For many years, the pet food industry has grown, and this has contributed to a labor shortage exacerbated by demographic changes, said Ed Yuhas, managing director for Kincannon and Reed Executive Search, an administrative-level staffing agency, in a video from Petfood Forum 2018.

“There are just fewer people that do the kind of work that we want our companies to do, and when you layer that on a growing industry, it becomes just that much more problematic,” he said. “For one, demographics are not really in the favor of the most senior-level people who are running our companies. This is no surprise. Demographers have been telling us this for years that about this time we'd be seeing this mass exodus of baby boomers, people born between 1945 and 1965, leaving organizations.

“Every day, 10,000 people are leaving our companies, he said. “They might not all be senior level people, but they have very valuable jobs. All work has honor. They leave with all this tribal knowledge.

The people born after the baby boom, Generation X, numbered significantly less than the boomers. There are approximately 10 percent fewer Gen X-ers, according to Yuhas.

As boomers retire, this creates a situation of reverse musical chairs, he said. There are more chairs, or jobs, than there are people to fill them.

Labor shortage affects small- and medium-size pet food companies

This demographic change and the correlated labor shortage have put a lot of strain on companies, Yuhas said, particularly small and mid-size companies who have a hard time attracting that kind of talent.

“Ten percent fewer people does not sound like a lot, but if your salary was cut by 10 percent or your expenses were increased by 10 percent, you would feel it,” he said.

This trend is not going to turn back, he said so companies have to be a lot more flexible about how they are going to attract and retain good people.

About Petfood Forum events

Petfood R&D Showcase is scheduled for October 9-11, 2018 at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Registration is now open.

Petfood Forum is the not-to-be-missed trade show event for pet food professionals from around the world to network, exchange ideas and do business with one another and with the industry's leading pet food manufacturers and suppliers. Petfood Forum 2019 will take place at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, USA on April 29 – May 1, 2019. Super early bird registration is now open for Petfood Forum 2019.