One of the most vital roles in the food industry is that of 'new product development', where products are thought up, matured and refined before they appear on supermarket shelves. NPD jobs in Oxfordshire are particularly sought after due to the area's excellent transport links and natural beauty. The university is obviously a big factor in drawing talent to the area too—many scientists choosing to stay on after they've completed their studies.
Yourfoodjob.com holds a continuously updated list of available NPD jobs, all of which are vital in the process of taking an idea from cradle to grave (or from notepad to supermarket shelf, in this case). Designers, scientists and writers are all required by businesses looking to make a splash with a new product, or older established giants of the food world trying to develop existing products. Because brands in supermarkets are so varied and so much a part of our lives, it means that the job of new product development can seem almost invisible—when in fact it is one of the biggest employers in the UK.
New product development is the term given to all advances and innovations in the sphere of consumer food products, from jam-making to health and safety. The way the product arrives on a supermarket shelf is a carefully manufactured process, one in which development is continuous, tackling problems as they arise. For instance, the increased cost of natural cocoa has led to a lowering of that substance within chocolate. It has been replaced by other additives to maintain taste and consistency but reduce costs in raw materials and shipping.
The beginning of the process of bringing a new product to the consumer is the idea itself. An engineer cannot simply just think of a product and start making it. The product has to fill some kind of gap in the market, whether it be as competitor to an existing product, or a new type of product. This type of creativity is not so different to the 'lateral thinking' encouraged in other industries like advertising. Being highly creative isn't enough—it has to come with an ability to bring ideas to life, a skill that is rather more rare.
So how does an idea become reality? A product developer must have an in depth knowledge of what ingredients go into a recipe, and have to understand the availability and costs of those ingredients. They also have to recognise the nutritional value of the food—it can't all be strawberries and double cream, especially for the health-conscious consumers of today. If a product is bloated with rich, fatty ingredients, the market for it will be relatively small. If the developer is trying to manufacture a new food product for children, for instance, this simply will not do.
NPD jobs in Oxfordshire are now so important in fact that there are even university degrees that aim to educate a whole new generation of food scientists and product developers. It might not have the weight and history of a History degree from Cambridge, but it's as important a part of modern business as any degree out there. This doesn't give job applicants much practical experience, of course, but it gives them a strong insight into the current food market. This is vital for anyone looking to get into new product development. Without a sound knowledge of what already exists, graduates can't possibly hope to innovate new products.
An example of a job in new product development would be as a development technologist. This position is dedicated to ensuring food products are safely and efficiently mass-produced, as well as ensuring consistency in aspects such as flavour and texture. There are often several graduate positions available too, since once you have the knowledge, the skills needed will develop quickly. Having a younger workforce also enables companies to better target young demographics, whose tastes and desires are often different to that of their parents. Graduates working as development technologists can recognise young people's needs from their food. This job is also present in several government departments, where expert eyes are needed to be able to ensure sound oversight of the industry.
Yourfoodjob.com encourages you to peruse the range of NPD jobs in Oxfordshire on offer, but there is also a jobs by email function that means you'll be the first to know about any new listings made on the site, giving you the edge on other hopefuls.