Prepared Foods'editorial office is located near Chicago, an area that sports sizable technical facilities of food companies such as Kraft Foods, Quaker Oats, Sara Lee and Dean Foods. Local Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) meetings are well attended, and conversations mirror current industry events.

The profiles of those who attend IFT gatherings also reflect the industry. A North side meeting draws Kraft people; one on the South side pulls in those from Griffith Laboratories. The appearance of a company's R&D executives often signals job insecurity, as people expand networking efforts.

The labor market for those in food science always is a topic of interest. How much of an impact is the economy? Do mergers and consolidations mean a decreased number of jobs? One question posed at last month's meeting theorized that, with the speed of information transfer, new products obtain commercial success more quickly, but product life cycles are shorter.

It's an important concept. The longer a product's life, the more profit it tends to generate. “Products don't last because they don't keep up with changing consumer needs; because competitors are allowed to gain an advantage or ingredient; or because quality deteriorates,” notes Pam Eitmant, managing director, Product Dynamics, a division of RQA Inc., Chicago.

But what does it mean for the demand for technical staffs? For more insight into the job market, I turned to a particularly knowing group…recruiters.

Quality control positions are more active than R&D, which are more affected by a slow economy, says Wade Palmer, of Wade Palmer & Associates, Recruiters Inc., Rogersville, Mo. “The food industry doesn't experience the downward employment spiral of other industries, but companies become conservative in their hiring. I think things are turning, however,” says Palmer.

Maureen Knowlson of M&K Associates, Butler, Pa., offers this: “Companies are not keen on losing key technical people, but when they do, they tend to replace right away. Government statistics show that even in the face of a slowing economy, there is a shortage of skilled and technical labor. As the Baby Boomers are retiring, the younger demographic groups are not keeping pace. The industry has changed. Older individuals are easier to place, since companies don't think they'll keep employees longer than five years, anyway. Being unemployed is not the stigma it once was.”

Everyone deserves a job. Toward this effort, check out jobs page and our classified ad section starting on page 74.

Internet Information

For more information on subjects covered in this issue's articles, see the Internet sites provided below.

A Foray Into Flavors — National Restaurant Association— Food Marketing Institute — Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association — National Association of Flavors & Food-Ingredients Systems

Delis Deliver — International Dairy Deli Bakery Assoc. — Natl. Turkey Fed. foodservice manual — Technomic foodservice consultants — Eastern Perishable Products Association

Safety With A Good Bottom Line — National Food Processors Association — NFPA-SAFE program — Bobs Candies

Category Analysis: Vegetarian Foods — Mintel International’s homepage — Vegetarian Resource Group

Deep South Offers Simple, Flavorful Foods — Glory Foods — Sara Lee

Boosting Bread’s Value
— AACC abstract on consumer acceptability of soy bread
— Press release on heart healthy soy bread
0401soyfoodssoar.htm —PF article on soyfood

Modified Food Starch — “Food science 101” on starches — International Starch Institute website, Denmark — National Starch & Chemical online dictionary — Cerestar online glossary