Food and drink

The world of food and drink is a diverse industry, which involves co-operation across sectors.

What's it like?

Food and drink is not a static industry; it is continually changing through innovation and recruits graduates from all disciplines.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) represent more than 1000 food and drink companies in the UK, from global brands to small businesses and the Scottish division is FDF Scotland.

According to a report by FDF Scotland, one of the challenges is the negative perception of the employment opportunities:

It is often perceived to be low skilled and consequently, low paid. In reality the industry is broad and diverse.

In reality, it’s a multifunctional sector that spans the length and breadth of the UK and offers many occupations requiring higher-level skills and qualifications.

For example, the industry is in need of:

  • engineers to design and maintain sophisticated technology and machinery
  • technologists and scientists to make sure products are of high quality, safe and nutritious

Also, working in creative marketing, logistics, sustainable food production, product innovation, IT and business all have vital roles in this sector.

You can view the report:

FDF Scotland - Establishing the labour availability issues of the UK Food and Drink sector (pdf)

The industry employs over 440,000 people in the UK. It is estimated around 41,900 jobs will be available in Scotland by 2029 to meet skills gaps and labour shortages:

FDF Scotland - Why work in food and drink: the sector in numbers

View these profiles of common roles within this sector to see what each role involves, how to get into it, what salary to expect and who the major employers are: 

Prospects - Colour technologist job profile

Prospects - Food technologist job profile

Prospects - Manufacturing engineer job profile

Prospects - Microbiologist job profile

Prospects - Production manager job profile

Prospects - Product/process development scientist job profile

Prospects - Quality manager job profile

Prospects - Retail manager job profile

Prospects - Technical brewer job profile

Food Matters Live provide a great variety of "Jobs in food and drinks" profiles. These include information on required qualifications, typical employers and whether there is demand for the role:

Food Matters Live - Jobs in food and drinks

Looking for some inspiration?

Visit our Food and Drink – Case Studies webpage for inspiration on where your career can take you.  We are delighted to share varied case studies from professionals working in the Food and Drink sector:

Food and Drink - Case Studies

FDF Scotland also has excellent case studies and short career films featuring a behind the scenes look at a range of people working in the industry:

FDF Scotland - Careers case studies

Building experience and getting started

Employers are keen to recruit graduates with experience of the sector. This can be through paid experience, voluntary work or having a role within a student society:

A part-time job working in a supermarket or hospitality is a great way to evidence valuable skills on your CV such as working under pressure and team work. Consider asking your manager if you can shadow them to build your commercial awareness. Search for part-time job opportunities on MyCareerHub:


Build your skills through having a position of responsibility within student societies such as the Beer and Brewing Society, Food Security and Sustainability Society and The Water of Life Society. Find out more about these and other related societies: 

Edinburgh University Students' Association - Find a society

The Students’ Association Volunteering Service offers volunteering opportunities, exclusively for University of Edinburgh students, within the local community as well UK based. Search their volunteering opportunities:

Edinburgh University Students' Association - Volunteering opportunities

It can helpful to speak to people in the industry, as well as looking at job descriptions, to identify what employers are looking for and any potential gaps. For example, Platform One is an online network of Edinburgh alumni and others, so it’s a great place to start: 

Platform One

Stay up to date with industry developments by reading FDF Scotland News:

FDF Scotland News

Consider joining the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) as a Student Associate Member to gain valuable sector insights and networking opportunities:

IFST - Student Associate Member

Where can I find job vacancies?

Large recruiters such as government departments and supermarkets run graduate training schemes; look at individual websites from September to check application deadlines. Smaller organisations such as research consultancies and specialist retailers are likely to recruit throughout the year. Check MyCareerHub for vacancies:

MyCareerHub - opportunities

The FDF website contains a searchable directory of its members whom you could consider contacting speculatively. Results can be filtered by sector and/or location:

FDF - members list

Our webpage on creating your own opportunity gives more advice on this speculative approach:  

Create your own opportunity

Search for recruitment agencies who work with food and drink companies. For example D R Newitt is a specialist recruitment agency with offices in Edinburgh and Manchester:

Careers Service advice on using recruitment agencies

D R Newitt