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Is the Food Industry Really Happy?

Oct. 21, 2021

One can't help but wonder when looking at the results Food Processing's 2021 Salary and Job Satisfaction survey: Is the food industry really happy? 

Anyone that's ever done CPG market research knows what consumers claim they want versus what they actually buy are two wildly different things. If I had a dollar for every focus group-based report I read that told me consumers loathed GMOs in their food...all while I watched with my own two eyes said consumers loading up their grocery carts with every corn cob, squash and soy product they could get their hands on, then I'd be rich.

It begs the question: are people untrustworthy or do they tend to tell surveyors what they think the answer should be, rather than what it is? I'm beginning to wonder if the same contrasting behavior we often see in CPG focus groups is the same behavior we see when it comes to workplace happiness surveys.

Survey Says

As I uploaded the Salary Survey article on our website last week, I was perplexed by what I was seeing. The overarching theme from survey respondents was they they were doing well. Job satisfaction rested at 63%, which was up 5 points compared to 2018, also known as the last time we conducted this survey. The average salary has grown 11%, and over half of our respondents feel secure with their jobs. Additionallly, 49% indicated they had gotten a raise in the last year. This was all compared to 2018. You remember 2018, right? BC19 (Before COVID-19). This was before the little novel coronavirus that could made its gigantic impact on our lives. 

All of these stats would be all well and good if it weren't for the fact that there have been a record number of labor strikes taking place among food and beverage manufacturers in the last year. Some big names in food—Frito-Lay, Kellogg'sMondelēz, and El Milagro—all had (or have) employees on strike this year.  And last time I checked, satisfied and happy employees don't go on strike. 

Method Acting

It's worth noting that our survey was answered by 404 people. It was conducted by e-mail and we sent it directly to people's inboxes for whom we had e-mail addresses. You can tell by the infographic at the top that the people who filled out the survey were most likely people who sat at a desk or computer most of the day or for whom factory floor work was not typically a daily ritual for them. 

Judging by the stories we've written about the labor strikes taking place, working conditions and pay were the big reasons people on the plant floor were going on strike. Is it just me or do the strikes and the reports of hunky-dory job satisfaction sit counter to one another? I don't have the names of people who completed the survey nor do I know if their jobs had anything to do with the people on strike, but something isn't adding up. 

Interestingly, in the salary survey article, many of the open-ended responses showed a general dissatisfaction with how people felt things were going in their jobs. From "I'm not thrilled to be back in the office" to "There's not enough being done by the company," you get the sense that people will quantify their happiness through a checkbox or dropdown menu, but when it comes qualifying their happiness, the hard truth comes out. 

Back to the adage of the CPG market research. It appears there's a disconnect between what people say and what they do. When reading the results of this survey, or even others like it, one can't help but wonder: is the food industry really happy? 

What do you think?

(You can get a copy of the full report, including charts not included in our October issue, by visiting our Resource Library)

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