Labour insights report: jobs growth in F&D industry, 2020 vs. 2021

Published on: 23 Aug 2021

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There’s a lot in the news currently about record vacancy numbers, shrinking candidate pools and the potential consequences for businesses and consumers. As restrictions ease and day to day life becomes easier, job numbers across the economy have increased. However, at the same time the number of active workers in all sectors has declined due a combination of issues including the pandemic, furlough, Brexit and more. The food industry, with it's fast-moving nature and historical reliance on migrant labour, is especially vulnerable. In order for recruitment functions to successfully meet these challenges, we must have an idea of where the critical points will be, in departmental and geographical terms. is ideally positioned to be able to analyse the big data we receive from recruiters posting adverts on to our platform, and hopefully identify some useful trends and insights.

Record numbers:

The Office for National Statistics announced a record number of live vacancies in the UK economy, with over 1m jobs advertised in July (source: ONS). The food industry, unsurprisingly as a cornerstone of UK plc, is following a similar trend. saw job postings rise by 13% in the first few weeks of August, traditionally a quieter time of year for recruitment. Year-on-year stats show a 67% rise in jobs posted onto during the June/July/August period, supporting the idea that UK food & drink is ‘bouncing-back’ as lockdown restrictions are eased.

We decided the break the data down to see which functions are driving growth and identify which locations have notable trends:

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The fact that job numbers have risen perhaps isn’t surprising, however the level of the rises demonstrates the urgency many companies are experiencing trying to fill business-critical positions in a tight candidate market. Despite the rise in open vacancies, there are still significantly fewer PAYE registered workers compared to pre-pandemic levels. More jobs and fewer candidates, particularly in specialist areas that suffered from skill-shortages pre-pandemic, means some companies will find it very difficult to recruit for certain positions. Any pre-existing issues affecting recruitment, for example rural locations, local skill-shortages, uncompetitive salary-bracketing will be exacerbated as the talent pools of relevant candidates become thinner.

In this context it isn't surprising that Interim job postings have seen the largest increase onsite, as companies attempt to plug gaps created by being unable to fill vacancies permanently. The Planning and Packaging categories also saw large increases in numbers, though from a low base mid-pandemic. On a positive note, categories focused on commercial growth and long-term development were responsible for most of the other large increases seen. The NPD, Sales/Commercial, Buying/Purchasing and Graduate categories all saw 100%+ growth. The functions that saw urgent recruitment throughout the early stages of the pandemic have seen much smaller increases in vacancies this year, notably the Engineering and Production categories.

Total job postings on, May – August, 2020 vs. 2021:

Current Challenges:

As competition for the best talent in a tight candidate market becomes more intense, it is those companies who can differentiate themselves and stand out from the crowd who seem to be performing best. The ability to communicate what makes your company an enticing proposition, to a relevant and engaged audience, is key. Financial incentives will always be important and employers who have conducted research and adjusted their offering accordingly, be it in terms of salary package, benefits or bonuses, are definitely seeing the benefit of this. This is especially true in uber-competitive local employment markets where there is a strong food manufacturing basis to the economy. However, increasingly important to candidates is what a company offers in terms of flexible working practices and progressive company culture. Also candidates will now look at what a potential employers corporate stand-point is on issues such as sustainability, the environment, inclusion & diversity and the like.

The ability to communicate all of this information to a targeted and relevant niche audience is vital for food & drink employers to engage with the next generation of talent coming in to food & drink, at all levels. is proud to help many leading names in food & drink reach, and communicate with, our audience of 70,000+ food industry specialist jobseekers monthly. Current advertisers onsite include Innocent, Oddbox, McCormick, Greencore, Moy Park, Nomad Foods, Warburtons, Heck, Red Bull plus many more. has recently announced a partnership with the Food & Drink Federation, aimed at providing resourcing support to industry and collaboration across of a range of related topics. is a specialist, industry-specific platform dedicated to partnering with the food industry and it’s stakeholders. We provide a consultative and knowledgeable service to any company wanting to attract niche food industry talent more effectively.

To understand more, please schedule a call with a dedicated Account Manager by calling 01625 502947 or emailing