Estimated graduate starting salary: £18,000 - £27,000 Typical salary after training: £30,000 - £42,000 Graduate Jobs in FMCGs
Fast-moving consumer goods are (FMCGs) are typically high-volume, low-value items with high public visibility and short life span, such as food, drink, confectionery, toiletries, and household goods. As the name would imply, it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy and is a multi-million pound industry. It encompasses a huge range of products and services in manufacturing, distribution and retailing. If you think about some of the products you use everyday like cereal, soap, washing powder, frozen food, the list is potentially endless. As more and more new products are launched on to the market the job opportunities continue to grow at graduate level. But don't expect to get straight to the top on day one as some FMCG career structures are fairly slow to progress.
FMCGs are products that move off the shelves of retail shops quickly, which therefore require constant replenishing. Consumers look for the product that offers most value to them, considering features (package, taste, price, weight), concept (features and related benefits), information sources (for example, advertising), and intangible characteristics such as brand image.
We are privileged to live in what is an increasingly democratic world with the freedom to choose the way we live, the way we work and what we consume. Freedom of choice is a vital factor in the fast moving and highly competitive consumer goods industry. Products are purchased daily in their millions around the world and unless companies consistently offer quality, value and satisfaction they know that their consumers will switch allegiance.
FMCGs fulfill a broad range of needs. Beverages quench thirst, provide refreshment and taste and reflect lifestyles. Confectionery offers energy, taste, rewards and gift opportunities. Companies cater for these fundamental needs in a range of products which offer a huge variety of ingredients and styles.
Many brands become established names with whom consumers can identify. This makes a company's protection of their reputation an essential ingredient of their long-term success. FMCGs are also constantly seeking new and innovative ways to satisfy the consumer's willingness to try new things. Consequently whenever they develop a new product they have to build consumer awareness through advertising and promotion. Consumers want to be informed, whether to be reminded of their feelings about established favourites or to be told of new product available on the marketplace.
With choice, comes access to products. The aim of many working in FMCGs is to make their products as widely available as possible, to ensure that they are always within an arm's reach whether as an impulse or a considered buy. To achieve this, FMCGs work with their customers in many different trade channels.
FMCGs are an enormously dynamic sphere of the business world in which graduates are able to gain excellent rewards and benefits. Some FMCGs offer fast-track career progression. Graduates often get the chance to work in different departments, to see how the product goes from development to manufacture to distribution. There's always scope to move elsewhere within the company and to work with different clients. It's an exciting industry because it's constantly changing. New ideas quickly become new products and start flying off the supermarket shelves and you get to see the results of your efforts every day in shops around the world.
The major players in FMCGs run graduate training programmes and in most cases you can specify whether you want to apply to the commercial (marketing, sales etc) or operational (finance, IT) stream. In other cases, graduates join a general scheme designed to test their ability in different fields, and at the end of the training period you'll know which is the exact role for you. If sales or marketing is for you then one of the best routes into these careers is via a graduate training scheme run by a leading brand owner as these are among the most highly regarded.
This industry encompasses a large number of job roles. Behind every product on the supermarket shelf there's a team of people doing a wide variety of jobs. With hundreds of new products launched every week, there will always be work because everybody everywhere needs to eat and drink.
The finance department is an integral part of the FMCG business and companies are focused on delivering added value services to all aspects of the business - their 'customers'. This encompasses providing input and advice for a wide variety of decisions across the business both at local and international levels as well as ensuring the business is under control and run as efficiently and effectively as possible.
This service-orientated approach to the role means that employers recognise that their staff are their most important asset and that their development at all stages of their careers is an essential part of their objectives. It also means that they get involved in all areas of the business and are therefore able to offer a rich variety of roles and challenges. These include working with the sales and marketing teams analysing category, brand and customer performance, strategic planning and financial forecasting, controlling and monitoring costs, financial accounting, taxation, treasury and taking the lead role in many cross-functional business projects.
Many FMCGs aim is to be an 'Employer of Choice', attracting and developing the best people, working in a dynamic and constantly changing environment to deliver outstanding business results. An uncompromising approach to managing and developing recruitment and selection strategies will allow them to attract the highest graduate calibre individuals and build strong teams. If this sounds of interest then opportunities in HR within FMCGs do exist.
