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How Megatrends are Reshaping Roles in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

The food and beverage industry is in the grip of significant change, largely because of the introduction of new digital technologies that are rapidly improving manufacturing processes and propelling the industry towards a more sustainable future. Digital technology is lowering emissions and reducing waste, helping the sector to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

Despite widespread concern that technology is replacing workers, it is also increasing the need for human input in some areas of the market.

Food and beverage companies need talented people to embrace the digital transformation sweeping the industry. But they are also contending with the current mismatch between roles that need to be filled and the available talent pool.

Our new white paper, How Megatrends are Reshaping Roles in Food and Beverage Manufacturing, is an exploration of the state of the current market, and our informed predictions for the future.

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In a poll, some 45% of food companies told Deloitte that retaining talent was their top overall workplace challenge.1 The skills gap means that 2.1 million manufacturing jobs may go unfulfilled in the U.S. by 2030, as digital transformation continues apace.2 

This persistent tightness in the overall labor market makes competition for the best people fiercer still. Although the U.S. unemployment rate is at a half-century low at 3.5%, the economy still added another 528,000 jobs in July 2022 - with 30,000 in manufacturing, even in the face of high inflation and tighter monetary policy.3 

This matters because the food and beverage industry is the third largest contributor to the overall U.S. manufacturing gross domestic product (GDP).4 Manufacturing, as a whole, plays a critical role in its economy because it creates high wage jobs, stimulates commercial innovation, helps lower the trade deficit, and makes a large contribution towards environmental stability.

Total employment in the food and beverage manufacturing industry is more than 1.8 million.5 But key engineering talent is becoming ever more crucial - and more difficult to find. As employers continue to scramble for talent, they will find it increasingly tough to fill vital roles.

In a candidate-driven market, identifying the talent you need and meeting their changing expectations will be essential. Progressive brings together the best companies in the food and beverage sector with the best candidates. This has never been more important.

Report Highlights

A Changing Food and Beverages Manufacturing Industry

  • Legislation is shifting the focus on foodborne illness from response to prevention.
  • Many people seek out and are willing to pay more for products that align with sustainable practices.
  • Demand for plant-based products is increasing, including non-diary milk and plant-based meat alternatives.
  • There is growing use of solar and wind power as the energy transition gathers pace.
  • New technologies and modernization are making sustainable practices more cost effective and efficient.

3 Technologies Changing the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry

  • The number of food recalls soared in 2022 because of food processing issues.
  • Data analysis done well can generate value and save money for manufacturing companies.  
  • Automation became widely utilized during the pandemic to keep companies afloat and are staying put.
  • Augmented reality (AR) reduces errors that lead to recalls and improves safety.

The Food and Beverage Manufacturing Talent Market

  • 39% of employers surveyed said that digital transformation was a high priority.
  • 63% expected the availability of qualified candidates to present challenges to the business.
  • Digital transformation in the industry has made competition for skilled candidates fierce. 
  • The changed industry calls for more specialized skills in top candidates.

Preventative Maintenance at Manufacturing Plants

  • Companies are hesitant to take time away from production to perform repairs and maintenance on equipment.
  • Unscheduled downtime due to equipment failure is more costly than scheduled downtime for maintenance.
  • Project managers in the post-pandemic era are in high demand and require new skills in the industry.

Salaries in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry

  • The savviest job applicants know their value and are prepared to negotiate for higher pay.
  • 59% of candidates surveyed said salary was the most important factor in considering a new role.
  • Median annual pay has risen exponentially and is still growing. 
  • Businesses that work to improve gender diversity in their facilities have an edge in the industry.

Careers in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

  • 42% of candidates surveyed cite development opportunities as an important factor when considering a new role.
  • 41% said that career development is a top reason for leaving a company.
  • Strengthening career development helps capture and retain top staff.
  • Contractors are beneficial because they seek variation and are eager to pick up top projects.

Hybrid and Remote Working in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry

  • 55% of candidates surveyed said that flexible working is important when looking for a new job. 
  • 46% of the industry has enabled remote working processes. 
  • Manual processes make remote working models a struggle to offer top STEM talent.
  • Companies struggling to find good people can broaden their search by tapping other geographical areas through remote working.

Contract Hiring in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry

  • Contract staffing is generally a more flexible solution to workplace shortages and is less risky for employers. 
  • The 'just-in-time' style of working provides candidates with higher wages and more lucrative projects. 
  • Progressive's Employed Contractor Model takes the burden of providing benefits and avoiding risk away from companies. 
  • W-2 perks help attract talent in a competitive labor market.

Diversity in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry

  • Just 15% of engineers and architects are female, only 5% are Black, and 8% are Latino.
  • Marginalized groups in the manufacturing industry offer a largely untapped source of valuable talent.
  • Reverse mentoring and other programs help create safe spaces at work.
  • The first step is attracting diverse candidates, the second step is retaining them.

When to Work with a Manufacturing Recruitment Agency

  • Working with an experienced, specialty staffing firm is more effective at finding top talent than a company's own resources.
  • Progressive's approach avoids surprise costs and reduces stress for our customers when budgeting.
  • The large database of skilled professionals we have vetted, and on-hand help us deliver the best candidates quickly.
  • We can help our clients compete for the best people with our experience and knowledge.

Nature's Fynd | The Greener Side of Food and Beverage Manufacturing

  • Embracing automation and technological advancement took a Chicago startup to the top of the industry.
  • The company developed a process to grow a new protein with much fewer resources and cost.
  • Sustainability, efficiency, and flexibility give the company the means to fuel their accelerated growth.
  • Innovations in food processes and technology are taking Fy Protein to space.

About Progressive Recruitment

Progressive supports businesses across the power and utilities, renewable energy, manufacturing, and oil and gas sectors by providing comprehensive staffing solutions that add value. We specialize in talent across engineering, construction, and project management. We secured 1,100 placements across contract and permanent hires in 2021. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Progressive has grown market share and generated over $75m in revenue in 2021.

Progressive is part of SThree, the only global pure-play STEM specialist recruitment company. For seven years in a row, Progressive has made the Staffing Industry Analysts' (SIA) list of the largest engineering staffing firms in the U.S. - ranking number 13 in the most recently published list. 

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