Food Scientists Fighting Hunger, One Sandwich at a Time

Today on Taste & See I'm starting a new feature that aims to introduce inspiring, innovative individuals that are making a difference in the world of food, nutrition, health, and more - #gamechangers. What better way to start off than with an epic story about a group of students who have developed a product that aims to play a role in alleviating hunger amongst the poor in South Africa. 

What is a Food Scientist?

Before I continue, let me fill those of you in who might not be sure of what food scientists actually do. Food scientists fill a number of different of roles within the food-production and agricultural sector. A food science graduate is equipped with the knowledge to work in food processing and production, quality management, food safety, packaging and new product development, food science research, as well as food labeling, amongst other things [1]. 

Depending on your specific job, as a food scientist you are likely to [2]:

  • Develop innovative new products that can be manufactured on a large scale

  • Modify and reformulate existing products to make them healthier, more cost-effective, or tastier

  • Design the manufacturing processes required to make products on a large scale, as part of a team along with others such as engineers and factory managers

  • Develop and manage the food quality and safety management programme within a food production facility in order to guarantee the quality and safety of food products


Why not take a look at this cool interactive map that highlights some of the job opportunities that are out there for food scientists?


To be a good food scientist you'll probably need [2]:

  • An aptitude for mathematics and science

  • An interest in food production and preparation

  • Attention to detail

  • The ability to work with very strict health and hygiene rules

  • Good time management

  • Good communication skills and the ability to work well as part of a multidisciplinary team

  • Good problem-solving skills

Game-changing Food Scientists

Now onto the story about our #gamechangers for today. Today I'd like to introduce you to an amazing group that I had the opportunity to study alongside during the course of my BSc Food Science degree at the University of Stellenbosch. As already mentioned, this group has developed an innovative, more nutritious alternative to chocolate spread or peanut butter with the aim of  "...fighting hunger one tub at a time!". They recently represented South Africa at the IUFoST conference in Dublin, Ireland, and placed second in the "Food Science Students Fighting Hunger" competition for this amazing product. Read ahead for a bit more information about where the idea for the product came from, the journey that they've been on, and what is in store for them in the future!

All parents struggle to find appealing food that is also healthy for their children, but this young group of food scientists has cracked it. After months of trials and reformulation, they have developed a low-cost chocolate spread imitation with amazing nutritional value. This tasty invention is a great example of stealth health, but also buck’s the trend of the cheaper alternative being the least healthy option. The Stellenbosch University team’s final year project had a specific focus on providing lower-income families a way to feed their kids healthy food at school and at home. However, due to its convenience, we’re betting higher income parents will also be queuing for S’coolBeans’ delicious goodness.

The main ingredients of the spread include fermented red speckled beans and sweet potatoes, which means it is high in protein and dietary fibre, low in sodium and enriched with vitamins & minerals. Additionally, the sugar content is low relative to other alternatives on the market. Other than being catchy the product represents something much bigger, which is tailored South African innovation, in other words, students who are developing products that fulfill a need in the market. In this case, the product addresses a major social concern in addition to being innovative. A new era has entered the tertiary education paradigm. Universities will need to set their focus beyond merely producing publications and graduates, and venture into the production of intellectual property, world-class technology, and services. Ultimately this creates ongoing funding for academic activities, and more importantly, this kind of innovation leads to the birth of high-quality entrepreneurs that will provide jobs through the businesses they create. All of which is sorely needed in South Africa. The S’coolBeans team is a success story of this process and were mentored by Stellenbosch’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO), known as INNOVUS as well as receiving funding from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).

Their success and the simplicity of their product shows that young South Africans can turn dreams and ideas into real products and real income opportunities. The S’coolBeans Team and their nutritious and delicious spread were shortlisted as finalists in the International Union of Food Science and Technology’s (IUFoST) “Food Science Students Fighting Hunger” product development competition in Dublin, August 2016. The competition was strong with nine teams competing from all over the world, mainly from developing countries. The team placed overall second place and are making waves with this innovative spread. 


[1] School of Food Science, University of Idaho. What kind of careers do Food Scientists have? [Internet]. 2016 [cited 11 Sep 2016]. Available from:

[2] National Careers Service. Food Scientist-food technologist job information [Internet]. 2016 [cited 11 Sep 2016]. Available from: