No matter what happens in the world, people will always need to eat. That's just one of the many reasons that the packaged foods sector is a career field worth considering. This growing field offers career paths for people with a wide variety of interests. Explore some common packaged foods career paths so you can make an informed decision about whether this industry might be right for you.
What Are Packaged Foods?
The term "packaged foods" refers to all kinds of pre-packaged food and beverage items that people can purchase from a store or other type of vendor. Any food or drink item that comes in a package falls into this category. Think cans of soup, bags of beans, frozen entrees, cartons of milk, tubs or sticks of butter, and candy bars (to name just a few). If it's consumable and arrives at the store pre-packaged for consumers to purchase, then it's a packaged food item.
Packaged Foods: A Growth Industry
Busy consumers seeking convenient food options that require minimal prep time are driving growth in this industry. With consumer demand for packaged food at an all-time high, this industry is rapidly expanding and is expected to continue to grow.
- According to a 2021 Straits Research study, this industry is expected to experience compounded growth of more than 4.5% each year between 2020 and 2026.
- Globally, packaged foods, as a market sector, is expected to increase to a $3.86 trillion industry by 2026, a number that is staggering by any standard.
Industry growth means that job opportunities are likely to abound. If you're interested in food and/or manufacturing as a career path, this is definitely a good industry to consider.
Career Paths in Packaged Foods
There are quite a few career paths in packaged foods. Some require specialized training and education, while others involve skills and knowledge that people can learn on the job. People who work in this field often study industrial design and/or food science in school.
- Food scientists - Food is the star of the packaged foods industry, so food science professionals play a major role in it. Their expertise helps companies select products, determine the portion and serving sizes, choose appropriate preparation methods, maximize shelf-life, and identify packaging restrictions and requirements specific to certain types of food products.
- Packaging engineer - People who work as packaging engineers design and test optimal cartons, boxes, bags, or other types of containers for various food items. This requires extensive scientific and mathematical knowledge related to industrial design and materials engineering.
- Packaging designer- Working as a packaging designer is a good role for creative types who are looking to use their artistic skills in an industrial setting. Packaging designers are tasked with creating visually appealing food packaging that will attract consumers and inspire them to buy.
- Packaging specialists - Packaging specialists deal with making decisions about exactly what materials are used to construct packages for their company's food products. They are involved in materials selection and sourcing, within the specifications set by packaging engineers and designers. In the largest food companies, sourcing is usually broken out into a more specialized packaging buyer position.
- Packaging operators - People who work in packaging operations focus on actually constructing the packages that food is sold in. They may operate the machinery used to produce packaging or to prepare food products so they are ready to be packaged. In higher-level roles, they may select or even design assembly equipment.
- Packaging assembly workers - Food packaging plants have assembly line employees who handle various aspects of the process of packing prepared or processed foods into the form in which they will be sold to consumers. Some of these jobs involve working directly with machinery, while others involve manual aspects of packaging food products.
- Compliance/regulatory oversight - Food companies operate under strict safety regulations. This means that there are jobs in this field for people to oversee operations to ensure that all rules are being met. This includes standards for temperature, cleanliness, accurate food labeling practices, and more.
- Marketing professionals - Packaged foods companies also have fully staffed marketing departments. Some are focused on building relationships with retailers and others who will sell products directly to consumers. Others focus on analyzing buying habits, so the company can make wise decisions about how to best package and position its offerings.
Wages in Food Manufacturing
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employees who work in food manufacturing make over $23 per hour, on average, as of fall 2021. This encompasses people who work in all aspects of food manufacturing. When considered solely for non-supervisory and production workers, average wages are still strong at more than $20 per hour. BLS indicates that employees work an average of slightly over 40 hours per week, a statistic that indicates that a majority of jobs in this field are full-time positions. This means that employees are likely eligible for benefits packages that add value to their compensation.
Exploring Packaged Foods Jobs
Are you intrigued by the idea of working in the packaged foods industry? Take your research to the next level by exploring examples of open positions. Start your search with Indeed.com, where you can set up a profile and request to receive alerts of new related positions as they are posted. You may also want to review the food packaging jobs listed on Careersinfood.com. This can help you get a sense of which positions you may be qualified for now, as well as what training or other experience would be helpful to you as you prepare for a career in this growing industry.