Food Bioscience students sample the world of work through online placement

Thu, 17 Jun 2021 16:19:00 BST
(Pictured above) Food Bioscience student Justyna Bak & McCormick & Co logo
(Pictured above) Food Bioscience student Justyna Bak & McCormick & Co logo

group of GCU students have had the opportunity to play a key role in the creation of the largest food factory in Europe. 

Fourth year Food Bioscience students were offered an online placement with American organisation McCormick & Co. - who are creating a brand new 450,000 square feet site in Peterborough, England. 

The multinational food company sell products in 160 different countries and are responsible for creating household favourites, such as Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and Schwartz Spices, as well as a range of McDonald’s most popular sauces.  

Justyna Bak, who was one of the lucky students selected, admits that she couldn’t wait to get a taste of the action - despite the placement being conducted virtually. 

She said “Our personal tutor, Dr Janice Taylor, heard about this opportunity from the McCormick & Co. staff, and we were then able to have an interview with them. We were offered an online placement as part of our course because our final year normally involves 8-12 weeks first-hand experience within the industry.  

We were put into groups during the placement with me and my friend, Katrina Gardiner, involved in preparing risk assessments to minimise the impact of hazards on food production. These will then be used at the new site in Peterborough - which has been referred to as the ‘Factory of the Future’ - due to the high level of automation and technology within it. 

I previously worked as a food operative and never realised how much preparation was required in order to keep food products, the building and personnel safe. I also found it interesting to find out how many different conditions have to meet BRC Global Standards. 

Justyna added: “We communicated with the organisation via Microsoft Teams and E-mail. As a result, we didn’t have daily supervision - which meant we had to plan our own work and develop time management skills. I’m sure being on site would have provided more opportunities for discussion, however I personally preferred working online because it allowed me to be more flexible with my own time and save on commuting costs.  

With graduation just around the corner, Justyna is delighted that she got her placement opportunity and believes it has acted as the ideal stepping stone for life beyond University. 

She explained: “Overall, the placement at McCormick and Co. was a very positive and exciting experience. I was able to gain and broaden my knowledge, while also enhancing my teamwork and interpersonal skills.  

They were very pleased with our work and knowing that they will use our risk assessments in future has made me feel very proud. I am very grateful for this opportunity as it will help me to kick-off my career in the food industry.” 

McCormick & Co Research and Development Lead, Colin Kelly said: “I think this process has been of great benefit to both sides, and the aptitude and attitude of the students has been brilliant. They have been a credit to GCU and I would certainly be looking north for future collaborations.” 

He added: “With regards to McCormick, it has delivered a number of tangible outputs which have been a key input into a strategic project. The calibre of output and work ethic has surpassed my expectations.  

With regards to the students it has given them an insight into the contribution and impact they can have within industry. I hope it has given them an appreciation of how they can take their knowledge and mind-set and build a career within the food industry.” 


By Ross Clark 

Got an SHLS or GSBS story? Email me at or connect with me on Twitter