Animal product alternatives for-profit roles spot-check

post by Jamie_Harris, SamiM · 2020-11-19T07:31:35.113Z · EA · GW · None comments

This is a link post for https://www.animaladvocacycareers.org/post/animal-product-alternatives-for-profit-roles-spot-check

Contents

  Abstract
  Introduction
  Methodology
  Results and discussion
    many roles were there for different types of organisations?
    countries were roles based in?
    many roles were there for each area of expertise?
    was the gender balance among current roles?
    were the requirements like for advertised roles?
    and how were roles advertised?
  Limitations and suggestions for further research
  Appendix: Description of the methodology
    of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives
    meat for-profit current roles
    meat for-profit job opportunities
    food for-profit current roles
    food for-profit job opportunities
  Footnotes
None
No comments

Abstract

To build understanding of the bottlenecks and job opportunities in the farmed animal movement, Animal Advocacy Careers conducted a brief “spot-check” of the job opportunities that were advertised on the websites of 51 different companies working on animal product alternatives, such as cultivated meat and plant-based meat. The results were compared to the findings from additional searches of the currently filled roles at the same organisations. The findings provide weak evidence that cultivated meat companies are struggling to fill engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles whereas plant-based food companies are struggling to fill product handling and manual roles. Some overview statistics about companies working on animal product alternatives were also analysed. One notable finding is that over half of roles are associated with companies based in the United States. Additionally, comparisons were made between the details and requirements of job roles in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits. Opportunities at both plant-based food and cultivated meat companies tend to have higher education and work experience requirements than opportunities in animal advocacy nonprofits and a far smaller proportion of the roles are remote.

Introduction

In order to decide where to focus its interventions, Animal Advocacy Careers (AAC) needs to understand what the largest bottlenecks are in the farmed animal movement. AAC also needs to understand the characteristics of the job roles that are available in order to inform the advice that we give through our online course, online resources, and one-to-one careers advising calls. Checking to see the characteristics and trends among advertised job opportunities in the movement, and how these compare to currently filled roles, is one way to develop understanding of these issues.

Individuals can contribute to the farmed animal movement by working to produce, improve, and sell new animal product alternatives. These foods can reduce the demand for animal products, thereby reducing the number of animals that are farmed.[1]

We therefore conducted several related searches of currently filled roles and advertised job opportunities at for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives between August and October 2020. There is no reason to assume that the time periods studied are particularly representative of these organisations’ hiring needs; hence, we should be wary that any surprising findings (especially those based on small numbers of job adverts) may simply be explicable by random variation and small sample sizes.

Methodology

This spot-check consisted of several different analyses:

Apart from the overview analysis (which draws heavily from The Good Food Institute’s company database), the methodology was very similar to our Effective Animal Advocacy Nonprofits Roles Spot-Check. In the discussion below, comparison is frequently made to the results from that spot-check.

For more detail on the methodology, see the Appendix below.

Results and discussion

How many roles were there for different types of organisations?

From the overview of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives, we can do some big-picture comparisons on staff numbers in the various sub-industries.

Table 1: Employee numbers by category of animal product alternatives

Perhaps the most notable finding from this analysis is that cultivated meat companies are much smaller, on average, than plant-based or fermentation companies. Indeed, the largest cultivated meat company focusing on cultivated meat only had 84 listed staff (Memphis Meats), compared to 852 at the largest company focusing on plant-based foods only (Alpro) and 363 focusing on fermentation only (Quorn). This is unsurprising, given that this industry is still in more of a research and development phase and is still growing rapidly, as shown in table 2.

Table 2: Employee numbers by category of animal product alternatives over time, focused on X only companies with 30 or more employees in August 2020[2]
Table 3: Employee numbers by subcategory of animal product alternatives, focusing only on X only companies

Looking at more specific subcategories of animal product alternatives, several findings are worth highlighting:

Which countries were roles based in?

Table 4: Employee numbers by country (limited to countries with 2% of the total or more)

In the overview of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives, companies were identified in 29 different countries.[4] Over half of the staff (53%) worked for companies based in the US and another third (33%) worked for companies based in various European countries. Of those working for companies based in the US, 74% (i.e. 39% of the total) worked for companies based in California.

