Associate Professor of Food Technology
If you’ve ever bought a Phoenix Organics drink or a Fonterra or Puhoi Valley dairy product, chances are you may have consumed a product Marie Wong has worked with (and helped to perfect).
The associate professor at Massey University is a food expert. That doesn’t mean she gets to taste food all day, but rather that she uses her knowledge of food processing technology and extraction to help companies perfect, or create new products.Like the award-winning Heilala vanilla paste. The Tauranga-based company approached Marie with the paste idea and she – with the help of a student – worked out a way to produce it so that it not only tasted great, but could be used by chefs and home bakers in a range of recipes, while also considering the most cost-effective and efficient way to produce it. It’s now used by chefs all over the world.
Marie always knew she wanted a career in science. Once she left school she signed up for Massey’s Bachelor of Technology with Honours majoring in biotechnology. She then began working in the fruit processing industry, leading to a job in food research with HortResearch (now known as Plant and Food Research). While working she studied for her PhD in Food Engineering at Massey and then went on to become an associate professor at Massey.
Today she’s having an impact on some of New Zealand’s most iconic food brands and has worked with foods as varied as meats, cheeses, avocado and olive oils, spreads, beverages and fruits.
She says it’s really rewarding to go to supermarket and see products on the shelves she helped to perfect.
“I once stood in the supermarket next to someone who was tossing up which oil to buy. I just grabbed my oil and said ‘this one is good’, knowing it was one of the good New Zealand oils I have helped with.”
But her favourite part of the job is watching her students succeed. “I’m passionate about food technology at Massey and I love producing great food technologists. I love that I’m helping others and passing my knowledge on to them.”