Waist up portrait of young woman wearing mask and holding digital tablet during quality control inspection in sunlit workshop at food factory, copy space

As the food industry undergoes its digital transformation, technology is becoming an integral part of the work. The result is a growing demand for employees with skills that weren’t previously necessary in the industry. According to a new report from Deloitte and FMI-The Food Industry Association (FMI), almost all food suppliers (95%) named “digital skills” as the most likely to increase in value within the next three years.

As part of their Future of Work series, Deloitte and FMI drew from the responses of more than 150 food companies to explore the expansion of digital skills in the industry. They found that, excluding the first year of the pandemic, job postings requiring digital skills have gone up significantly among food suppliers (including manufacturers and processors) and retailers. 

Uncovering the most in-demand skills

Deloitte identified a “AAA skill set” — representing analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence skills — and used it to pinpoint the specific skills requested in food industry job postings. Here are the top five in-demand skills within four advanced skill clusters:

Industry Report - Software Trends 2022
  • Digital delivery: web development, user interface design, data visualization, automated testing techniques, application programming interface
  • Data science: mathematical modeling, big data analytics, AI and machine learning, web analytics, simulation
  • Data engineering: data wrangling, cloud computing, cloud security architecture, data mining, data techniques
  • Automation and robotics: robotics, automated testing, automation, computer-aided manufacturing, industrial automation

Supplier Catalog - Drive EHSWhile retailers have undergone a more dramatic shift in hiring for digital skills, food suppliers have been steadily increasing their digital skills base over the past few years. And the demand for these skills isn’t only in the IT department — it’s on the frontline as well. Suppliers required digital skills for 90% of their job postings for scheduler/operations coordinators and service supervisors.

Time will tell whether there will be a sharper uptick in hiring for these skills among suppliers. Challenges such as the need for greater supply chain transparency and meeting sustainability goals could further drive up demand. These skills will also be required for companies that want to move into more digitally driven sales channels or face competitors with stronger consumer data.

Filling digital skills gaps

Of course, the food industry isn’t the only industry increasingly seeking out tech talent, nor is it an easy task right now to find enough employees to fill available roles of any type. So, instead of scurrying to bring on new hires with digital skills, it might be worth pausing to plan for how the work is changing while keeping employees and their experiences at the center of it all. 

Deloitte recommends starting with an in-depth assessment of current capabilities and major digital skills gaps. Companies may find that the current workforce can fill in some of those gaps if provided with training opportunities. After figuring out which skills will require new hires, it’s a good idea to revamp job postings to include the identified skill needs, as well as digital-forward messaging.

Lastly, transparency with employees about plans for tackling skills gaps and how their roles may change going forward is key. The current workforce might even have their own ideas for improving hiring efforts and making the positions more attractive to job seekers.