Looking at a more detailed analysis of current staff at cultivated meat companies, the US was slightly less dominant and a larger proportion of staff were based in the Netherlands and Israel.

How many roles were there for each area of expertise?

Table 5: Comparison of current roles in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on

Broad comparison between these current roles analyses reveals some interesting trends:

Table 6: Comparison of cultivated meat current roles and job opportunities, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on

If certain types of expertise are undersupplied in the industry, relative to its needs, we would expect that such skillsets would be overrepresented in job adverts for roles at cultivated meat companies:

Given the small number of roles that are advertised at any one point, the findings from this analysis constitute only very weak evidence of the existence of particular career and talent bottlenecks, however.[6]

Overall, the proportions of each role type were relatively similar. Notable differences include:

An additional (slightly less reliable[8]) analysis was carried out that subdivided the technical product-focused research plus the engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles by their apparent level of seniority. The least senior roles (“technician or assistant”) were slightly overrepresented in the advertised job opportunities compared to the current roles (17% compared to 10%), suggesting that filling more entry-level roles or retaining staff in them is more difficult than for more senior roles.[9]

Table 7: Comparison of plant-based food current roles and job opportunities, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on

Overall, the proportions of each role type were very similar. The disparities noted for cultivated meat companies were not repeated for plant-based food companies. However, product handling and manual roles seem to be slightly overrepresented in the advertised job opportunities compared to the current roles (20% compared to 10%), suggesting that filling roles that require this sort of expertise or retaining staff in them is difficult for plant-based food companies.

What was the gender balance among current roles?

Table 8: Comparison of the gender balance among current roles in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits, by area of expertise that the role seems to focus on

Overall, women are substantially overrepresented among nonprofit roles[10] and slightly underrepresented among cultivated meat and plant-based food companies. In each type of organisation, women are underrepresented in management or leadership roles relative to their proportion of the total staff in that type of organisation.[11] This is especially so in cultivated meat companies.[12]

What were the requirements like for advertised roles?

Table 9: Comparison of the requirements for job opportunities in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits

Far more opportunities at cultivated meat and plant-based food companies were listed as requiring a bachelor’s degree than in animal advocacy nonprofits (69%, 50%, and 22%, respectively). Opportunities at cultivated meat were listed as requiring postgraduate or professional qualifications more frequently than in plant-based food companies or nonprofits (45%, 9%, and 8%, respectively), presumably due to the higher focus on R&D.

Indeed, at both cultivated meat companies and plant-based food companies, technical product-focused research roles required bachelor’s degrees and graduate or professional qualifications especially frequently (80% and 62% for cultivated meat, 70% and 40% for plant-based foods). The educational requirements for other role types differed between cultivated meat and plant-based food companies.[13]

For cultivated meat companies, all of the technical product-focused research roles that required educational qualifications (i.e. 80% of the total) specified that those qualifications needed to be focused on subjects relating to biology, chemistry, or life sciences. This was also the case for the majority of other role types that specified educational requirements, but was not true in every instance.[14] These findings did not hold for job opportunities at plant-based food companies.[15]

For all three groups of searches, the majority of opportunities stated that one or more years of relevant work experience were needed, with the average required number of years being higher in cultivated meat and plant-based food companies than in nonprofits (3.1, 3.4, and 1.8 years, respectively). In both cultivated meat and plant-based food companies, the average requirements were higher for engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles (3.5 and 4.6 years, respectively), operations, administration, and HR roles (4.2 and 4.1),[16] and management or leadership roles (7.8 and 6.5). They were lower for technical product-focused research (2.6 and 2.6), though this can be explained by the larger proportion of roles requiring PhDs, which can take several years themselves.[17]

Far fewer job opportunities at cultivated meat or plant-based food companies were remote than in nonprofits (2%, 2%, and 48%, respectively). Of course, many of these companies require technical lab work, manufacturing, and product handling, though it is perhaps surprising that so few of the more operational or business-oriented roles were remote.

Where and how were roles advertised?

Table 10: Comparison of the sites where job opportunities in cultivated meat companies, plant-based food companies, and animal advocacy nonprofits were advertised

Though almost all roles at cultivated meat companies and nonprofits were advertised on the organisation’s own websites, this was not the case for the plant-based food companies. LinkedIn was frequently used by the companies.

