2013 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey: The Gloom Index Recedes

Wage increases averaging 2.65 percent and an easing of job-security concerns suggest food professionals and the industry are getting back on track.

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

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It may be too early to cue the band to play "Happy Days Are Here Again," but responses to Food Processing's 7th Annual Salary and Job Satisfaction survey suggest a chorus of "Getting Better" might be in order.

More than 1,000 food professionals -- 1,094, to be precise -- participated in this year's on-line survey during May. Their answers to 34 questions that measure compensation levels, job demands, employment security and other topics provide a comprehensive view of job satisfaction and financial rewards in food & beverage.

Participants reported an average pay increase of 2.65 percent over the prior 12 months -- unspectacular, to be sure, but almost double the inflation rate of 1.4 percent, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Total compensation, including bonuses, stock options and other taxable perks, averaged $103,988, though the median package was $75,500. This is the first time average compensation topped six figures.

Respondents range from supervisors to C-suite occupants, and stock options, profit sharing and other factors add volatility to top-end pay, as reflected in the roller-coaster pattern in the survey's average salaries since 2008. Over that five-year period, the average pay package has risen 6 percent. Inflation over those five years increased 12.3 percent.

The Great Recession began December 2007 and ended June 2009, economists proclaim, but American wage earners outside the financial sector didn't feel the pinch until 2009. This salary survey suggests food professionals are finally shaking the income hangover. One in seven survey respondents (14 percent) indicated their employers had instituted pay cuts during the recession's dark days. Most (60 percent) say all or some of the cuts have been restored.

The 2.65 percent average pay bump since 2012 was retarded by the 18 percent of survey participants who did not get a raise. However, 54 percent of those wage earners received bonuses of some sort, so the effective salary increase likely was higher. That would bring the industry in line with overall U.S. manufacturing, where salary budgets were slated to increase 3.1 percent in 2013, according to World@Work, an association of human resource professionals. What is budgeted and what is expended are two different things, and World@Work found that manufacturers actually bestowed 2.9 percent more for salaries in 2012, despite 3.1 percent being budgeted.

Salaries by Food Category 2013
 Salary Survey Gender Age
 Salaries by Job Title

Anxiety over job loss declines as income goes up, and the survey's participants are not only well paid, they are highly skilled and educated, with baccalaureate degrees defining the median. Job security concerns are at their lowest level since the economy hit the skids.

The complete package

Man and woman do not work for bread alone -- there's also the matter of bennies. Participants were presented with a menu of 13 benefits, ranging from health insurance to a company car. One executive -- a woman in the Mountain States region -- checked all 13. She offered no comments but indicated she enjoyed her challenging work and rated herself very satisfied. There is a difference between benefits offered and benefits used, of course. Her company offers day care, but this executive is eligible for Social Security.

Almost all (97 percent) of participants receive at least one of the 13 benefits from their employer. The benefits and ratio of respondents who receive them are:

  • Medical: 93 percent
  • Dental: 85 percent
  • 401K match: 76 percent
  • Life insurance: 78 percent
  • Disability insurance: 66 percent
  • Pension: 28 percent
  • Tuition reimbursement: 36 percent
  • Profit sharing: 24 percent
  • Stock options: 10 percent
  • Flex time: 19 percent
  • Telecommuting: 8.6 percent
  • Company car: 8.7 percent
  • Day care: 0.5 percent

A medical and dental package is provided by 84 percent of the respondents' companies, and those employees' job satisfaction rating is 6 basis points higher than the norm at 3.62. The best segments to work in: meat & poultry and grain products/milling. Those employers represented 15 percent and 6.1 percent of the firms providing health & dental packages, respectively, but were only 14 percent and 5.6 percent of the survey sample. Baked goods was a laggard segment, representing 5.4 percent of companies with packages but 6.1 percent of the total firms.

With its universal health care, Canada was a perfect 10: Every Canadian respondent reported receiving medical & dental. Profit sharing and insurance frequency also were higher, and pension plans were twice as prevalent, although 401K matches are rare.

South of the border, the Great Lakes region was the best for workers who desire health benefits. Respondents in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin were 22 percent more likely to receive medical and dental than the average frequency for all food companies. Conversely, food companies in New England lagged the nation, with only an 89 percent fulfillment rate. Overall, 84 percent of respondents work at food companies that provide both medical and dental.

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