IFT survey: Food science, technology, salaries reach 20-year high, but gaps persist

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© visualspace / Getty Images
© visualspace / Getty Images

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In its recently released 2022 Compensation and Career Path Report, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) highlights that salaries are spiking among food science professionals but that inequities remain, and priorities are shifting despite job satisfaction.

“This report​ is a step in the right direction, providing a roadmap to success that can benefit both veteran and novice professionals in academia, industry, government and consulting as we connect the global food system and unite to promote and advance the science of food,” ​Christie Tarantino-Dean, CEO at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), said in a press release.

Founded in 1939, IFT has been conducting the compensation survey since 1966. New this year is the IFT Career Path Survey​ to broach topics such as job satisfaction, workplace challenges and overall career trends. Both surveys were distributed to close to 29,000 IFT members and allied companies, drawing approximately 3,000 respondents each.

In 2022, median salaries for food science professionals surged to $110,000 in ‘candidates’ marketplace’

According to the 2022 report, median salaries for food science professionals have surged to $110,000, up nearly 16% from $95,000 in 2019. IFT attributes this “biggest jump in 20 years”​ to a mix of factors, primarily nested in the demand generated by the “Great Resignation” in the wake of the pandemic.

“It’s a candidates’ marketplace—no question about that,”​ affirmed Moira McGrath, president of food science recruitment firm OPUS International, quoted by IFT. “I think the food industry has stepped up, and they have increased their salaries. They know what they need to pay to get the right candidate.” 

Based on respondent data, upper executives remain at the top of the earnings ladder with up to $217,000 in reported median annual salaries. Flavorists led the more technical job categories with $141,000, followed by product managers at $135,000.  Microbiologists, sensory evaluation specialists, food scientists, chemists, undergraduate teachers and researchers were among those in the lower $60,000 to $91,500 range.  

Diversity increases but inequities remain

Despite overall salary growth and the diversification of the professionals surveyed, gender and race-based pay gaps persist, the survey found.

While women accounted for 54% of this year’s survey respondents – up 34% from 40 years ago and down 5% from 2019, they reported 21% lower salaries compared to male medians and 44% less in cash bonuses. However, female respondents between the ages of 19 and 24, reported earning 5.2% more than their male counterparts.

“We have seen the science of food make tremendous progress in areas such as diversification, but as our survey respondents shared, there is still a lot of work to do in areas such as gender pay equality,” ​Tarantino-Dean ​added. “The survey shows that employees want professional development, as well as fair and equal compensation.”

Meanwhile, median salary for African American respondents was 10% lower than for Caucasians, and 15% of non-whites reported lack of advancement as the most common challenge. The report noted that Latinx respondents nearly doubled from the previous 2019 survey and that non-white professionals now account for one-third of respondents.

Shifting priorities: The changing employment landscape

Another key takeaway from the survey results is the shift in employee preference towards remote work options and the decreased willingness to relocate for work. IFT cites ADP Research Institute survey data​ showing that 64% of the workforce would consider looking for a new job if required to return to the office full time, position flexibility or a hybrid approach as a new non-negotiable condition of employment.

While most respondents expressed overall job satisfaction, pain points identified included “lack of supportive management, career development barriers, work/life balance challenges, unsatisfactory salary/benefits and level of job stress.” 

One in four respondents said they had looked to change jobs over the past 24 months.

“Interestingly, 28% of men and women ranked workload and work/life balance combined as the most important challenge,”​ the report noted.


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