Food Industry Looking for Young Recruits

Mar 25, 2011

A joint initiative in the
U.K. by its Food & Drink Federation (FDF), Institute
for Grocery Distribution (IGD), National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and National
Skills Academy (NSA) plans to "focus on improving the sector’s
image and identifying gaps in training," according to The Grocer magazine. A
new campaign from the FDF, Taste Success, "aims to show potential entrants
that the U.K. food and drink manufacturing sector is a ‘career of first choice.’"

booklet Busting the Myths provides case studies addressing such
misunderstandings as the sector being out of date and old fashioned without
any career opportunities, full of people without qualifications working for "big
companies churning out processed foods" and paying "peanuts."

careers as "stimulating, innovative and fast-moving," the
FDF states: "Consumers are more concerned than ever about healthy eating,
therefore the industry needs to attract the right people into the sector, now
and in the future, who have the appropriate skills and attitude to cope with
the growing demands of the public, both at home and globally, to produce food
that is safe and of good quality."

On a more encouraging note, the Institute
of Food Technologists (IFT) just announced that the number of students graduating
with food science degrees had almost doubled in the U.S. since 2004. According
the group attributed the gains to "an increased interest in food in general
… boosted by the rise of celebrity chefs, diet-related health issues and
greater awareness of contemporary food movements, such as organic, local and
sustainable food systems."

Still, a recent survey of 10,306 young professionals — defined
as college graduates with one to eight years of work experience — from
the consulting firm Universum found that Google was the most desired company
to work for, followed by Apple, Walt Disney, the U.S. Department of State and
Amazon. Only a few food and beverage companies made
the top 150 list of ideal employers: The Coca-Cola Company, 21; Anheuser-Busch,
44; PepsiCo, 48; Nestlé USA,
69; Kraft Foods, 76; and Campbell Soup Co., 132.

Discussion Questions: Is the food and drink industry in the U.S. losing young talent to other sectors? How can food companies do a better job attracting college recruits?

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5 Comments on "Food Industry Looking for Young Recruits"

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Mel Kleiman
11 years 1 month ago

In most cases the food industry in the United States–just like all other retailers and suppliers–gets a failing grade when it comes to marketing themselves as a great industry to build a career.

The industry is seen as old and stodgy without a lick of innovation, requiring long hours with little opportunity for a great career.

Ryan Mathews
11 years 1 month ago

This question is about 30 years old and the answer still is–yes!

Food and beverage manufacturers may be attractive potential employers but retail still lags woefully behind (with certain noted exceptions like Wegman’s). The hours are too long. The pay is too low. And, progress up the ladder (especially for some classes of workers) is painfully slow.

Finally, the problem has always been that young people don’t see food as an exciting industry, so I suspect we’ll be answering this same question 30 years from now unless something changes.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
11 years 1 month ago

The grocery industry has no positive image in business schools at either the undergraduate or MBA level as a professional career choice. There may be more people going into Food Science but business students do not often think of retailing in general and think of the grocery industry much less often.

Joel Warady
Joel Warady
11 years 1 month ago

It depends on what sector of the industry you are looking at. Having just been at the Natural Products Expo and the Fancy Food Shows, both trade events were full of start-up companies run by young entrepreneurs. They have fresh ideas, innovative delivery systems, unique relationships with consumers, and no fear.

There is a lot of youth in the industry, but not in the traditional companies. The future of the industry exists in the small up and coming growth companies.

Ralph Jacobson
11 years 1 month ago

Looking at the other comments, I tend to agree that no matter how you spin it, the food biz–especially on the retail side–is not as attractive to young graduates as other industries. I remember this being the case 30 years ago when I worked for a grocer, while trying to recruit new blood.

The challenge is to find the more progressive roles within our business and capitalize upon the graduating employment pool by highlighting those innovative, more attractive roles around health/wellness/nutrition, social commerce, mobile marketing/advertising, CSR/sustainability, etc.


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