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Pay and career progression for graduates working in consumer goods

Find out how much you could earn on a FMCG graduate training programme, how much this could increase after three years and where your career could go next.

According to a membership survey published in September 2019 by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), formerly known as the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), the median starting salary for graduates who started work for consumer goods companies was £27,000.

FMCG was revealed to be the most popular sector of all, ahead of investment banking, consulting, or energy, water or utilities. According to ISE, there were 67 applications per graduate vacancy in 2019 – this is higher than any other surveyed sector. Graduate positions in FMCG companies are therefore highly competitive, perhaps in part because they often have a clear path for career progression and salary increase, and involve professional training.

Graduate starting salaries in consumer goods roles

Graduate pay at FMCG companies varies depending on the scheme applied to, but is usually between £22,000 and £32,000. Here are some examples:

  • Arla has offered graduate salaries within the £30,000-£35,000 range.
  • Associated British Foods' has a graduate starting salary of £30,000.
  • Colgate-Palmolive is offering a starting salary of £30,000 for its commercial graduate programme.
  • Danone's base salary for graduates is £30,500.
  • Johnson & Johnson is said to offer graduate trainees a salary of between £27,000 and £33,000.
  • The starting salary at Nestlé is £30,000.
  • The starting salary on Unilever's future leaders programme is £32,000.
  • William Jackson Food Group's graduate programmes have a £25,000 starting salary.

What are graduates’ prospects of promotion in FMCG companies?

A place on a consumer goods company’s graduate scheme will give you experience of a fast-paced commercial environment that will stand you in good stead however you decide to develop your career in future.

Our Insider Reviews for Associated British Foods reflect graduates’ confidence in their prospects for swift career progression, with one London-based contributor observing, ‘The progression within the business is very good and, with all the companies in the wider group, there are lots of opportunities.’

Insider Reviews responders for Johnson & Johnson commented on the range of opportunities within the company, and said it was possible to pursue either a managerial or technical career path. One graduate working in marketing said, ‘Promotions can happen quite rapidly if you display the correct set of skills,’ while another working in the same area added, ‘There is a clear progression route within this company. The set rotation scheme on most of our graduate programmes helps to facilitate this.’

Discover how Alfie Hinchcliffe, an ecommerce, performance and analytics manager at L’Oréal, has managed to drive his career and even create his own job role since he finished his marketing graduate programme.

What training and development do consumer goods companies offer?

Many FMCG companies run on the 70:20:10 learning and training principle, which involves receiving 70% of learning and development opportunities through stretching assignments on the job, 20% through mentoring and 10% through formal training opportunities. So, when you are researching FMCG graduate schemes and investigating the training and qualifications on offer, consider the following:

  • Length. How long is the scheme overall? Does it consist of a number of different placements, and if so, how long are the placements, and where are they likely to be based?
  • Variety. Rotational programmes which place trainees in different departments are intended to give a broad view of how the business works. You may get the opportunity to gain an understanding of both the demand-orientated side of the organisation – sales and marketing – and the supply side, which includes manufacturing, HR and supply chain.
  • Location. There may be opportunities for overseas placements during the course of your graduate training, though they are unlikely to be guaranteed. Graduate recruits may also be expected to relocate within the UK for different placements.
  • Opportunities to gain professional qualifications. Finance graduate schemes may offer training towards accreditation by a relevant professional body such as CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). Engineering schemes may offer support towards chartership.
  • Soft skills training, ongoing learning and support. Formal training by an external organisation such as CIMA is likely to be just a small part of what’s on offer. Like employers in other industries, consumer goods companies also provide on-the-job training, online learning schemes, and mentoring and buddy programmes.

For example, at L’Oréal, new employees take part in the company's FIT (Follow Up and Integration Track) programme, which includes training, opportunities to find out more about products such as site visits, and a personalised meeting programme to introduce them to colleagues in their business area.

Danone is committed to developing talent within the company and has a worldwide objective to fill 80% of jobs internally. It provides graduate recruits with individual learning plans, which include both formal and on-the-job training and e-learning as well as opportunities for coaching.

Find out what Kerry graduates have to say about the support and development opportunities they have received.

What soft skills do graduates gain from working in consumer products?

Graduates on FMCG training schemes are likely to develop a range of soft skills, including the following:

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