Given how much we love talking about food, it can feel like we’re all pretty much experts when it comes to eating and drinking. Most of us have a restaurant recommendation ready to go if someone asks, and are aware of the food trends du jour, be they banana bread, baked feta or ‘bacon’ made from carrots, but that doesn’t make us a Market Researcher.
So, is your food knowledge good enough to predict the future? For food and drink companies of any size, it is important to be able to anticipate trends and attitudes as they shift. This can help them work out where to focus R&D and marketing spend, and also align wider priorities as a company.
The role of a Food Market Researcher involves being completely up to date with the goings on of the food industry – to the point where they can advise others about the trends and changes on the horizon. Of course, the job isn’t about being able to divine the future from a crystal ball, but rather by conducting in-depth research within your field to gauge current thoughts and feelings and make educated forecasts looking ahead.
With consumers increasingly concerned with how their decisions at the dining table impact the environment, sustainability-focused Market Analysts and Researchers are more common than ever.
Ophélie Buchet is a Global Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel. She says: “My role touches on sustainability when I look at how brands can innovate with products that are more sustainable, but also how brands should communicate on their sustainability strategy.
“We conduct a lot of consumer research, through our various Mintel Reports but also our Annual Mintel Sustainability Barometer, to understand how consumers approach sustainability, what they want brands to implement and how and what they want them to invest more in.”
What are the job responsibilities?
- Planning and commissioning research
- Designing briefs for researchers and interviewers
- Moderating focus research groups and food testing sessions
- Conducting quantitative and qualitative surveys
- Analysing data using the correct software
- Writing reports based on findings for a variety of audiences, including clients and the public
- Speaking with the media about certain findings
- Presenting findings
- Advising clients on how to act best on research findings
Who might your employers be?
Most Market Researchers and Analysts will be employed either by a brand or a research agency. Brand-side researchers will usually be concerned with how their company interacts with its consumers, for example through specific food lines or marketing campaigns.
Research agencies will conduct similar duties, but across a range of different food companies. This is likely to offer a more diverse experience, as you might be working with a supermarket giant one day, and a fledgling small business the next – but if you’re more interested in learning the ins and outs of one company, try working with just the one brand.
Working at Mintel, Ophélie works across many brands. She says: “I work with a wide variety of clients across the food and drink industry and understanding how to help them innovate and communicate their strategy to consumers is very exciting.”
What qualifications do you need?
There are plenty of degrees which can stand you in good stead for work as a Market Researcher or Analyst.
If you’re looking to get into quantitative research, you’ll likely be dealing with a lot of numbers, so degrees in Mathematics, Economics, Statistics or Business can be a good option. However, if you’re interested in qualitative research, degrees in Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology or other Social Sciences could be a helpful route.
In Ophélie’s case, she began her career by studying Finance and Economics at Sciences Po Paris and the London School of Economics. Additionally, she gained specialised experience within the food industry during her first job with Business Monitor International (now Fitch Ratings), which was focused on investment research into agricultural commodities.
Why not explore these courses to start your career journey:
- BSc Statistics, University of Essex
- BA Business Management, University of Cumbria
- BA Anthropology, University of Bristol
- BA Applied Social Science, University of York
- BSc Psychology, University of Sussex
Like so many other jobs, you can also embark on a career in market research without university too. In this instance, you may find a good apprenticeship in the field can give you all the relevant experience and know-how you need. The Market Research Society has a wealth of information about how you can follow this path.
Ophélie’s biggest piece of advice for an aspiring Market Researcher is to find a specific area of expertise and build on it. “Sustainability is a very interesting one as there is still a lot of work to be done to understand what consumers want, what brands can do and what new technologies will facilitate it in the future,” she says.
What is the salary like?
According to Prospects, starting salaries for a Market Researcher usually sit around £20,000 to £25,000. Mid-weight salaries are usually in the region of £35,000, while senior level Market Researchers can expect anywhere from £40,000+. It is likely that as you progress and specialise, your salary will increase.
Where will you be working?
Most Market Researchers will find themselves spending the majority of their time in an office. However, depending on how involved you are with studies and surveys and other data collection activities, you may find yourself needing to travel elsewhere.
However, just because the job is mainly office-based, it doesn’t mean it’s boring or one-note. Ophélie says her favourite part about the role is its capacity to change. “The best aspect of my job is that it is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn,” she explains. “It requires staying on top of current events and understanding how they can affect consumer sentiment and therefore companies.”
What is the career progression like?
Career progression within market research is generally quite fast-paced. You’ll usually be able to climb the ladder from junior to senior within two or three years.
Additionally, there are ample opportunities to continue your professional development through courses and auxiliary training. The Market Research Society offers many courses for this reason – as does the Social Research Association.
Is there a demand for this role?
With food companies looking to make their operations more sustainable, market analysis is crucial. Thorough market research allows sustainability policies and products to be rolled out thoughtfully, appropriately and, ultimately, successfully.
For this reason, Sustainable Markets Researcher is a food industry job that will likely only increase in popularity in the future.
For more jobs in the food industry, visit Food Matters Live’s Preparing for a career in food page.