Education and Training High school minimum; on-the-job training and possibly college recommended
Salary Median— $45,400 to $46,829 per year
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Food brokers are independent sales agents who own their own businesses. They negotiate sales for producers and manufacturers of food and food products. Food brokers provide a service to both food producers and buyers by selling to chain wholesalers, independent wholesalers, and retail stores. Producers and manufacturers often find it less expensive to sell through food brokers rather than directly because it saves the cost of paying a sales staff to market their products. Since brokers represent a large number of producers, the wholesalers and retailers also save time, energy, and money by dealing with one broker rather than with many manufacturers' representatives.
Brokers usually sell in a specified geographic area. However, the products they sell may be grown, processed, or manufactured anywhere in the world. Those who work in heavily populated areas usually cover a small geographic area; in rural areas brokers cover a large territory. Many food brokers employ clerical and sales workers. These sales workers travel to meet with retail store owners, managers, and sometimes wholesalers. Food brokers who own a brokerage house may be closely involved in sales or work primarily as administrators and supervisors.
Another service that food brokers provide is keeping producers and manufacturers up-to-date on local market conditions. Brokers try to increase their sales volume and achieve the greatest possible distribution of their products, which involves strong sales of established products and vigorous marketing of new products. Food brokers may help wholesalers or store managers develop sufficient inventories of various products and offer suggestions on store displays and other means of promotion. Additional responsibilities typically include moving merchandise, rearranging product displays, replacing spoiled merchandise, keeping accurate records of their sales, and preparing reports on market conditions for producers and manufacturers.
Education and Training Requirements
Individuals interested in becoming food brokers need at least a high school education, but most people who enter this field have attended college. Any sales experience gives applicants good preparation for the job. Working in a grocery store or supermarket is particularly useful.
Most brokers begin as food sales workers and are usually trained on the job by experienced sales workers. Experienced workers often accompany newcomers on sales calls to help them become acquainted with their buyers. Food brokers may also be trained by the sales managers of companies whose products they sell.
Getting the Job
Individuals interested in becoming food brokers can apply directly to brokerages. These firms sometimes list openings with state employment offices, in want ads in local newspapers, or with career sites on the Internet. Brokers are usually willing to hire workers they think will be able to increase sales volume.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
The owners of food brokerage firms may expand their businesses and thereby increase profits. Food brokers may advance to supervisory jobs such as sales manager within a firm. Some start their own food brokerages; others take jobs as manufacturers' representatives for companies in related industries.
A food broker is a type of manufacturer's sales worker. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of manufacturer's sales workers was expected to increase as fast as the average for all professions from 2004 to 2014. As the economy and the American population grow, more food brokers will be needed to negotiate the sale of food items. Many new food brokers will also be needed to replace those who leave the field. The need for food brokers will decrease, however, as advances in information technology allow existing brokers to be more efficient at their jobs.
Food brokers work mainly in their offices. Occasionally they may travel to meet with customers, food producers, or manufacturers. Traveling rarely takes them away from home overnight. Brokers must be persuasive and enjoy competition. They must like dealing with people and be genuinely interested in helping their customers sell the products they have purchased. Because brokers work on a commission or bonus basis, they generally put in long hours so that they can make many sales.
Where to Go for More Information
Broker Management Council
P.O. Box 150229
Arlington, TX 76015
National Association of Manufacturers
1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004-1790
National Association of Wholesaler Distributors
1725 K St. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20006-1419
Earnings and Benefits
As stated, food brokers are a subset of manufacturer's sales workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that manufacturer's sales workers who did not specialize in technical or science products earned a median wage of $45,400 per year in 2004. According to Salary Expert.com, food brokers made an average annual wage of $46,829 in 2006. Food brokers are paid on a commission basis by manufacturers and producers, so they earn money only when they make a sale. However, most well-established food brokers receive a steady income from regular customers. As is the case with others who own their own businesses, the earnings of food brokers depend on the volume of sales. Brokers must also provide their own benefits.