2008 Food Processing Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey

Our second annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey's recurring theme of “More work dumped onto fewer people” continues.

By David Feder, Contributing Editor

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We've got charts, charts, and more charts

Scroll down to the bottom of the article to see a sampling of the data we collected.

See all of the results from the 2008 Salary and Satisfaction Survey

Read the 2007 Food Processing Salary and Satisfaction Survey

In a climate of collapsing home sales, doubled fuel and food prices, layoffs and slashed salaries, on-the-job stress is climbing. Visibly. Job insecurity rose 10 percent in this, our second annual Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey, with more than 45 percent of workers worried how long they’ll have their current job.

Nevertheless, job satisfaction inched up nearly 2.5 percentage points, even as the average food processing salary inched downward ($95,226). Although those working more than 40 hours a week dipped slightly, so did those taking all the vacation time they’re entitled to.

When we inaugurated our first Salary & Job Satisfaction survey last year, we were overwhelmed by the response you gave. We had about the same amazing response this year: Nearly 2,000 processors answered our nosy request to learn what you do, how much you earn doing it and how well you like what you’re doing.

Responses to what you and your colleagues make annually show a nice, gradual climb up the scale we provided into low six figures before the sharp drop-off at $201,000. In fact, 25 percent of you make between $100,000 and $200,000 a year. Precisely five make more than $501,000 (there were only two in this lofty group last year).

On the other end, last year’s below-$36,000 earners totaled just over 6.5 percent whereas this year the number went up to nearly 8.5 percent.

Actually, the “average” food processing salary is a misnomer. Salaries vary greatly by job category. As with our 2007 survey, the Corporate Management group is the best compensated. Their mean is $124,940 and their median was about $100,000. Those in management fell predominantly in the 50-64 age range (43 percent) and also self-identify predominantly as Caucasian (89 percent, vs. last year’s 91 percent) and male (76 percent, vs. last year’s 73 percent).

Those in the Marketing/Sales category are slightly younger, falling mostly in the 40-49 year age range (41 percent). Salarywise, their median is $93,000 and average is $103,672 – down significantly from last year’ $138,983 (we must have had a highly compensated group last year). The percentage of females rose to 42 percent from 36 percent in 2007, and Caucasians went up to 93 percent (last year 87 percent). Fifteen percent have MBAs.


Mr. Average
A snapshot of our “average” processor

> Caucasian male
> Age 50
> Salary $95,226
> Lives and works in the suburban Midwest
> College degree
> Works in a medium to large company
> At least 15 years in the business, six years in current job (which is his second job)
> Works 41-50 hours per week, on call 24/7 but no overtime pay
> Supervises half a dozen people


Food processing pay vs. everybody else

The Department of Labor reports the average hourly earnings of production workers in food manufacturing for 2007 was about $13.84 vs. $13.48 in 2006. That’s only about two and a half percent more than last year and certainly not enough to keep up with stagflation, inflation, recession or whatever else they want to call doubled food, health and energy prices coupled with rising unemployment.

again was the most gender-even, with 57 percent male and 43 percent female, two-percent more balanced than last year. They’re still the best educated, with 93 percent college-degreed (nearly 14 percent doctorates). The median of their salary range is $85,000 with a mean at $101,307.R&D

The Plant Operations/Engineering group is still overwhelmingly Caucasian and male, at 86 percent and 89 percent, respectively. This group reports a salary median also at $85,000, but a five-figure average salary: $88,677.

Purchasing agents’ average compensation took a hefty drop, falling from $83,563 to $72,280, with the median the lowest of all our groups at $65,000. The level of college degrees in this group still sits at just more than half (52 percent, down from 55 percent in 2007), and 69 percent are men, down a percentage point from last year. But purchasers no longer are the most heavily imbalanced as far as race: Last year, 95 percent labeled themselves as Caucasian but this year that’s fallen to 85 percent.

African-Americans made up about 3 percent of our respondents, a level that’s pretty consistent across all the job titles; their average salary is $83,142. Latin/Hispanics make up more than 11 percent, with an average income of $89,066. Women, who made up nearly 32 percent of our respondents, earned $73,196 -- in spite of 76 percent holding college degrees, compared to 72 percent of men. One of them is in that $500,000+ club.

Overall, more than 73 percent of our respondents are college graduates, with 18.4 percent holding master’s degrees and 5.1 percent doctorates.

The little extras

Our observation in last year’s survey that a job has to offer more than a simple annual salary is showing signs of heading for shaky ground. Although most processors are offering benefits, we saw slight slippage this year in some of the extras.

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