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60-second interview: The day job

What do you do? Sam Millar, director of technology, Campden BRI

By Jenny Eagle+

26-May-2014

Sam Millar.
Sam Millar.

As part of FoodProductionDaily’s ongoing series of 60-second interviews with the movers and shakers of the food and beverage industry, we caught up with Sam Millar, director of technology, Campden BRI.

Millar is the UK National Delegate for the International Association for Cereal Science and Technology (ICC), a Fellow of the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) and a special professor of Cereal Processing at The University of Nottingham.

He successfully managed LINK project FQS 23 ‘Investigating wheat functionality through breeding and end-use’ which included a consortium with representation from AHDB-HGCA, nabim, Federation of Bakers, plant breeders and relevant academic institutes. 

The project identified 606 new QTL (Quantitative Trait Locus) for a range of aspects of wheat processing performance. The project was rated 10/10 by Defra and was described as an excellent example of collaborative research.

What do you do?
I am the director of technology at Campden BRI. I lead a team of over 70 people that support the global food and drink industry. My division covers the entire supply chain from pre-farm gate to consumer.

Tell us about your current role
My division works on activities from clean label, functional ingredients and reformulation, to process development, safety assurance, including HACCP, TACCP and risk management, and quality management. We are also actively researching ways to reduce energy usage, improve process efficiency, minimise waste and reuse water to help the industry become more sustainable.

How did you get into the industry?
During my food science degree at Queens University, Belfast, I had to undertake a five week research project. I found it really engaging and it got me excited about a career supporting the food industry. The project looked at the effect of ionising radiation on Agaricus bisporous (button mushrooms). At this time, during the late 1980s/early 90s, ionising radiation was considered as potentially the next great food processing innovation so this was an exciting project to work on. I enjoyed taking responsibility in planning my research and this led me to do a PhD researching the colour changes in meat resulting from ionising radiation treatment. I was awarded my PhD in 1994 and took up a post-doctoral position at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Nantes, France, working on wheat and cereals as part of an EU funded project. One of the project partners was Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association­­ (CCFRA) – now Campden BRI. When my post doc position was coming to an end in 1997, I made a prospective application to CCFRA and got a job within the cereals and milling technology department where I worked for six years. I then worked for three years in the bakery and cereals processing department before becoming head of Cereals and Milling in 2006. I was appointed director of cereals and cereal processing in 2009 and director of technology in 2010.

What do you like most about your current role?
Every day is different. I could be using my technical expertise to provide help and guidance to colleagues, planning budgets or making strategic business development plans. People management and development is a part of my job that I find particularly satisfying. Whether it’s a junior member of staff learning something for the first time or a more experienced colleague taking an area of expertise and developing it in a way that is valuable for the food and drink industry, seeing staff develop and grow is always very rewarding.

What advice would you give to people interested in a job in your field?
Go for it! The food and drink industry is dynamic and continually evolving so it offers plenty of stimulation and fresh challenges. By 2020, it’s predicted the sector will need more than 170,000 employees to meet demand and replace retiring workers so there will be lots of opportunities available across the sector - from food science and technology to R&D and engineering.  I wouldn’t be too concerned about the specificity of your early education or training. To be successful in senior roles you need to have a breadth of understanding so seize every opportunity to learn new things – it will be hugely advantageous to you as your career progresses.

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