South Africa Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Graduate Jobs and Opportunities
What is FMCG?
Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) are consumer products that are sold at high volume for relatively low cost. The products have a short shelf-life, designed to drive high turnover. Examples include perishable foods, such as fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat, as well as household and sanitary items like toiletries, batteries and paper. Practically anything sold at a supermarket is an example of this kind of product. Some of the largest companies in the world are FMCG – e.g. Coca Cola, Nestle, Unilever and Proctor & Gamble. Most of these companies operate on a “house of brands” basis – in that the parent company will own numerous other brands that are known to consumers by different names. As such, a company like Unilever will cover a huge variety of product categories – from soap to ice cream.
The South African FMCG Sector
South Africa is ranked third out of all the countries in Africa when it comes to GDP, just under Nigeria and Egypt. With the increase in purchasing power and the rise of the middle class (notwithstanding the continued problem of income inequality among rich and poor), as well as increasing urbanisation, many international FMCG companies look towards South Africa as a promising new market. Local FMCG companies such as Massmart are also flourishing, thanks to increased consumer demand and foreign investment. Companies are now starting to particularly target women consumers, given that in South Africa they make ~80% of purchasing decisions in this sector. In response to the perceived potential, logistics companies have invested in enabling better flow of goods across and within South African borders, and MNCs like Unilever have begun to build major factories there as well.
What do you need to get a job in this industry?
The requirements for a graduate job in FMCG will depend on the company, and the role you will play within the organisation. Graduate programs in FMCG will offer exposure to a variety of different functions within the business, but they usually look for people from a variety of degree backgrounds. Examples include Information Technology, finance, marketing, industrial engineering, business administration and logistics. Usually the degree needs to be at least related somehow to business. An example would be a double degree in Commerce/IT.
The best business schools in South Africa are (according to EDUniversal rankings), the University of Cape Town, theUniversity of Stellenbosch Business School and the University of Pretoria, however there are several other good business schools as well, and a university degree is only part of the requirement of the graduate programs.
Typical FMCG graduate programs
Graduate programs in FMCG companies are highly sought-after, as they provide recruits with valuable training, responsibility and the chance to prove oneself, and exposure to multiple types of work. Those who are lucky enough to be accepted into one of these programs are groomed to become leaders in an area of work that they are best suited for, which fast-tracks their career progression and makes it much more likely that they will rise to a senior position within a relatively short period of time.
Depending on the company offering the program, an FMCG graduate program can last from one to three years, and will typically include both training and practical experience. For example, Massmart’s program is one year in duration, and includes retail theory paired with experience across the company’s different business areas. Unilever’s “Future Leaders” program is three years, and includes an “international stint” alongside the work in South Africa.
The selection process for an FMCG graduate program involves multiple stages, including psychometric testing and several interviews. In the interviews, which may be conducted by telephone or webcam, or in person, questions will usually be asked about the applicant’s desire to work in FMCG, their knowledge of the company, and their knowledge of business. Competency and behavioural questions will also be asked – e.g. “tell me about a time when you convinced others to follow your vision”, or “how would you market a new brand of ice-cream in Johannesburg”.
Industry experience, while not essential, is definitely something that employers look for when selecting among applicants. Especially when it comes to retail, experience working in retail shows that an applicant is passionate, driven and familiar with the realities of selling fast-moving consumer products.
For penultimate year students, FMCG companies also offer internships and vacation programs. Successful completion of one of these programs can lead to an offer for a graduate program ahead of other applicants.
FMCG Graduate Salary Estimates
According to Payscale, entry level jobs in FMCG pay an average of R195 000/year. However after several years, the salaries can more than double. Of course, salaries in this industry will depend, like always, on the size of the company and the job being performed.