Food scientists and technologists work in close association with production managers, engineers, nutritionists and marketing experts to devise exciting new products and constantly improve existing ones. The industry also employs a small army of scientists who research new ways of improving the quality of production methods and the packaging of products.
FMCG product development teams need to work closely with marketing and manufacturing to improve and develop ingredients and products from concept to full-scale production. In turn, process engineers specify the systems that will produce consistent, safe, quality products with maximum efficiency.
The research and development departments of many FMCGs have access to outstanding pilot plant facilities and state-of-the-art equipment, modern laboratories as well as an extensive library and database. Therefore, enabling their scientists and engineers to respond to the needs of product and process development on a truly international scale.
Buyers must ensure that the supply of basic ingredients is constant throughout the year. A career in this area may involve travelling the world to find the right ingredients at the right price. Buyers need to be good with figures, well organised and able to negotiate the best deals by developing partnerships with suppliers.
In supply chain, the mission is to exceed customers' expectations in terms of service and quality at the lowest effective cost. Consistent delivery against this stretching goal is essential to enhance any company's position as an indispensable partner to their customers. Working in supply chain will give you a deep understanding of how the business works. Many FMCGs do this by offering a broad scope of career development opportunities from customer service, logistics operations, to planning and project management.
Contact with customers is equally important and our customer service teams make sure everything runs smoothly for every customer; from the local shop to the major multiple. A customer logistics team works on e-business and supply chain development, anticipating what services customers will want in the future.
Many people in an manufacturing plant are employed in production. Production spans a wide range of roles including planning and designing, operating complex machinery, managing and supervising the work of others, and engineering.
Engineering is a diverse area of work, which includes designing and installing state-of-the-art machinery and ensuring that it runs smoothly. Not only do FMCGs manufacture products on a vast scale, their operations are among the most complex, involving leading-edge production technologies. Many companies are continually evolving and upgrading their processes, not just to produce better products but to do so in a way that minimises risk to the environment. These projects often involve major capital investment.
The scope and diversity of some operations requires a wide range of skills. Many teams often include mechanical, electrical and civil engineers. Operations encompass shift management, quality and development, planning, health and safety, utilities management as well as packaging specialists and food technologists.
Working in manufacturing and engineering is challenging and fast moving; you have to want to enjoy the buzz and be a good team player. Those early months in shift management make an excellent training ground for young graduate engineers.
The main function of the quality assurance department is to ensure that the product always meets the same, high standards. Unless it products satisfy strict specification and hygiene requirements, they won't reach the distribution stage. At this point, quality is checked again to ensure that products have not deteriorated or been damaged during transportation.
Marketing is responsible for ensuring that a company's new and existing products are in tune with the needs of the market. Marketers work closely with product developers and market researchers, advertising or PR agencies and packaging designers. A mix of creative, business and organisational skills is the necessary trade mark of any marketer.
Working in IT or IS (information systems) is about big responsibility, understanding the business and the needs of clients; driving cross-functional teams to deliver strategies through leading-edge systems and technologies, always looking to be one step ahead, never assuming that the current system solution or business process is the best.
On a daily basis you ensure everyone in the business, at all locations, get the systems and information they need to do their job, sometimes supported from a call centre for example. Roles encompassing everything everything from market statistics to accessing the Intranet. A recent major focus for FMCGs has been the implementation of SAP - integrating all transaction processing in the business, internationally. In addition, the building of a Data Warehouse, with intranet front-ends, has made key business information and performance measures widely available.
Looking ahead IT/IS has a key role in anticipating, developing and implementing new systems to meet future needs. This includes accelerating the deployment of e-business internet collaboration with our major customers covering Business to Business (B2B) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) processes.
Qualifications and skills needed
Most degree subjects are welcomed, with strong numerical and analytical degrees considered an advantage. You need to be able to thrive in a fast-paced environment, have flexible thinking and an innovative approach. At the same time you'll need to be organised and able to multi-task (or at least demonstrate your adaptability). Most of all, you should be committed to the quality of the brand and have a good understanding of the FMCG industry. Academic record and work experience are important, as with all industries, but teamwork, communication skills, innovation and initiative are particularly valued. A range of extra-curricular initiatives and interests on your CV that goes beyond your studies is another important factor to consider.