Putting Food On the Table with Recruitment and Talent Management
AIMS International BELGIUM’s strategic venture into an innovative and dynamic sector
In the fast-paced realm of recruitment and talent management, 2023 proved to be an exceptional year for AIMS International BELGIUM, particularly in our unwavering support for numerous projects in recruitment and talent management.
As we look forward to 2024, we are excited to announce our dedication to maintaining steadfast support across various industries, with a particular emphasis on an innovative and flourishing sector. With great confidence and with an eagerness to embrace new challenges, we are delighted to announce our foray into the food sector!
AIMS International is not just a recruitment company; we are your partner to develop your teams, ready to ‘put food on your table’, by supporting a promising and dynamic sector as you will discover in the following lines.
A THRIVING SECTOR
At the core of Belgium’s economic landscape, the food industry, with 98,171 employees in 2021 and over 4,000 companies, stands as the largest and most innovative sector. Representing 2.1% of Belgium’s total employment and a significant 20% of industrial employment, it boasts a turnover of 61 billion euros (30 billion euros in export), making it the country’s leading industrial employer. These figures (and those that follow) are sourced from the report ‘Kerncijfers per sector‘ (‘Key Figures per Sector’), a comprehensive compilation provided by the FOD Economie at the request of Fevia.
Despite its impressive prominence, the sector faces challenges (outlined in a 2023 Acerta/KU Leuven study), including market shortages amid inflation and recession concerns, the crucial task of attracting and retaining talent (a concern for 75% of companies), and the development of future skills, a challenge for 65% of businesses.
Before delving into how AIMS International addresses these challenges, let’s explore key aspects within the food sector that will be discussed in this article —
(1) the image and difficulties associated with recruitment, (2) the unprecedented growth and dynamics within the sector, and (3) the pivotal role of export and innovations. Understanding these facets sets the stage for (4) a clear and concise understanding of how AIMS International, with its strategic approach, is poised to address and contribute to the flourishing trajectory of the food industry.
THRIVING AMIDST CHALLENGES
A closer look at this thriving sector reveals a landscape teeming with resilience and vitality that still deals with many challenging obstacles. The sector grapples with the need to enhance its image, maintain competitiveness, and navigate an ever-evolving market under the pressure of rising salaries, as well as the guidelines laid down by the EU, such as CSDDD (Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive) and CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive), and, of course, rising consumer expectations. However, these challenges fail to veil this truly captivating sector. Uniquely, it stands as one of the rare industrial sectors that have not only weathered successive crises, but have witnessed consistent growth for seven consecutive years.
In terms of employment, the food sector shines, standing as the only sector that has held its own in the face of past economic uncertainties. Companies with over 100 employees are on a steady growth trajectory, showcasing the sector’s long-term resilience. A notable statistic is the robust contribution to employment growth. In 2022, the food industry solidified its position as the largest industrial employer in Belgium, boasting an impressive 100,665 jobs. This marked an increase of 2,500 jobs compared to the earlier number from 2021, reflecting a significant 2.5% growth. This upward trajectory aligns with the consistent rise in job numbers within the food industry since 2015. If we exclude artisanal bakeries, this would be even earlier, dating back to 2010. Lastly, with over 30% of qualified or highly qualified employees, the Belgian food industry surpasses its neighboring countries, exemplifying its impressive workforce composition.
With a significant net employment forecast of 33% for the first quarter of 2024 in Belgium’s economy, the outlook remains exceptionally positive. This figure places Belgium second among 22 surveyed European countries, with a net employment forecast 10 points above the European average. In a global context where hiring trends exhibit a noticeable slowdown, the Belgian food sector emerges as a bright example of opportunity and growth. Surprisingly, one of the primary challenges in the food sector continues to be attracting talented individuals.
UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH AND DYNAMICS IN THE FOOD SECTOR
Demonstrating remarkable economic strength, the food sector’s exports have achieved unprecedented levels, showcasing a record surplus of 5.8 billion euros, marking a noteworthy 17.1% increase from the previous year. The question arises: what implications does this hold for the internal dynamics and growth of the food sector?
The food industry presents a captivating portrayal of a thriving and continuously evolving sector, along with its workforce. In 2018, over 40% of employees in the food industry pursued formal training — a trend that has remained stable over the years. The sector’s technological embrace is evident in the rising demand for ICT specialists, with the percentage of companies seeking or hiring these professionals increasing from 6% in 2016 to an impressive 28% in 2022. A staggering 44% of job openings in the sector are in industrial professions, encompassing critical roles and in-demand positions. Just like before, we see a challenge in filling these openings.
