Icon shows a purple circle with a graphic of a white wheat shaft
Food and drink

Industry Sector


With its salmon-filled waters, world-renowned distilleries and rich larder of produce, it’s no wonder Scotland is a global leader in food and drink. It’s the largest manufacturing sector in Scotland and a major contributor to the economy, exporting products around the world.

There are so many exciting and interesting jobs that make up the industry. You could be working outdoors, farming crops and livestock. You might be at sea catching or farming fish. Or you could get involved in food production, from new product development to working as a food scientist, technologist or engineer. You might also be working on the marketing of products or could be working in procurement and transport and logistics to make sure products are available to buy.

Paper qualifications, although always helpful, aren’t essential for all jobs in the sector, there are entry level jobs that will take you into the industry and offer opportunities for progression. There are also Modern Apprenticeship opportunities and jobs for graduates too. Whether you dream of working on the land, getting involved in production, or taking care of things behind the scenes, enthusiasm, a practical approach and great communication skills are key.

The industry now

The food and drink industry employs 118,000 people in Scotland as of 2017.

Drinks manufacturing is the largest sub-sector in terms of output

17,320 food and drink businesses exist in Scotland – the majority of these employ fewer than 10 people

Food and drink is an important export for Scotland (particularly Scotch Whisky and seafood) – recently there has been particularly strong growth in international sales

The future

A long-term shift towards roles needing higher skills and qualifications is set to continue

46% of food and drink jobs in 2022 are expected to need people qualified to at least SCQF Level 7

There will be around 27,000 job openings over the next ten years to replace those who retire or move on

*Skills Investment Plan for Scotland's Food and Drink Sector