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Recipe for Success: How To Stand Out In Food Manufacturing

Food manufacturing is an area of high demand and great opportunities for individuals who demonstrate an ability to learn and grow on the job, developing the skills and experiences needed to rise into high demand roles like Food Safety & Quality Managers, Operations & Plant Managers, Maintenance Managers, EHS Managers, Plant Engineers, and HR Managers & Coordinators (who, by the way, may often need to be bilingual in English and Spanish).


Skills and Competencies Beyond a Degree

The requirements for these roles go beyond education. Successful candidates must also have hands-on experience working in food manufacturing, often starting in entry level jobs, and moving into roles with increased responsibility where they gain experience with critical elements of the business, like USDA, HACCP, and SQF requirements; safety, quality assurance and regulatory programs, as well as the competencies specific to the roles they will be overseeing.


Great Challenges, Great Rewards

Working in the food manufacturing industry can be very rewarding, but with that comes unique demands of an industry that is fast paced and perpetually moving. Food manufacturers operate around the clock, seven days a week to keep food on grocery store shelves, in your refrigerator, and on your plate. Folks who excel in the food manufacturing space are prepared to work overtime and weekends to meet these demands and are well-compensated for their commitment. And in a world where the workday is increasingly digital and remote, food manufacturing requires an ability to thrive 100% on site, working and collaborating face-to-face.

Jobs at companies with recognizable brands are highly coveted in food manufacturing. There’s a lot of pride and sense of belonging associated with working for a brand that they see commonly on grocery store shelves and in the houses of friends and family members.

These top brands offer good pay, benefits, and PTO. For most positions, this often includes an opportunity to earn overtime pay and bonuses in addition to salaries.

Furthermore, those aspiring to management roles are highly coveted, and in high demand across the industry. These aren’t roles that recent graduates, or even those with managerial experience in other manufacturing settings, can simply move into.  One of the more important competencies individuals with food manufacturing experience bring to the table is that very experience in food manufacturing.

There are, of course, other attributes that employers are looking for in top candidates.


Attributes That Make Top Candidates Stand Out

Some level of education, certification and industry-specific training always helps. However, a bachelor’s degree is not necessarily required — an associate’s degree is often sufficient.

As we’ve seen, though, experience matters, especially in these management level roles. Employers are looking for employees who have good tenure with other companies—generally working at least three years in previous roles. Companies are also looking for evidence of continuous improvement and growth in those roles, looking for candidates who have taken on progressively more responsible roles with greater accountability and staff oversight.

Communication and other soft skills are also important. These managers are responsible for overseeing others and establishing a culture and climate where staff can be engaged and productive. They also need to interact effectively with other management and leadership staff, sometimes dealing with conflict that must be handled effectively and appropriately, while maintaining productive relationships.

Finally, candidates for management positions in food manufacturing must be able and willing to go above and beyond. These are not 8-hours a day, 40 hours a week jobs. They must be willing to work overtime, work weekends, and train and mentor team members. In fact, one of the foundational requirements that many companies have is that candidates understand and agree to working the hours required to get the job done.

That’s what top brands are looking for today and that’s what can make top candidates stand out to land the management level (or higher) roles they’re looking for. While every job comes with its challenges, food manufacturing is a great industry for folks eager to provide for their communities and serve a highly valued consumer need.


by Natalia Shapovalova Senior Recruiter at Planet Forward

Photo Credit: Canva