Maybe you’re passionate about public health or sustainable food production. Maybe you’re a science person, a marketing buff, or a nerd for following and understanding trends. Or, maybe you just really, really love food.
If any of these are true, we have the industry for you! Between technology, trends, and a back-to-nature focus, the Food and Beverage Industry is growing and changing rapidly. Keep reading to find out if a food career is in your future!
A History Lesson
Mass-produced food is relatively new in human history, and many consumers are clamoring for natural foods again. In America in 1790, 95% of families lived in rural areas—which means that nearly everything they consumed was grown or raised on their own land, or on the land of a nearby farmer. Today, less than 30% of Americans live in agricultural areas, which means that nearly everything we consume was grown, raised, or produced far from our homes. In other words: food production was previously part of nearly everyone’s life, and today, few of us know what a soybean plant looks like or what ingredients are in our cereal.
While Americans in the 1970s may have been content with mystery meatloaf and TV Dinners, modern Americans are feeling nostalgic for the days of recognizable ingredients and homegrown vegetables. This resulted in $47 billion spent on organic foods in 2016—a growth of 8.4% from the previous year—and an ongoing debate about the labeling of genetically-modified foods. These trends and consumer preferences have been a game-changer for companies in the Food and Beverage Industry.
Today’s Special? Health and Sustainability.
Giants in the food industry are making earnest attempts toward healthier, more sustainable offerings. This means ample job opportunities for health nuts to have their voices heard. As Americans become more health-conscious, the sales of notoriously “bad” foods and drinks plummet. Take soda, for example: Coca-Cola sales are down 11% from last year, while the new, fizzy kids on the block take over in all their calorie-free, sugar-free glory (La Croix sales have gone up 78% since early 2016!).
Companies like Coke must then strategize how to appeal to a market that craves low-calorie drinks. Food and Beverage companies are pivoting every day to appeal to a new demographic of consumers. Kelloggs responded to falling cereal sales by announcing that all artificial flavors and sweeteners would be removed from their products, and, by some magic, organic Doritos are a real thing (not to get sidetracked, but they will change your life).
While large companies seem to keep buying each other out and consolidating (like Kraft and Heinz), other food giants respond to the health trend by buying up smaller “better for you” brands (like General Mills acquiring Annie’s or Nestle buying out Krave.) Other trends rocking the food marketplace include clean eating (anyone else muscling through the Whole30 right now?) and meal delivery services. If a company can make paleo-whole30-vegan-organic-gluten-free friendly options that are shipped to your doorstep, they’re golden.
What ideas do you have for making food trendy?
But don’t think the big giants are the only players in Food & Bev. Independently-owned food companies are incredibly successful, too: KIND bars were dreamed up by social entrepreneur Daniel Lubetsky, Siggi’s yogurt started with one man who wanted to make Icelandic Skyr yogurt mainstream, and Newman’s Own has been a private, non-profit since its founding in 1982. These small startups and independent companies can offer a much different feel and company culture, and their potential for rapid growth make working for them really exciting.
Or, don’t be afraid to unleash your inner entrepreneur and see where your food dreams take you! Entrepreneurship is fair game in today’s food industry. The cookie brand that you perfect in your kitchen or the food delivery app you created in a class may one day be bought for millions.
The food industry doesn’t start and end with the stuff you buy in the grocery store. Move one layer back and you’ll find thousands of jobs in the “ingredient sector.” These companies make the ingredients that make modern food possible. For example, CP Kelco (who you can find on Vocatio!) is a sustainability-focused premier producer of ingredients like Xanthum Gum, a natural thickening agent that makes our morning yogurt and afternoon salad dressings the right consistency and keeps all the ingredients from separating in the smoothies you buy.
The Cutting Edge of Food Science
Weird stuff is happening in the realm of food and drink—besides kombucha. Memphis Meats is one of Silicon Valley’s newest residents, but with a twist: they’re using technology to produce “clean meat,” or real meat made without animals.
That’s right, instead of raising chickens they’re growing high-quality chicken meat in their lab. While it sounds unappetizing at first blush, it actually presents a solution to many problems facing the meat industry. The process emits 90% less greenhouse gas than the production of conventional meat, is more sanitary, takes up less resources, and nearly eliminates questions of ethics and animal cruelty. Beyond Meat, another innovator in the burger sphere is creating plant-based burgers that taste remarkably like meat. What world-changing, earth-saving food is next? And could your science degree and innovative mind make you the brains behind it?
Your Special Recipe
You don’t have to invent synthetic meat in order to be on the cutting edge of the food industry. Like any industry, Food and Beverage needs an array of talent in marketing, research, communications, and finance. You could be a Marketing Specialist who creates compelling packaging and advertising to inform and allure buyers. (And let’s face it, both meat grown in a lab and plant burgers are going to need a darn good marketing strategy.) In order for a company to make its revenue goals, it needs excellent Research Analysts who can predict trends as well as PR experts who can strategize the release of information to the public. Logistics and operations specialists are needed to figure out how to produce and distribute food to the Earth’s 7.4 billion people.
And even without these specific career interests, liberal-arts educated young people are incredibly valuable to the food industry—both as consumers and as employees.. Hooking the ever-elusive millennial on a product is #goals for all food and beverage companies. (Have you seen how many insta stories are about La Croix? It’s basically free advertising for them.) If you are one, your opinions and ideas will be extra valuable and chances are you’ll have some pretty baller ideas on how to appeal to them.
Further, if you’re a liberal arts major, your diverse background sets you up well for understanding the complexity of trends in what we eat and don’t eat. Check out the Food & Beverage industry on Vocatio to satisfy all your career cravings!
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