Given that roles at cultivated meat and plant-based foods companies are sometimes advertised on the Good Food Institute’s job board, 80,000 Hours’ job board, and the Effective Altruism Job Postings Facebook group, we were surprised to find that none of the identified roles at plant-based food companies and only 4 of the roles at cultivated meat companies were posted on any of these sites.

As in the nonprofits spot-check, several organisations used LinkedIn, the Facebook group, and the job boards occasionally but inconsistently; only 4 cultivated meat companies used LinkedIn consistently and no company used the Facebook group or job boards consistently.[19]

Limitations and suggestions for further research

Appendix: Description of the methodology

Overview of for-profit companies involved in animal product alternatives

For the first analysis, the company database provided by the Good Food Institute was used as the basis. GFI’s database divides companies into the categories of “Cultivated Meat,” “Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, and Dairy,” and “Fermentation,” and provides additional subcategories. No further companies were identified and added to this list, though some minor edits were made to the database.[21] Data was gathered on the number of staff currently at the company, usually from LinkedIn, with searches being conducted in late August 2020.[22] Where there were 30 or more current staff according to LinkedIn, then the number of staff in the previous two years was also evaluated. Companies were categorised for whether they solely focused on one of GFI’s three categories or not. Companies were marked as not solely focusing on one category if they were listed in multiple categories within the database or if they also produced or sold products that were not intended to replace animal products.[23] Most of the analysis in this report focuses exclusively on those companies that were marked as solely focused on one of the three categories; these companies seemed more likely to be representative of the industry producing animal product alternatives.[24]

Cultivated meat for-profit current roles

All 25 companies from GFI’s company database that were categorised as focusing solely on cultivated meat and that had over five current staff listed on LinkedIn[25] were analysed in more detail via searches of their current staff. 375 staff were identified via searches in late August 2020. A list of 9 types of expertise was developed by modifying the list created for Animal Advocacy Careers’ “effective animal advocacy nonprofit roles spot-check.” After reading the individual’s job title (and sometimes briefly checking any available descriptions of their role), up to 2 areas of expertise were marked as “key” skills required for that role. Up to 2 additional areas of expertise were marked as “important” but secondary. Roles that did not seem like paid roles were excluded.[26] All results (except for the country in which the role was based) were then converted into a numerical format. Most answers were “yes” (1) or “no” (0), but for simplicity of reporting, middle answers such as “optional,” “important,” and “preferred” were coded as 0.5.

Cultivated meat for-profit job opportunities

The same organisations’ websites were also searched for current job openings; 19 organisations had openings publicly visible, for a total of 119 roles (89 if duplicates are excluded). 80,000 Hours’ job board, restricted to the factory farming “problem area,” was also searched, as was GFI’s job board and all the posts on Effective Altruism Job Postings Facebook group within the past three months; for all four sources, results were only added for the 25 pre-specified companies. Roles that did not seem like paid roles and nonspecific open application options were excluded. Several objective characteristics of advertised job opportunities were noted, where they could be identified, such as whether the role was full-time, the salary that was offered, and whether remote work was optional, compulsory, or unavailable. The advertised job opportunities were sorted into the same 9 types of expertise as the currently filled roles. Listed fixed requirements of roles were noted, such as the minimum number of relevant years of experience that were required. Again, results were converted into numerical format.

In order to increase the sample size, two separate searches were conducted; the first in late August 2020, and the second approximately two months later. Our analysis in this report excludes duplicates of adverts for roles that were identified at both time-points, except where otherwise specified.

Plant-based food for-profit current roles

A random sample of 35 companies was selected from the 129 companies on GFI’s company database that were categorised as focusing solely on plant-based and that did not have plant-based dairy as their company type. Companies that focused solely on plant-based dairy were excluded because because the animal suffering involved with dairy seems to be lower than for other animal product types and because the plant-based dairy product category is more established,[27] and therefore seems less interesting from the perspective of pushing the boundaries of plant-based foods. Again, companies that had under five current staff listed on LinkedIn were excluded. The sample was intended to be roughly representative of the spread of employees between larger and smaller companies.[28] The current staff at these companies were analysed via searches of their current staff. 969 staff were identified via searches in September and October 2020. This research was carried out by a different researcher (Sami Mubarak) to the cultivated meat and overview analyses (Jamie Harris). The methodology used was otherwise identical to the methodology used in the “Cultivated meat for-profit current roles” search.

