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

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Table 6. Age Distribution of Survey Participants
Table 6. Age Distribution of Survey Participants

Perspectives on Pay
So just how important is salary anyway? Certainly the figure on one’s paycheck matters for all kinds of practical and psychological reasons, but it’s not necessarily an employee’s top priority. Compensation was No. 4 on a list of job satisfaction factors, behind respectful treatment of employees, trust between employees and senior management, and overall benefits, according to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM 2015b).

Compensation expert Chou says the importance of salary to an employee tends to be strongly correlated with that employee’s marketability. “Your average worker, if we were to ask them: ‘How important is pay for you to stay at this company?’ Pay is usually up there, but it might not be at the top of the list,” says Chou. “What might be No. 1 is your relationship with your manager.”

Table 7. Distribution of Degrees (Highest Earned)
Table 7. Distribution of Degrees (Highest Earned)

But, Chou continues, salary will very likely be far more important to an organization’s top performers. “Pay is important to just about everybody,” he says, “but it’s particularly important to the highest performers. They’re marketable. They’re getting calls all the time. … They have much more bargaining power.”

Chou says that WorldatWork research shows that more than 90% of companies have a “pay for performance” program, which means that salary increases are based on merit, with the highest increases going to the highest performers. In 2015, according to research from employee benefits and compensation consulting firm Mercer, base pay increases for the highest performers averaged 4.8% versus 2.7% for those who performed at an average level and 0.2% for the lowest performers (Mercer 2015).

Table 8. Food Science Salaries in Selected Global Markets (Converted to U.S. Currency)
Table 8. Food Science Salaries in Selected Global Markets (Converted to U.S. Currency)

*Note: Unless otherwise specified in this article, statistics cited apply to United States–based members of the Institute of Food Technologists.

Survey Methodology
The 2015 IFT Employment and Salary Survey, conducted this past September, drew a 21% response rate among U.S. members, 2,343 of whom responded to the survey. Survey emails were managed by a private consulting firm, which kept all responses confidential. The 2015 survey, like the one conducted in 2013, included some nonmembers in the United States as well as international participants (both members and nonmembers). A total of 3,328 individuals took the survey. Unless otherwise specified, the findings highlighted in this article apply to members based in the United States.

Learning More About Earnings
IFT’s 2015 Employment and Salary Survey research yielded a wealth of facts and figures, and only select highlights appear in this article. To delve more deeply into the data, check out the 2015 IFT Employment and Salary Survey Report. It is available free of charge to IFT members and to nonmembers for $99.

The Benefits of Bonuses
It used to be that only an organization’s most senior executives reaped the benefit of added income from bonuses awarded to recognize performance. Times have changed over the past two or three decades, however, and employees at all levels on the organizational chart now often are eligible for bonuses. In IFT’s 2015 salary survey, 65% of respondents reported receiving a bonus.

Table 9. Salaries by Geographic Region
Table 9. Salaries by Geographic Region

“While base pay increases have been increasing but at a relatively slow level, bonuses and incentives remain very popular,” says Kerry Chou, senior practice leader based in the Scottsdale, Ariz., office of WorldatWork. “One of the key reasons they remain so popular [is that] you give someone a bonus, and it’s a onetime event. It’s not baked into the pie. It doesn’t go into their base pay. Next year, the company sets new objectives, and the employee has to re-earn the bonus.”

Thus, bonuses are considered strong motivational tools for employees, and they have the added advantage of allowing companies to tie compensation spending to organizational performance. If earnings aren’t strong for a given year, for example, a company can simply rein in spending on employee bonuses. Then if things pick up in the following year or the year after that, bonuses can be reinstated, creating what employers are likely to view as a win-win situation.

Employers and IFT
Data from the 2015 IFT salary survey show that employers are supportive of membership in IFT; 89% cover the cost of IFT membership dues. A substantial majority (70%) pay for travel expenses associated with attending the IFT annual event, and two-thirds (66%) provide time off to attend it. More than one-third (36%) pay for employees to attend IFT section meetings, and about the same number (35%) provide time off to attend the meetings.

A Look at Wages Around the World
In 2015, for only the second time in its history, the IFT Employment and Salary Survey invited responses from food science professionals (members and nonmembers) from outside the United States. The response rates were not high enough to be statistically significant in many countries, but median salaries for countries in which the response rate was 10 or more can be found in Table 8. Currency exchange rates that prevailed at the time of the survey were used to convert salary data to U.S. dollars.




Mary Ellen Kuhn is executive editor of Food Technology magazine (


Catalyst. 2015. “Women’s Earnings and Income.”

Mercer. 2015. “U.S. Salary Increase Budgets Remain Flat Despite Upswing in the Economy and Job Market, Mercer Survey Finds.” Press release, Nov. 12. Mercer, New York City.

SHRM. 2015a. “Benefits Take on New Importance in Recruiting and Retaining Employees, SHRM Survey Finds.” Press release, Oct. 15. Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, Va.

SHRM. 2015b. Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report.

WorldatWork. 2015. “Base Pay for U.S. Employees to Make Modest Gains in 2016.” Press release, Aug. 4. WorldatWork, Washington, D.C.