technologist, the distribution system must be designed around what the technology and the consumer will bear. Some fresh foodstuffs are flown to market, whereas other products are shipped by train or barge. The network of warehouses, transportation corridors, vehicles, and storage facilities all must accommodate to the realities of the food as material and to the requirement that consumer's expectations are matched in food products once delivered. The business accommodates to the realities of the product, whereas the technologist tries to change the product to achieve new advantages for the business. Because food must be everywhere there are people, the marketing of food must be ubiquitous—ultimately, food products are consumed teaspoon by teaspoon, and each individual consumer must be sold on the product.

The other technological reality that affects the food business is the need for uniform products when the inputs are variable. The biological systems that generate the inputs to food products require modification to yield uniform outputs. The modification is usually called processing. Besides turning out food by the ton, food technology must also provide a means to control the performance of the inputs so that the consumer's perception of the product is the same container to container and bite by bite.

The nature of the business of food has important consequences for the technologist, and the technology of food has important consequences for the businessperson. Decisions, whether they are viewed as business oriented or technology oriented, should not be seen in isolation from either arena.

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