Despite efforts to improve diversity in foodservice, the industry is still lagging behind many other sectors, as well as its own targets, according to a new study from Deloitte and The Food Industry Association (FMI).
The report found that while 68 per cent of food and beverage companies are training their employees on diversity and inclusiveness, 65 per cent of food product suppliers acknowledge that their leadership does not represent the general population.
Deloitte and FMI analysis found that the percentage of women and other historically marginalized people in board-level positions in the food industry only grew by four percentage points between 2018 and 2020. This growth lagged behind nonfood companies, which increased board diversity by 11 percentage points.
Deloitte and FMI surveyed more than 150 food and beverage companies in March and April 2021, conducted in-depth interviews with 15 industry leaders, and analyzed board diversity data. They found that women and historically marginalized people made up only 35 per cent of the executive boards of food and beverage companies in 2020, compared to 47 per cent who make up the boards of non-food consumer product businesses.
Last summer, amid protests regarding racial injustice that were held across North America and the world, many companies announced plans to set higher goals for diversity in their hiring processes and board rooms. In 2020, for example, PepsiCo committed to spending $400 million over the next five years on initiatives to increase the representation of Black and Hispanic Americans in its company. Last month, the beverage and snack giant announced it is “on track” to meet its goal of increasing the diversity of its managerial ranks in the U.S. to 10 per cent by 2025.
In June, Keurig Dr. Pepper announced its commitment to increase the number of women and people of colour in directorial and higher roles by 25 per cent by 2025. The beverage company also received a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for 2021, which ranks corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.
While companies may not have reached their goals, many leaders are optimistic about their chances. The report noted that 70 per cent of food industry executives said their diversity training has created a more positive work environment. Many companies have said they are trying to emphasize diversity among their workforce, with 86 per cent saying that the main goal of their senior leadership is to make progress on these goals.
What can be done to help attain these targets when it comes to diversity in foodservice?
The report’s authors recommend that executives should focus on increasing diversity at all levels of their workforce, since “cultivating a strong pipeline of diverse leaders” lower in the ranks can allow these employees to ascend to higher roles when they become available, as well as making the overall environment more welcoming. The authors said that “vague commitments to make improvements” are not as effective as making clear goals to hire a diverse range of executives.
Read the full report co-authored by Deloitte here.