Bianca Kirk has a passion for food so when it came time for her to decide on a career it was only natural she chose to study food technology. She’s now working as a student technical and lab assistant at Synlait and recently won a student essay competition with her insight into the global cannabis beverage market. 

HS: What got you interested in food technology and what made you choose to study a Bachelor of Food Technology (Food Product Technology) with Honours at Massey University? 

BK: I have had a passion for food from a young age, likely influenced by my extended family who are all massive foodies. Creating and eating food is often a highlight of my day. At school I excelled in science and mathematics, but my favourite subject was Food Technology. This was partially because I got to make and eat food, but mostly because of the passionate teachers I was fortunate to have. In high school, I learnt about ethical dilemmas, globalisation, and sustainability in the food industry, all topics which I found interesting and relevant. When my Food Technology teachers informed me about the BFoodTech (Hons) degree at Massey University, I knew it would be a career worth pursuing. This was because it would give me the opportunity to combine science, mathematics, and food, and make a positive difference in the world.

You were recently selected as the winner of the NZIFST Food Tech Solutions 2021 Student Essay Competition. Congratulations! Can you give us a brief description on what you wrote about?

My essay gave a glimpse into the global cannabis beverage market. As recreational cannabis is not legal in New Zealand, cannabis infused foods and beverages also remain illegal. In other countries, this is not the case, and the market for such products is booming. The essay gave insight to the different cannabis beverages available around the world and varying legal requirements in different countries. It also gave insight into how these products are manufactured, including crop selection, compound extraction, distillation, and emulsification steps.

What motivated you to write about this subject and where can people read your essay?

In 2019, while on holiday in America, I was introduced to a family friend’s friend who worked for a large beverage company. Naturally, we got to talking about the food and beverage industry, so I talked about my degree and career aspirations, and he told me about his career in the beverage industry. When researching topics for the essay two years later, I came across an article on cannabis beverages in Colorado – which happened to be the same beverage company’s latest joint venture. After reaching out to the friend, I began to research the cannabis beverage industry in America and Canada, with a focus on compound extraction, production methods, and legislation. The essay basically wrote itself from there onward. It is available in the August/September 2021 Food New Zealand magazine.

You’re also a Student Laboratory and Technical Assistant at Synlait at the moment. What are you enjoying about this work?

I honestly enjoy all aspects of working part-time at Synlait. This job has enabled me to learn an extensive amount about the food industry, how a company operates, and the importance of a positive work culture. My work is mostly hands-on, which is a great way to productively break up my study. What makes work even more enjoyable is my laboratory co-workers, who are friendly and fun. Despite only being a student who works part time, the team has always valued and respected me, making me feel welcome and included. I have gained invaluable knowledge from interacting with my co-workers and have been able to establish vital industry connections which I plan to maintain for many years to come.

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