A Changing Food and Beverages Manufacturing Industry

The U.S. food, agriculture, and related industries supply chain is a major economic driver, contributing more than $1 trillion to annual U.S. GDP.6 But, the challenges facing food and beverage manufacturers are mounting. 

Some of the problems relate to compliance. Food plants must contend with tightening regulation, including the FDA Ford Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This legislation is aimed to shift the focus on foodborne illness - a significant public health burden - from response to prevention. Around 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne diseases annually, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 dying each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.7

The industry is rapidly modernizing and introducing a range of new technologies.

Shopping trends are also fueling changes to the industry. In an era of conscious consumerism, many people are seeking out products that align with their values, often willing to pay more for brands with sustainable practices. 

While fast food is still a diet staple for some, more consumers now want products that are both nutritious and preserve the environment, to feed future generations. These buying habits are becoming much more mainstream, with a sharp rise in demand for plant-based products, including non-diary milk and plant-based meat alternatives.

The U.S. retail market for these foods was worth $7.4 billion in 2021, up from $6.9 billion the year before, according to the Good Food Institute.10 

As they respond to new tastes, companies along the supply chain are trying to make their production processes greener and tackle problems such as climate change, the overuse of chemicals, and poor soil health. This includes the growing use of solar and wind power as the energy transition gathers pace.

There are also calls for greater use of sustainable packaging, including reusable or biodegradable packaging, as more consumers move away from plastic. With buying habits often dictating where manufacturers allocate resources, more sustainable manufacturing processes, products, and packaging are now a guiding focus for research and development (R&D) priorities.

Data and information is enabling companies to design inefficiencies out of supply chains.

Sustainable practices could also be more cost effective, particularly as new technologies, such as automation, cloud computing, and supply chain analytics become increasingly embedded. Access to more data and information is enabling companies to design inefficiencies out of supply chains and ensure quality and speed of delivery.

Smart manufacturing plants - with fully integrated, collaborative systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions on the factory floor - are fundamentally altering production methods, making them much more profitable. Capgemini predicts that smart manufacturing could add between $1.5 trillion to $2.2 trillion to the global economy in the next five years.11 Faster, higher volume equipment is being introduced to improve reliability and avoid costly plant shutdowns. 

The rapid evolution of this industry requires expertise in everything from mechanical process packaging to electrical controls and automation, and from construction to project management. 

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are among the hardest to fill for food and beverage employers. There is a strong supply of STEM talent, with a large number of students choosing to specialize in these fields at university. But the sector needs to raise awareness levels about the career paths on offer because there is limited knowledge of the opportunities available in the food and beverage sector, according to the Institute of Grocery Distribution.12 

This will be more critical as the sector becomes gradually more automated and digitized. Fresh blood is also needed because manufacturers face a wave of skilled workers reaching retirement age in the next few years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only around 12% of U.S. manufacturing workers are under 25, while around 23% are 55 and over.13 

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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.