Plant-based food for-profit job opportunities

The same organisations’ websites were also searched for current job openings; 15 organisations had openings publicly visible, for a total of 107 roles. Since the sample size was larger than in the cultivated meat spot-check, only one search was conducted, in September and October 2020. This research was carried out by a different researcher (Sami Mubarak) to the cultivated meat and overview analyses (Jamie Harris). The methodology used was otherwise identical to the methodology used in the “Cultivated meat for-profit job opportunities” search.

Footnotes

[1] For discussion, see here and here.

[2] The searches for numbers of staff in the previous two years may exaggerate the growth rate in these industries, since any companies that had fallen from above 30 staff members to below this threshold would not have been included. The 30 staff members threshold is used because this is the threshold above which LinkedIn Premium provides additional tracking features. As above, ”X only” denotes that only companies that produced products exclusively within that category (cultivated meat, plant-based meat, eggs, and dairy, or fermentation) were included.

[3] This may be somewhat misleading in the sense that which B2B businesses were actually included in GFI’s initial database is presumably fairly arbitrary; if you loosened the criteria to include any company that might plausibly sell some form of specialised equipment to cultivated meat companies, then these numbers would presumably change substantially. There may be advantages for a technology of having many firms positioned along the supply chain.

[4] For the full list, see the “Summary tables” tab on the “GFI Company Database AAC adaptation” spreadsheet.

[5] If hiring by rounds, with a deadline, then the job ad may be posted again. If hiring on a rolling basis, then the ad may simply not be taken down and would therefore remain on the site for longer. So we might expect these roles to be overrepresented in both the results with no duplicates and the results with duplicates included.

[6] These differences may represent the relative ease or difficulty in hiring excellent candidates for particular role types, but they may alternatively simply represent random variation in the available roles at any one time and the limitations of this “spot-check” methodology.

[7] At the present time, individuals seeking management and leadership opportunities in cultivated meat companies may be best off seeking to found their own startup! For consistency, if a job advert “senior” scientist role noted that it would have some management and leadership responsibilities, we still did not categorise this as being management and leadership, since, for the current roles analysis, it was impossible to see whether the “senior” scientists had management and leadership responsibilities.

[8] Mainly this is because job titles seem especially likely to be misleading. For example, should a “research associate” be categorised as a “Technician or assistant” or as a “Researcher / scientist”? Is there a meaningful difference between a “senior scientist” and a “scientist II”?

[9] See the “Technical research seniority analysis” tabs in the spreadsheets. Since there were so few technical research roles in the plant-based food for-profit job opportunities search, we did not carry out a similar comparison there.

[10] See the write-up of the nonprofit spot-check for some further discussion.

[11] If the comparator used is the general population, then women are overrepresented in nonprofits. This seems like a less useful comparator, however.

[12] Potentially also of interest to readers: Vegan Women Summit (2020) and Anthis (2018).

[13] See the “Summary table” tabs in the “Results: Plant-based food for-profit job opportunities” and “Results: Cultivated meat for-profit job opportunities” spreadsheets for more detail. For example, in cultivated meat companies, the educational requirements for engineering, manufacturing, and processing roles were roughly in line with the average across all identified roles (77% and 41%), whereas in plant-based food companies, the requirements for bachelor’s degrees with above average (100%) but the requirements for graduate or professional qualifications were below average (0%). Note, however, that these findings are based on only 5 such job opportunities in plant-based food companies.

[14] Sometimes, where the job advert did not specify that this subject specialisation was requited, the ad still suggested that experience in industries that were related to these subjects was required or preferred.

[15] See the “Summary table” tabs in the “Results: Plant-based food for-profit job opportunities” and “Results: Cultivated meat for-profit job opportunities” spreadsheets for more detail.

[16] This is interesting because, in the nonprofit roles spot-check, we found that roles of this type had below average time requirements (average 1.2 years required).

