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Food and Pharmaceutical Production


This page provides high-level information and data on the Food and Pharmaceutical Production industry cluster, including information on employment levels and trends, training activity and priority skills.

This industry comprises two main sectors:

  • Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing
  • Meat.

Which incorporates the following key components:

  • Food processing and manufacturing (including abattoirs)
  • Beverage manufacturing
  • Pharmaceutical and nutraceutical manufacturing
  • Wholesaling and retailing of the above
  • Feedlots and wild game harvesting.

The industry is generally characterised mainly by small- and medium-sized producers, who produce for local or niche markets; with a smaller number of large producers who are often multinational companies operating globally.

More information on the sectors, their Industry Reference Committees, Skills Forecasts and Training Packages can be found on their respective sector pages. The relevant Skills Service Organisation for this industry is Skills Impact.

The Food Production industry sits within a larger value chain encompassing a network of stakeholders involved in growing, processing, and selling the food that consumers eat — from farm to table.

The 2017 CSIRO Futures Report for Food and Agribusiness points out that for Australia to succeed internationally, the entire Food and Agribusiness ecosystem must work together.

For information on primary production, including seafood, visit the Agriculture and Aquaculture and Wild Catch industry cluster pages.

For information on sales and hospitality, please visit the Retail and Wholesale and Tourism, Travel and Hospitality industry clusters. For distribution, please visit the Transport cluster.

Employment and training snapshot

Employment levels across these industry sectors have fluctuated between 2002 to 2022. While all sectors increased levels overall between 2012 and 2021, each of them declined in their employment levels between 2021 and 2022, with the greatest decline being for Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing at 38%.

Food Product Manufacturing (less Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing and Seafood Processing) saw employment levels increase by over a third between 2020 and 2021, before declining to 143,500 in 2022. Levels are expected to decline by a further 10% by 2025, down to 129,400. Employment levels are also expected to decline for Beverage Manufacturing, from 35,600 in 2022 to 32,500 by 2025.

Employment levels are projected to increase by 2025 for Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing (from 50,900 in 2022 to 58,000) and for Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing (from 19,100 in 2022 to 35,500).

After a slight increase in the number of enrolments in the Food Processing and Meat industry training packages in 2019, enrolments have continued the downward trend from around 23,780 in 2019 to 17,920 in 2021. Program completions also followed a similar pattern, increasing from approximately 7,310 in 2018 to 9,450 in 2019, before declining to 4,880 in 2021. The proportion of subject only enrolments has been relatively consistent since 2017, with 92% of students in 2021 enrolled in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program.

More detailed breakdowns of TVA data are shown on the sector pages.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical IRC’s Industry Sector Annual Update 2021: Skills Forecast, workers will need different skills for future jobs in food and agribusiness. Some key areas needing to be addressed to enable workforce development include rebranding the sector to attract new talent, building closer links with educational institutions, radically scaling on-the-job training, and developing flexible employment models for older workers.

Results from FIAL research suggest there is projected to be strong growth in demand for people with technical, managerial and numeracy skills. Manual labourers, such as farmhands, and administrative workers are expected to require the largest change in skills to do their jobs in 2025.

Both the Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical IRC’s 2019-2022 Skills Forecast and the Meat IRC’s 2019-2022 Skills Forecast highlight the impact consumer and industry trends are having on their respective sectors. Across all sectors, consumer demand and expectations are growing with regards to healthier products, product traceability, ethical production practices, impacts of climate variability and minimising carbon footprints, and food safety.

Further complementing these trends, the 2017 CSIRO Futures Report for Food and Agribusiness summarises the five megatrends that are affecting the Food and Agribusiness industry globally:

  • A less predictable planet
  • Health on the mind
  • Choosy customers
  • One world
  • Smarter food chains.

The report finds that in addition to deep technical knowledge, skills are required in understanding supply chains, relationship management and digital platforms. Both structured on-the-job training and tertiary education play a role in obtaining these skills.

In addition, technological advancements have been highlighted in both Skills Forecasts as prompting the need for new skills from workers, as well as initiating qualification reviews and the potential development of new skill sets.

According to Medicine Australia’s report Growing Australia's Innovative Medicines Industry Through Investment, opportunities exist for Australia to grow its share of the pharmaceutical trade with global demand for medicines forecast to increase at 3-6% compound annual growth rates to 2023. Making the most of this opportunity will help to drive economic growth, deliver more high-skill jobs, and provide Australians with improved access to medicines.

According to a government media release, South Australia has recognised this opportunity and is set to be home of a new high-tech pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. Noumed Pharmaceuticals, a major global supplier of prescription and over-the-counter medicines and therapeutics, currently manufactures all of the products it supplies to the Australian market offshore but will become almost entirely self-sufficient when the new $85 million manufacturing facility opens in Adelaide by 2025. The project is expected to create up to 250 jobs during the construction phase and a further 180 ongoing positions once operational in 2025.

COVID-19 impact

As outlined in the 2021 Skills Forecast Annual Update, the food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries have experienced both disruption and unprecedented growth over the last year as they continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 as well as drought, bushfires, and trade issues and changes in consumer demands. Domestic food and beverage supplies are encountering unprecedented levels of demand and the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is experiencing significant increases in investment during COVID-19. The effects of the current pandemic include a focus on sovereign capability within the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and changes in trade conditions, item availability and consumer buying preferences that have all caused unexpected changes in all food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries. Baking and confectionery industries have experienced an increase in demand, alcohol manufacturers pivoted to making hand sanitiser while many of their sales outlets had closed, food producers were finding greater demand for food with clear provenance and traceable ingredients and there was a focus on foods and beverages as a source of health and immunity improvement.

