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The UK dairy sub-sector employs more than 23,800 across 600 workplaces nationwide. 87% of the workforce is in the operation of dairies and cheese and 14% in the manufacture of ice-cream.

The sub-sector represents 6% of those employed in Great Britain’s food and drink manufacturing sector. It includes the operation of dairies and the manufacture of dairy products, such as ice-cream. There are many well-known companies, such as Yeo Valley Farms, Danone, Dairy Crest Ltd., Unilever ice-cream and Wensleydale Dairy Products.

The dairy sub-sector has a higher than average number of vacancies and recruitment issues compares to other industries in the sector. There is demand for some specialist roles, as employers find it increasingly difficult to recruit these workers. Demand is high for cheese-makers, food technologists, quality assurance roles, and engineers (the engineer’s role in this sub-sector requires a broader base of engineering skills; mechanical, electrical, and some computing).

Jobs in the sub-sector range from: quality assurance manager, logistics manager, line leader, bottlers, packers, trainee dairy technologist

Workforce statistics:

  • 76% of the workforce is male.
  • 92% of the workforce is white, 5% Asian/British Asian and 3% Black/Black British
  • 2,300 migrant workers (non-UK nationals) are estimated to be working in the sub-sector.
  • 26% of the workforce is aged 16-30 years, 14% is 30-34 years, 15% is 35-39 years, 13% is 40-44 years and 22% is 45-49 years.
  • 45% of the current workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next 20 years.
  • 7% of the workforce has some form of work limited disability.
  • 13% of the workforce has a degree or equivalent qualification.
  • The highest qualification for much of the workforce is GCSE grades A-C (20%) or A Levels (13%).
  • 19% of the workforce has no qualifications.

Source: Improve AACS LMI report 2010 and Diary Labour Market information profile 2009/10

Dairy workforce by region, 2000 and 2007


Source: Diary Labour Market information profile 2009/10, page 2. Data derived from the Annual Business Inquiry 2000 and 2007.

Occupational profile of the dairy workforce, 2008


Source: Diary Labour Market information profile 2009/10, page 6. Data derived from the Labour Force Survey 2008.