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Interest, identity and perceptions: What makes a food technologist?

Ragnhild Lyngved Staberg (Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)
Anita Nordeng Jakobsen (Department of Biotechnology and Food Science, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)
Jonas Rolf Persson (Department of Physics, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)
Lisbeth Mehli (Department of Biotechnology and Food Science, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 9 August 2022

Issue publication date: 21 March 2023

190

Abstract

Purpose

Previous research shows that identity formation is a crucial bridge between higher education and future employment. The objective of this study was to improve our understanding and knowledge of food technology students' prior interests, their perceived identity formation, perceptions of food technology and the profession of food technologist.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative study was conducted and the data consisted of audio recordings of 10 semi structured group interviews of first-, second- and third-year students, as well as alumni, at work. The interviews were transcribed and analysed by conventional content analysis, here following an inductive approach.

Findings

Most students had previous general culinary interest, an interest in the science behind or an interest in contemporary food-related issues. Regardless of the year group and prior interest, most felt that graduation was the stage at which they could identify themselves as food technologists. They evolved from having a rather diffuse understanding of food technology and what is a food technologist before they started to have an increased awareness in their second and third years.

Originality/value

The research findings inform higher education food technology programmes aiming to promote the development of food technology students' professional identity. The study suggests that a holistic approach to teaching, as well as context-based and professional activities at an early stage might help students in their identity formation.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper is based on work within the Digimat and Diggsam projects, which received funding from the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills under grant agreements no P27/2018 and Dig-2020/10059 respectively. The authors appreciate the effort of students and alumni that participated in the interviews and the financial support from the Departments within Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Citation

Staberg, R.L., Jakobsen, A.N., Persson, J.R. and Mehli, L. (2023), "Interest, identity and perceptions: What makes a food technologist?", British Food Journal, Vol. 125 No. 4, pp. 1488-1503. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-02-2022-0146

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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