Skilled workers the missing ingredient for Danish food companies

Danish Industri and DTU calling for more focus on unheralded industry

If you buy an ice cream anywhere in the world, there is a 50 percent chance that it contains or is produced using ingredients provided by a Danish company.

For bread, a critical source of nourishment around the world, the figure is 25 percent. In fact, Danish companies account for 14 percent of the ingredients on the global market.

But there is one essential ingredient which is lacking in Denmark’s contribution to world food production: skilled workers.

According to a new report produced by the Danish confederation of industry, Dansk Industri (DI) – in collaboration with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and a number of companies such as Arla, Danish Crown and Novozymes – Danish companies have considerable problems attracting the skilled labour needed to maintain the country’s leading position in ingredients production.

“Young people would rather solve the mystery of cancer than work with potato flour,” said Ole Bandsholm Sørensen, the head of research and development at food company KMC.

“They are simply not aware how advanced the biotechnology we work with is. It’s probably a general situation within the ingredients industry.”

According to a survey earlier this year, one fifth of Danish food companies find it difficult to recruit sufficient manpower.

READ MORE: Danish food industry facing worker shortage

DTU recommendations
In the report (here in Danish), DTU proposes eight of recommendations to itself and other universities in Denmark, which include the establishment of PhD programs within ingredients research and more start-ups and entrepreneurs embracing the industry.

“The massive opportunities for growth with ingredients can only be realised through considerable research and development,” said Leif Nielsen, the head of branding at DI.

“So it’s important to strengthen the unique environment that exists in Denmark, where universities and companies work closely together. This is a key argument when discussing the retention and development activities that ensure growth and jobs in Denmark.”

Among the other DTU recommendations were: more privately-financed research, more focus on process technology, and for food ingredients to become a new study line.

The Danish ingredients industry has a turnover of about 35 billion kroner a year – 95-98 percent of which is generated by exports. The industry employs 18,000 people – 6,200 of who are in Denmark.