The UK food and drink industry is worth over 180 billion and employs 4 million people. Many people on leaving university choose a career in the food industry. Graduate schemes are ideal for getting off to the best start, with often a wide range of skills and departments being made available as part of the scheme.

Most of the big food and drink manufactures offer graduate placements, with just about all of the disciplines being on offer from Commercial to Production, Finance to Human Resources.

Many companies would prefer a relevant degree in the field but it is not essential, all they will want is a high level of interest expressed in the industry and a reasonable understanding of the industry & an idea of the path which may be taken in the future.

Graduates can typically expect to earn from £18,000 for a starting role, progressing to over £80,000 and beyond for senior and executive positions.

Here are 10 examples of people who started and excelled in the industry in 2107. This was celebrated via The Grocer in the Top New Talent competition – Will you be next?

Whilst the skills set required is broad, a basic understanding of the industry, as mentioned above is important, with the candidate having a good set of priority management principles to help in this fast-moving environment. Individuals should have high energy, be driven, focused and ready for a steep learning curve indeed.

Back in my early & formative years I can recall doing a spell in store. Category Management had not long been given birth to, and it was all hands to the proverbial pump to roll out the initiatives that had been months & months in the planning behind locked doors and in darkened rooms. That day’s task was to pick up the canned tomato section and move it three aisles across the store. There was a genuine naivety across all store colleagues, on the rationale of separating canned tomatoes from all other canned vegetables. But hey, whom were we to questions the powers that be, so move it we did!

Long story short and after some ‘customer comments’, I made a phone call to head office and the answer was found. Shoppers who buy canned tomatoes, more often than not, buy pasta. So, they had been merchandised side by side to aid shopper ease! Such were those early days, a very steep and curious learning curve.

Here are some of the addition skills, employees will also look for and be able to provide during the scheme.

Communications Skills - Individuals and teams absolutely depend on being able to communicate with each other because without this ability there are no teams that deliver, no departments that achieve, and no partnerships that work. Effective communication is essential to the success of every business.

Conflict Management Skills - In the challenging world of UK supermarkets and suppliers conflict is frequent. And those conflicts, like tenders, negotiations, and differences of opinion, can be very costly for a supplier if they get it wrong.

Influencing Skills - Influencing buyers, NPD teams, and supply chain teams, is hard. And with millions of pounds of business always at stake business can easily be lost with not enough influencing being done or the wrong influencing being done.

Presentation Skills - The need to present effectively has never been greater in this fast-paced world of UK Grocery Retailing. A good presentation and a bad presentation can be the difference between business won and business lost.

Time Management - The demands on suppliers’ time has never been greater in the fast-paced world of UK Grocery Retailing. There is always more to be done than hours in the day.

Category Management - The demands on suppliers has never been greater to understand the category, the shopper, analyse a lot of data, identify opportunities, and land those opportunities at a fast pace.

Negotiation Skills - The demand on a supplier’s sales & marketing teams to achieve profitable growth has never been greater in the demanding world of UK Grocery Retailing. The bottom line is always under threat and as a trainee account manager the buck could stop with you!

The bottom-line? A great industry. A tough industry. Not for the feint hearted. Fast paced, exciting, and, as Napoleon said, we are ‘A Nation of Shopkeepers’!

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Author, Freelance writer