Consumer goods and FMCG

Pay and career progression for graduates working in consumer goods

Those aiming for the top may find a consumer goods career to be the ideal springboard.

If you want to aim for the top, a place on a consumer goods company’s graduate scheme is a very good place to start. It 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.

Here is a selection of high profile business leaders who trained at Mars in the early stages of their careers, who have gone on to senior positions in a range of industries including banking, retail and broadcasting:

  • Richard Baker, chairman of the Whitbread board, has held senior positions at Boots and Asda.
  • Adam Crozier, CEO of ITV, former CEO of the Football Association and Royal Mail Group.
  • Justin King, former CEO of Sainsbury’s.
  • Allan Leighton, chair of the The Co-operative Group, former CEO of Asda and non-executive chairman of Royal Mail.
  • Helen Stevenson, non-executive director at Trinity Mirror, former marketing director of Lloyds TSB and chief marketing officer of Yell.

What training and development do consumer goods companies offer?

Students who are researching graduate schemes should 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?

L’Oréal’s management trainee scheme is one year long, and consists of three placements across the business. Roles are available across commercial, marketing, supply chain and operations, and finance. Danone's graduate programmes are two years long, with schemes covering sales and marketing, nutrition, and business partnering (functions such as sales, finance, supply chain and HR). Some schemes at Mars are three years long, including the general management programme and business technology leadership programme, which both consist of three one-year placements. Unilever runs a three-year future leaders programme.

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. They also have access to an online learning system.

Mars runs an internal training and development facility called Mars University and sets out to provide 70% of employee training via on-the-job experience, 20% from guidance and mentoring, and 10% from formal courses.

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 as well as opportunities for coaching and mentoring.

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

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

  • Facilitation skills
  • Negotiation
  • Presenting
  • Project management
  • Leadership

Graduate starting salaries in consumer goods roles

Graduate pay at FMCG companies varies depending on the scheme applied to, but is usually between £25,000 and £31,000. Here are some examples:

  • The starting salary at Danone is £28,500 and there is also a bonus scheme for recruits who achieve their targets.
  • The starting salary at L’Oréal is around £30,000.
  • The starting salary at Nestlé is £27,000, plus a £2,000 welcome bonus.
  • The starting salary on Unilever's future leaders programme is £30,000.