The sector’s economic significance is underscored by its representation, comprising 27.9% of employers in the manufacturing industry. This substantial presence can be attributed to the prevalence of small and medium-sized enterprises, distinguishing the food industry from the broader industrial sector. Despite challenges such as labor shortages and high wage costs, the sector has seen a consistent increase in the number of employers for two consecutive years.
Investments within the food industry tell a story of resilience and forward momentum. While the pandemic initially led to a slight decrease in investments (-3.7%), the sector rebounded strongly in 2021 (+9.2%) and continued its upward trajectory in 2022 (+9.6%). Remarkably, these investments reached a new high, totaling 2.05 billion euros in value, reaffirming the sector’s status as the leading industrial investor, surpassing even the industrial titans of chemical and steel.
In the face of uncertainties, the food sector remains a stalwart force in the industrial landscape, setting records and maintaining its position as the top investor, reflecting a buoyant and prosperous future.
NAVIGATING GLOBAL MARKETS AND TECHNOLOGICAL FRONTIERS
The food sector in Belgium is not only a powerhouse in terms of internal growth but also a trailblazer in innovation and export. The sector strategically channels 54% of its exports to our major neighboring countries — Netherlands, France, and Germany — underscoring its vital role in cross-border trade dynamics. Beyond the EU (and Great Britain), the food sector’s global footprint is formidable, accounting for a substantial 17% of total exports.
The trade dynamics are equally impressive, with the export of food and beverages reaching 35.1 billion euros in 2022, resulting in a surplus of 5.8 billion euros. This surplus is a vital driver of Belgium’s overall trade balance, contributing to a notable 38% reduction in the trade deficit. In terms of product categories, all food products witnessed an increase in export value in 2022. The most notable surges were observed in grain products (+40%), oils (+36%), and dairy products (+30%). The Belgian food sector’s remarkable numbers not only underscore its current success but also position it as a dynamic player on the global stage.
In terms of technology adoption, the Belgian food industry holds a strong position, ranking fourth in Europe for robotization in 2020. This commitment to innovation is reflected in the industry’s contribution to the overall industrial value, accounting for a substantial 18%.
As the sector continues to soar to new heights, these dynamic numbers underscore its resilience, strategic positioning, and undeniable impact on both local and global economic landscapes. And yet, this giant of a sector struggles to attract the right talent.
SO WHY CALL ON AIMS International BELGIUM?
As a local organization integrated into a vast international network spanning 50 countries, AIMS International BELGIUM stands ready to cater to your specific needs. Our adept team of senior consultants, who have held key positions in various industry sectors, including the food sector, ensures a profound understanding of the market and the specific challenges faced by the industry. As insiders of the food sector, we intimately understand your unique challenges and obstacles.
Our wide array of recruitment, coaching, training, and HR consulting services are tailored to meet the unique needs and challenges of the food sector. Our commitment to a professional approach and efficient project management ensures results aligned with your expectations. Through targeted research, direct candidate approaches, in-depth competency based interviews, and detailed candidate reports, we curate a shortlist of the best candidates tailored to your specific profile requirements. With certified coaches employing uniform, standardized, and internationally recognized methodologies, AIMS International BELGIUM guarantees reliable results and reports that are accessible to all stakeholders.
In a dynamic job market, AIMS International Belgium offers the fastest and most efficient response thanks to its best-in-class direct search methodology. Furthermore, our commitment extends beyond placement, with ongoing evaluation and follow-up to ensure sustained success for both the company and the candidate. Choose AIMS International BELGIUM as your strategic partner, where expertise, precision, and efficiency meet to elevate your talent acquisition and management in the dynamic landscape of the food sector.
- FOD Economie. “Kerncijfers per sector 2023.” Fevia, https://www.fevia.be/sites/fevia/files/media/kerncijfers_per_sector_2023_0.pdf.
- “En Belgique, près d’une entreprise sur deux compte embaucher en 2024.” Trends Le Vif, https://trends.levif.be/entreprises/ressources-humaines/en-belgique-pres-dune-entreprise-sur-deux-compte-embaucher-en-2024/.
- “Food Industry Trends 2023.” Aptean, https://www.aptean.com/fr-BE/insights/blog/food-industry-trends-2023.
- “La pénurie sur le marché de l’emploi reste aiguë.” Acerta, https://www.acerta.be/fr/insights/dans-la-presse/la-penurie-sur-le-marche-de-lemploi-reste-aigue.