Food safety is no piece of cake

By Punjung Renjani, Food Technologist, 28 years old, Marunda

“As a food technologist for Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), I work on product development, specifically margarine and shortening, which are palm oil-based ingredients typically used in baking pastries and cakes.

My work involves looking at ways to enhance the quality of our products. Improvements can be made in a variety of aspects such as in performance, taste and nutritional requirements. We do it by altering the formula or process conditions during the production stage. We also work on customising our products to cater to the needs of our customers. For example, when health concerns about trans-fatty acids were being raised, we reformulated many of our products to eliminate all trans-fatty acids without compromising on quality.

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Punjung enhancing the quality of margarine and shortening products.

Work for such optimisation normally starts in the laboratory, where research and initial tests are done. Once successful, we trial and eventually implement it on a larger scale with assistance from the Research and Development team. Another important part of my work is to monitor the new product’s development all the way until evaluation, where tests on the application, shelf life, and product stability are done. We also conduct a sensory evaluation at the end, where, as the name suggests, we evaluate the final product through visual appearance, taste, smell and texture.

My favourite part of work is learning about flavour development and tweaking flavour compositions to meet consumers’ preferences. One of the projects I am proudest of in my five years here was optimising the flavours used in making our margarine and shortening. Initially, there were as many as 25 flavours being supplied by nine flavour houses. It became a complex task to maintain, so we narrowed it down to three flavour houses to provide similar flavour profiles. Through collaboration with the flavour houses, we worked on matching the new flavours with the original ones, and achieved a positive result of 20 flavours, optimised processes, and significant cost savings.

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Punjung at her work place.

I enjoy being a full-time career woman and have learnt to manage my time more wisely in order to enjoy a work-life balance. Although it is tedious (because it requires a lot of time and effort), I find what I do very meaningful — making food products healthier for consumption is quite unique and a big responsibility.”

Click here to discover more stories behind the extraordinary, everyday lives of the people transforming palm oil.

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