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2021 Salary and Job Satisfaction Survey Results

Oct. 11, 2021
Our first job satisfaction survey in three years finds most job titles in the food industry fared well during the pandemic.

Employees in the food and beverage industry fared pretty well during the pandemic. The average salary last year was $107,949, up nearly 11% since we did this survey in 2018. Job satisfaction – combining "very satisfied" with "somewhat satisfied" – was 63%, up 5 points. And on job security: 26% are less concerned about losing their job than they were last year, and 51% feel about the same level of security, leaving only 23% more concerned about keeping their jobs.

This year, we asked some Covid-specific questions. "How was work for you during the pandemic?" 41% said "pretty normal," 2.2% said they were laid off because of the pandemic, and maybe the same 2.2% said their location was idled for lack of business. 5.3% said they caught the virus and were out of work a while. 32% worked more because of the pandemic; 7.6% worked less.

28% said they worked remotely for at least some time last year but are now (at least as of August-September) back at their office or plant. 10% said they plan to continue to work remotely and may never go back to a physical location.

Download the Complete 2021 Report

Our article tells only one part of the story. Download the complete report to find data on topics such as the average salary for the food & beverage industry 2014-2021, industry salaries by job title or by job category, as well as the breakdown of survey respondents' ages and genders. Get the complete report in our Resource Library 

Those are some of the insights from our Salary & Job Satisfaction Survey, a web-based survey we fielded during August and early September. We had 404 respondents spanning all job categories (double digits for quality assurance, R&D/Product Development, marketing & sales, management and plant operations) and all food & beverage categories ("further-processed/packaged foods" was the only category representing more than 10%). Also all company sizes: about the same numbers from very small companies (49 or fewer) as very large ones (5,000-plus).

Some other topline results:

  • This is a pretty mature group; nearly half our respondents are between 50 and 65.
  • This job pool remains a male dominated one, with 59% of respondents being men – although that is down 6 points from our 2018 survey. For the first time, we offered an "other" category for gender, and we got 1.5% of responses in that category.
  • 61% have been working in the food & beverage industry for at least 15 years, 12% have more than 36 years
  • In a departure from our 2018 survey, the length of time at your current employer went down. 45% have been with the company 5 years or less, and only 10.4% have more than 26 years.

Comparisons in this report are to our previous survey, which we did in September of 2018 and reported on in our November 2018 issue. All these assumptions are based on a pool of only 404 responses, and they're primarily readers of Food Processing.

Pandemic, pay raises and PTO

Although the pandemic lingers, we thought that taking a pulse after the worst of it would yield interesting results -- especially on job satisfaction and in verbatim comments, for which we provided several opportunities.

In addition to the above questions on the pandemic, we asked, "What measures did your company take to ensure attendance during the pandemic?" Far and away – 63%—said none, with about the same numbers reporting cash bonuses (24%) as extra hourly pay (23%). More overtime was earned by 13%.

"Are those measures still in place? 58% said no, 28% said some of them are, and 14% said all of them are still in place.

Along with our quantitative questions, a few had the option for comments. Some of those relating to working during the pandemic included:

  • "Lots of required overtime; short staffed due to covid; lack of training; minimal support" – from a woman in quality assurance at a California beverage process.
  • "Chaos and stress was created by Covid-related regulations and guidelines," noted a 58-65-year-old man in corporate management at a powder mix company.
  • "The company has not done enough to get people vaccinated who are in office regularly," said a female product developer at Meat/Poultry/Seafood firm.

A lot of people discovered the joys – and productivity -- of working from home, but that's come to an end for some. "I was happy and productive working from home. I am not happy to be back to working in the office" said a 50-57-year-old Quality Assurance worker at a pet food company.

We did get some marketing people to respond, and one at an Oregon fruit & vegetable company said, "The inability to travel to see customers has been a negative."

In that very difficult year, 199 respondents – 49% – got a raise, and the average increase was 6.9%. Of course, not everyone got a bump in 2020: "I haven't had a raise for 6 years now and will probably not get one for this year," said a 58-65-year-old man in plant operations at a beverage facility.
55% got a bonus, incentive or profit sharing.

Regarding PTO – paid time off – 31% were able to take all their allotted vacation days last year; 20% took none at all, although we didn't ask if that was because of busyness or a lack of any accrued vacation time.

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