Packaging Pros Bullish on Security & Salary Despite Uncertainty

Packaging seems insulated from much of the economic fallout of COVID-19, though not everyone is fairing equally. Women, for instance, seem to be entering the industry, and soon should be matriculating into higher salaried positions left by retiring men.

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As is the case for the year 2020 in general, the results of the Annual Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) Salary Survey represent a departure from the norm. Data collection was accomplished on the cusp of when the global pandemic began roll out, from January 23 through April 8 of 2020, coloring respondent’s attitudes and opinions on the future. The oft heard descriptors of uncertain, unprecedented, or challenging times may have drifted into the realm of the cliché by now, but uncertainty unavoidably crept into the survey response set. Remarkably, responses remain optimistic without many big shifts from previous years. (more beneath rule).


FREE DOWNLOAD: Download the entire IoPP Salary Survey, or obtain a FREE executive summary, by visiting the Institute of Packaging Professionals websitePackaging World coverage here is on domestic responses, but the full report is an international effort. More than 1,000 packaging professionals participated in IoPP's 2020 Salary Survey, anonymously answering questions on their salaries, job security, age, education and more. Find out where you stand in the only salary survey dedicated exclusively to the packaging professional.


Coronavirus and job security were frequently mentioned in qualitative responses from all participants (12% and 9% of responses, respectively). However, 71% of domestic respondents still expect to earn a higher salary in 2020, with 91% of those respondents expecting to earn anywhere from 1% to 10% more.

Of course, we know this isn’t true of all businesses in the U.S. Shortly after data collection for this report, April unemployment had ballooned to nearly 15% across all industries. Even so, at the time of this writing in June, an unexpectedly positive jobs report indicated that 2.5 million jobs were actually added in May, pushing unemployment down to 13.3% from a (hopefully) high water mark of 14.7%. This is thought to be largely on the backs of healthcare, with elective or non-urgent medical procedures being phased back in, and professions like dentistry opening doors. 

Regardless, packaging professionals appear quite insulated from other industries’ troubles, and those reporting that they are somewhat or very secure in their jobs actually added a percentage point over last year’s report, from 75% to 76% reflected this year.

The conclusion? Packaging professionals appear to occupy rarified air in a bear market. Part of this is due to the verticals we serve. Fully a third of responses came from food and beverage manufacturers, with an additional 17% in healthcare/pharma packaging. These are the very definition of essential industries. Still, not everyone fared equally. The following information will tease out trends and sentiments that we hope all packaging professional find valuable, both as a prognosticator and as a benchmark for your own career.Beyond the most obvious ‘job duty’ variable, which IDs respondents as CEOs or sales or designers, top predictors of salary are education, experience, age and gender.Beyond the most obvious ‘job duty’ variable, which IDs respondents as CEOs or sales or designers, top predictors of salary are education, experience, age and gender.

“It’s encouraging that year to year we see progress with companies closing existing wage gaps between men and women. It also shows we still have some ground to travel, but we are hopefully headed the right direction. With this information we also need to have quality conversations next to quantity. Are there enough women in the job pool? Are women in higher level jobs including management and c-suite? Where are opportunities for us to all improve diversity because we know there is strength in diversity.”

– Jasmine Sutherland, President, Texas Food Solutions 

Total compensation by job function.Total compensation by job function.“The average age in the packaging industry is increasing. I believe we are seeing the recognition of the packaging industry and its growth at all companies through the years. Thirty years ago, when I told people I was in packaging industry, they would tilt their heads and say, “what?” As people starting understanding packaging, more schools began offering packaging degrees and people began entered the packaging industry 20-30 years ago. We are now seeing the old timers (in my eyes) retiring and the previous newcomers in the packaging industry getting older.” – Brain Stepowany, Packaging R&D, Senior Manager, B&G Foods, Inc.Respondents are more likely to anticipate salary change in 2020 than they were in 2019, with 6% fewer expecting static salary this year than last, perhaps reflecting an uptick in volatility. Notably, expectations for greater salary grew from 61% in 2018, to 67% in 2019, to 71% in 2020.Respondents are more likely to anticipate salary change in 2020 than they were in 2019, with 6% fewer expecting static salary this year than last, perhaps reflecting an uptick in volatility. Notably, expectations for greater salary grew from 61% in 2018, to 67% in 2019, to 71% in 2020. “Overall, the health of the packaging industry is strong. Packaging is the last stage of manufacturing before it reaches the consumer. I expect to see higher demands for packaging professionals, due to major regulatory changes coming up at end of 2020, and 2023. Salaries, raises, and bounces will be impacted by the COID19 pandemic. Companies had to spend a lot of money-making accommodations to their employees to protect them, which consumed many of the companies’ budget as it was not planned for. These funds will unfortunately come from budgeted salary increases. Employees will be happy just to have a job at this point.” – Aladin Alkhawam, Director Global Serialization, PAR Systems Despite data collection during the onset of the pandemic, responses reflect optimism, some perhaps based on recent raises. Of all respondents, 72% reported that they received a pay raise in 2019. 77% of all respondents who received a salary increase in 2019 reported they received a pay raise of 5% or less, with 14% receiving a raise of 6-10%.Despite data collection during the onset of the pandemic, responses reflect optimism, some perhaps based on recent raises. Of all respondents, 72% reported that they received a pay raise in 2019. 77% of all respondents who received a salary increase in 2019 reported they received a pay raise of 5% or less, with 14% receiving a raise of 6-10%.

"I think it really highlights the opportunities for recent grads thinking about joining Packaging world. Looks like demand for Packaging Professionals is high enough that it is pulling people out of retirement. There should be lots of demand for new Packaging Professionals with opportunities for advancements. It would be great to improve the pay gap between men & women in this profession." – Patrick Keenan, Packaging Engineer, Annie’s Not all packaging jobs fare equally.Not all packaging jobs fare equally.

“The rise in CPPs also shows how networking within the packaging industry and packaging organizations promoting recognition through CPP accreditation of someone’s packaging knowledge.” – Brian Stepowany, Packaging R&D, Senior Manager, B&G Foods, Inc. IoPP members & CCPs report higher salaries.IoPP members & CCPs report higher salaries.


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