According to the Meat Processing Industry’s 2021 Skills Forecast Annual Update, the Australian meat industry was substantially affected by COVID-19, with direct impacts on workforce, markets and training. Global markets became less accessible, with impacts on travel and cargo transport, and upgraded biosecurity restrictions were imposed in some countries. It has also emphasised the importance of food security and the associated role of Australia’s supply chains. Despite the challenges of operating during COVID-19, domestic meat sales rose by 30% since the first lockdowns came into force. WA's biggest meat processor saw sales increase by up to 50% over normal levels. The continuing high demand for meat is indicative of the importance of the meat processing industry and the necessity for sustainable workplaces and skilled workers.

The Biscuit Manufacturing in Australia: Market Research Report reveals the COVID-19 outbreak has led to Australian consumers stockpiling pantry supplies, possibly causing a short-term spike in demand for industry products including crackers, biscuit snacks and indulgent treats. Sweet biscuit consumption in volume terms increased by 3.3% in 2019-20 relative to the previous year. Industry operators that mainly service the hospitality sector however, may have experienced a fall in demand as cafes and restaurants temporarily closed. A similar fall in demand is expected to have occurred for those operators supplying airlines or hotels.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical & Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Industry Reference Committees

Meat Industry Reference Committee


Relevant research

Biscuit Manufacturing in Australia: Market Research Report - IBIS World

Changing Job and Skill Implications in Australia's Food & Agribusiness Sector - FIAL

Food and Agribusiness: A Roadmap for Unlocking Value-added Growth Opportunities for Australia – CSIRO Futures 2017

Growing Australia's Innovative Medicines Industry Through Investment - Medicines Australia

Major Manufacturing Jobs Win for South Australia - Senator The Hon. Simon Birmingham (Minister for Finance), The Hon Steven Marshall MP (Premier of South Australia) and The Hon Christian Porter MP (Minister for Industry, Science and Technology)


Industry associations and advisory bodies

Industry sector associations

Ai Group

Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC)

Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology (AIFST)

Australian Institute of Packaging

Australian Technical Millers Association

Food and Beverage Importers Association (FBIA)

Food Industries Association of Queensland (FIAQ)

Food Technology Association of Australia (FTAA)

Foodservice Suppliers Association of Australia (FSAA)


Dairy associations

Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF)

Australian Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association

Dairy Australia

Dairy Industry Association of Australia (DIAA)

Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority


Bakery associations

Australian Society of Baking (ASB)

Baking Association of Australia (BAA)

National Baking Industry Association (NBIA)


Sugar associations

Australian Sugar Industry Alliance (ASA)

Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC)

Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists


Soft drinks

Australian Beverages Council


Beer and cider

Brewers Association of Australia

Cider Australia

Independent Brewers Association



Australian Grape and Wine Incorporated

Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology

New South Wales Wine Industry Association

Queensland Wine Industry Association

South Australian Wine Industry Association

Wine Grape Council of South Australia

Wine Victoria

Wines of Western Australia



Australian Distillers Association (ADA)

Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA)




Consumer Healthcare Products Australia

Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA)

Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (GBMA)

International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering

Medicines Australia (MA)

Parenteral Drug Association - Australia Chapter

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia


Meat associations

AgriFutures Australia


Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA)

Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC)

Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC)

Australian Pork Limited

Goat Industry Council of Australia (GICA)

Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA)

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)

Meat Branch of NSW Food Authority

National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC)

Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC)

Western Australian Meat Industry Authority


Regulatory bodies

ACT Health

Australian Grape and Wine Authority (Wine Australia)

Dairy Authority of South Australia (Dairysafe)

Dairy Food Safety Victoria (DFSV)

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania


Food Standards Australia New Zealand

New South Wales Department of Primary Industries - Biosecurity and Food Safety

New South Wales Food Authority

Northern Territory Department of Health

Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade

Office of the Gene Technology Regulator

Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC)

PrimeSafe (Victoria)

Queensland Department of Health

South Australian Department of Health

South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions - Meat

Safe Food Queensland

Standards Australia

Tasmanian Department of Health

Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

Victorian Department of Health and Human Services

Western Australian Department of Health


Industry service bodies

Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre (FIAL)

Institute of Brewing and Distilling (International)

MedTech and Pharma Growth Centre (MTPConnect)

Nutrition Australia

Queensland Sugar Limited

Sugar Terminals Limited (Queensland)

Tasmanian Whisky Academy

The Allergen Bureau


Food related research organisations

Australian Wine Research Institute

CSIRO Agriculture and Food

Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC)

Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)

Sugar Research Australia (SRA)

Sugar Research Institute (SRI)


Employee representative bodies

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU)

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU)

Australian Workers’ Union

Breweries and Bottleyards Employees’ Industrial Union of Workers of Western Australia

United Workers Union

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal:

  • by ANZSIC 2 digit Food Product Manufacturing (excluding Seafood Processing), and ANZIC 3 digit Beverage Manufacturing and Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing to May 2025.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022,

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 2 digit Food Product Manufacturing (excluding Seafood Processing), and ANZIC 3 digit Beverage Manufacturing and Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing, 2002 to 2022, May Quarter.


Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection and Total VET students and courses from the following training packages or qualifications:

  • FBP - Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Training Package
  • AMP - Australian Meat Processing Training Package.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 subject enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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