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Professor Conrad Perera receives the 2018 JC Andrews Award

11 July 2018
Professor Conrad Perera, School of Chemical Sciences, receiving the JC Andrews Award from the the New Zealand Institute of Food Science & Technology (July 2018)
Professor Conrad Perera

Professor Conrad Perera, from the School of Chemical Sciences, is the recipient of the prestigious 2018 JC Andrews Award for his significant contributions to the food industry, research and academia.

The award was presented during the New Zealand Institute of Food Science & Technology annual meeting, at the gala dinner on 4 July.

Professor Perera says he was most honoured and humbled to receive the award. He has worked directly in the food industry for nearly 10 years, and for more than 50 years in food science research and academia.

Professor Perera’s many achievements include initiating and contributing to four major changes in food science curricula (two at the University of Auckland, one at the State University of Londrina in Brazil and one at the National University of Singapore); acting as a consultant with international organisations such as Food and Agriculture Organisation, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and NZ Aid; and supervising many postgraduate students in food science. 

He says he has enjoyed all aspects of his work in this rapidly developing field.

“I’ve been contracted as an independent consultant by the United Nations, World Bank, NZ Aid and the Pacific Community (SPC) to check the viability and sustainability of food processing projects in developing nations in the South Pacific and south-east Asia,” he says.

This work has fed into his academic role, as many of the postgraduate projects he supervises are conceived from the consultancy work he does.

“Often questions are raised when one does consultancy work and answers to those require scientific investigation,” he says. “So many of the projects I give to my postgraduate students help solve a real-world, industry problem.”

His research career has been striking and involves liaising with many well-known New Zealand and international companies, such as Heinz-Wattie's, Goodman Fielder, Fonterra, Tetra Pak, as well as other small to medium sized enterprises.

Highlights include his ground-breaking investigations to understand the irritation people get in the back of their throats from processed kiwifruit such as pulpy juices and dried products. He developed technologies to overcome this problem and to maintain the green colour and vitamin C in dried kiwifruit. This work has been patented world-wide.

“I have also developed methods to maintain the green colour in kiwifruit juice, and received a Ministerial Award and Winston Churchill Fellowship for this and my work on dried kiwifruit when I was working for the Department of Science and Industrial Research and Crown Research Institute, HortResearch,” Professor Perera says.

In other work, he was instrumental in developing more energy efficient drying processes; processing vanilla beans to get twice the amount of vanillin as the traditional process; launching the first ready-to-drink, natural, orange juice in NZ for Hansells Food Group; designing and developing the first large scale fruit leather dryer for Hansells, and much more.

Professor Perera’s advice to students interested in pursuing jobs in the food science industry is to make sure they have a very good grounding in science and to keep up with the most recent technical publications in the field.

“This is essential these days, as changes in technology are always coupled with advancements in food science,” he says. 

The JC Andrews Award was founded in memory of Massey University's first Chancellor, Dr John Clark Andrews who initiated the first Food Technology Degree program at Massey more than 50 years ago.

As the 2018 recipient, Professor Perera addressed delegates at the gala dinner. His speech and his profile will be published in Food New Zealand, the Official Journal of the NZ Institute of Food Science & Technology.