[17] Though we assumed that the given time requirements referred to experience in addition to the listed educational requirements, it was sometimes unclear whether this was the intention (e.g. 5 years after your PhD finishes, or 5 years including your PhD?). So the given numbers may be slightly higher than the employers actually expect, especially for technical product-focused research roles at cultivated meat companies.

[18] This should have been doable, but we did not conduct such searches in the nonprofit roles spot-check.

[19] The 4 companies were Mission Barns, BlueNalu, Gourmey (they didn’t list the role on their website), and Finless Foods (they didn’t list their two roles on their website).

There was some overlap between Mission Barns’ website and the GFI jobs board, suggesting that the postings there were just a little out of date. Similarly, GFI’s jobs board contained one role at CellulaREvolution that was no longer available and Meatable had posted some roles on the EA jobs postings group, but not the roles that were live at the time we conducted our search.

[20] Where both LinkedIn and the website listed the full team, these two sources seemed to be similar. LinkedIn sometimes inflated the numbers a little (e.g. if interns, board members, investors, or former staff listed themselves under that company), though this was usually less than 150% of the number on the website. Sometimes LinkedIn listed companies in a category that was much larger than the visible number of employees on LinkedIn, e.g. Tofutti and High Peaks Sausage were listed in the category of having “51-200” staff but only had 1 identifiable staff member each.

[21] The edits included:

Quorn and Mushlabs were removed from the plant-based section, in keeping with the other companies that focused on mycoprotein.

For the “solely plant-based” column, the default marking was “Yes” — exceptions were made for companies where the “Brief Description” explicitly noted that the company made non-vegan products too, although non-vegan vegetarian meat substitutes were still included. Also, companies that also made cultivated or fermentation-based products were excluded.

The overarching company was made into the default unit of analysis, rather than the specific sub-brand. For example, “The Hain Celestial Group” was added, which seemed to manage several other included brands.

[22] Automatically generated LinkedIn company listings were not counted, as they seemed likely to underrepresent the number of staff. If no LinkedIn information could be identified, sometimes the organisation’s website was checked for a list of staff.

[23] For example, JUST was marked as “No” in the column “Solely cultivated?” because it also produces plant-based eggs and dairy. Celltainer Biotech BV was marked as “No” because it includes a focus on cultivated meat as part of a wider biotechnology business. Several companies were marked as “No” in the column “Solely plant-based?” because they also sold non-vegan, conventional dairy products (e.g. Ben & Jerry’s) or a wide array of products that were not intended as meat replacements (e.g. Eden Foods). These decisions were made solely via the information already noted in GFI’s company database plus the summary information provided on LinkedIn. Therefore, it seems likely that some companies have been falsely categorised as solely focusing on one of the three categories.

[24] As an extreme example, consider that the company DuPont was included in the Fermentation category. DuPont is one of the world's largest producers of chemicals and science-based products, with 33,294 employees on LinkedIn. Even though only a small handful of these staff are highly involved in animal product alternatives, the staff at this company represented 61% of all identified staff.

[25] Companies with staff of five or fewer were excluded because it was assumed that these organisations would be a better representation of for-profit entrepreneurship than of current roles and opportunities at cultivated meat companies. While this could also be interesting, it was not the focus of this spot-check.

[26] This included investors, board members, and interns. However, PhD candidates working as research scientists were still included.

[27] According to the Good Food Institute’s “2019 U.S. State of the Industry Report Plant-Based Meat, Eggs, and Dairy,” plant-based milk stands at 14% share in the total milk category in the US, compared to 1% for plant-based meat and 0.2% for eggs.

[28] Companies were divided into six size categories: 201+ employees, 101-200 employees, 51-100 employees, 21-50 employees, 6-20 employees, and 1-5 employees. Beyond Meat was first checked, and the sample was calculated with reference to Beyond Meat. The “201+ employees” category (which includes only two companies, one of which is Beyond Meat) represents about one-third of employees of companies categorised as focusing solely on plant-based that do not have plant-based dairy as their company type. A “target number of companies to include” was calculated (see the cell formulas in the “Random sample for plant-based” tab on the “GFI Company Database AAC adaptation” tab for details) and then www.random.org was used to randomly select the companies within each category.

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