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The Top Five Skills Within the Food and Drink Industry

11 Dec 2017
Rosina Geraghty

As the festive season approaches us we are made aware of the increased demand and resource that many food and drink manufacturers are having to meet and source. It has been an exciting year for the industry and there are further developments planned for the new year. A grants scheme set up for Food and Drink firms as part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2020 has benefitted fifteen organizations so far and granted £4.6m to safeguard and create new jobs, as well as boost profitability (Foodmanufacture, Nov 2017). With these plans afoot and more development on the horizon, we have identified five key skills areas within the industry where we have seen the most activity and opportunity for growth.

Food and Drink Manufacturing

Engineering

Engineering within the food and drink manufacturing industry is an area still experiencing high growth, however there appears to be a disparity between supply and demand. A current shortage of engineers is pushing salaries up in an attempt to attract and secure the right skills.  The key roles we see a lot include Controls Engineers, Maintenance Engineers, Engineering Managers and Automation Engineers.

With automation becoming an increasingly important industry a new range of opportunities have presented themselves in the form of automation engineers, control engineers and programmers, amongst others, to support the developing technology and adaption within the manufacturing industry.

NPD & Process

Consumer trends have changed dramatically over the last few years with an increasing emphasis placed on the sustainability of food. This has created a full conscious cycle where companies are having to be transparent how they produce, package and label their food products. A growing awareness of the importance of healthy eating and the composition of foods prompted the Sugar Tax in 2016 as well as a wider demand for food innovation.

Food and Drink Manufacturers are having to keep up with the changing trends to remain competitive and this is driving an increased demand for NPD Managers, Process Managers, NPD Technologists, Packaging Specialists and Development Chefswho can develop new products, but also reformulate existing products to extend life cycles.

According to Food Manufacture (May 17), new product development is the biggest opportunity for food and drink manufacturers over the next 12 months. Whether it’s radical developments, such as Essento’s Insect burgers in Switzerland, or innovative solutions, such as Seaweed becoming the next superfood, it is an exciting time to become part of it!

Technical

As new products are developed, and new standards introduced, compliance and quality assurance are becoming even more critical to ensure traceability of products. Consumers are challenging manufacturers to go beyond simply doing a good job and begin providing a clear audit trail which verifies the provenance of the goods. Closely linked to this is the growing importance of companies having a clear stance on animal welfare and sustainability efforts. The way customers perceive these efforts has a large impact on the success of the products, therefore we are finding an increasing need for Technical Managers, Quality Assurance Managers, Hygiene Managers, HSE Managers, QAs, QCs and Specifications Technologists. Following recent scandals which allegedly saw food safety records being altered and hygiene standards violated, retailers are becoming more demanding of robust processes to be followed by suppliers. This means that manufacturers will also need to demonstrate a deeper commitment to better manufacturing technology (meatinfo, 2017).

Food and Drink Manufacturing

Production

Opportunities within Production are constantly developing. It is a similar situation to Engineering; as the technology develops the scope for new opportunities widens. Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement techniques are laying new foundations in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries, meaning interest from food manufacturers in individuals from these backgrounds is increasing. Production Managers, Production Planners, Shift Managers, CI Managers and Team Leaders are all roles with growing importance within Production. Succession planning is becoming even more imperative to guarantee commitment and development of the workforce.

Procurement and Buying

The purchase and procurement of materials and products is becoming an increasingly important topic in regard to Brexit and the impact on imports/ exports. With pressure on keep costs low, the overall supply chain of food manufacturers is being affected. Margins are being squeezed and the cost of raw materials is increasing, leading to increased pressure on buying and procurement. Brexit is raising questions as to the best location for production given that exchange rates may be unfavourable and imports may not be feasible.

These challenges are developing a niche category of procurement roles such as Buyers (all categories), Head of Procurement and Direct/ Indirect Specialists. These roles are looking to drive down spend and pass on the overall positive impact to the customers.

A common trend that emerged to deal with increasing costs was shrinkflation (decreasing product size for the same price). This has not popular with consumers and, with growing demands being placed on manufacturers, efforts to improve customer loyalty are now the focus. Nairns Oatcakes have introduced larger pack sizes of their gluten-free oatcakes which are proving to be good value for money, and Tunnocks reportedly have charged the same price for their products for the last six years - even with costs increasing around them.

The development of new opportunities within food and drink manufacturing are becoming more evident as the year ends and plans for 2018 emerge. Investment into training and developing individuals to advance their careers is being strengthened and funding to create and secure the positions has been put in place.

Within the food and drink manufacturing team at Eden Scott we recognise these changes. We are closely involved in the introduction and development of new positions with some of the leading food manufacturers in the UK. If you are interested in pursuing a career within this industry, we are here to help! Click here to get in touch.

Author

Rosina Geraghty
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