Food Science Salaries in the Spotlight Mary Ellen Kuhn | February 2016, Volume 70, No.2

Earnings have been slow to rebound postrecession, but demand is strong for professionals with solid skill sets. IFT’s exclusive new research delivers the latest information on wages, benefits, and how food scientists and technologists feel about their jobs.

Food scientist
The median salary of $90,000 for food science professionals was flat in 2015—exactly the same median IFT’s biennial salary survey showed for members in the United States* two years ago. But that doesn’t mean that the outlook for food scientists isn’t positive. For the 72% of 2015 survey respondents who reported receiving a pay raise within the past 12 months, the median increase was 3.4%. And those working in the science of food enjoy their jobs: 84% of respondents in the 2015 IFT Employment and Salary Survey said they would definitely or probably choose the profession again.

Table 1. Key Salary Survey Statistics—2013 and 2015 *Data for food/beverage processors and ingredient manufacturers/suppliers combined
Table 1. Key Salary Survey Statistics—2013 and 2015 *Data for food/beverage processors and ingredient manufacturers/suppliers combined

Compensation expert Kerry Chou, senior practice leader in the Scottsdale, Ariz.–based office of WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association that surveys employers across a range of industries about planned and actual salary increases, says IFT’s survey findings align with what he sees in the market overall. “The compensation climate has been pretty tepid [since the recession of 2009],” says Chou. “We’ve really improved unemployment; it’s down to about 5%. Job openings are fairly high. So those are good news things. You would think that salaries would be increasing at a faster pace. [But] we’re not seeing that.”

Prerecession, annual salary increases averaged in the range of 3.5%–4%, but according to WorldatWork’s recent survey, the average pay raise in 2015 was 3%. “Companies continue to be cautious since the recession,” Chou observes. “Companies are keeping money under their mattresses so to speak.”

Like Chou, Laurie Hyllberg, vice-president with Kinsa Group, Franklin, Wis., a recruiting firm that specializes in the food and beverage industry, links the relatively flat compensation environment with a postrecession mindset among employers. “Salary figures were growing so rapidly in the late ’90s and early 2000s, that I think it caused a bit of a bust in 2009, and it’s been slower to recover in this last growth period than it has been in the past,” says Hyllberg. “I think that’s why the median hasn’t changed drastically.”

How Salaries Have Changed by Region
Chou also notes that IFT salary survey data showing a median raise of 3.4% in the past year isn’t inconsistent with data indicating that the overall median salary has not increased from two years ago. The pool of respondents varies each year as employees retire or change roles and new employees are hired. So comparing one survey with the next isn’t an apples-to-apples kind of process, he explains. (See Table 1 for a comparison of data highlights from the 2013 and 2015 surveys.)