Food Purchaser

When you put together a recipe for salsa, it involves a combination of ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and cilantro. It isn’t hard to find these ingredients and you are likely to be able to obtain them all from one store.

Big manufacturers can’t just go to the supermarket and pick up all their items. They must go to dedicated ingredient sellers to purchase their items.

Taking on this task is a big undertaking, so companies must hire individuals who make it their job to purchase ingredients. These individuals are food purchasers and they play an important role in food production because they source and negotiate raw materials for food manufacturing.

Food purchasers are responsible for purchasing

Food purchasers are responsible for purchasing raw materials and other supplies that will be used in the manufacturing of products. They use their expert knowledge to build and maintain strategic relationships with key suppliers and obtain the most favourable price for supplies.

Food purchasers work with production teams to forecast the amount of ingredients needed in a delivery to have enough product on production days. They investigate when there is low stock in the building, a vendor shorts an order (doesn’t send enough product) or there is no product in the building at all.

Additionally, purchasers are responsible for ensuring that product is purchased from safe food sources and adhere to food safety standards. To verify this, they may request vendors to provide “Certificates of Analysis” to show that the food has been tested for safety. Additionally, they work with quality assurance if a quality issue occurs with a shipment.

Overall, food purchasers are important because they obtain the contracts for raw materials needed for manufacturing. It is their job to negotiate prices with suppliers to ensure products are produced at a lower price.

Food purchasers are good at research

There are many different places purchasers obtain raw ingredients (ex. carrots, chocolate). Some vendors are based locally while others can be found overseas. Food purchasers maintain market intelligence and perform research to locate the best sources of ingredients. They follow industry news to forecast potential problem areas which could affect pricing levels.

For example, a drought in a grape-growing region would cause the price of grapes to increase. If a food purchaser follows global news, they would know they have to source the grapes from a different region. Finally, food purchasers research which vendors produce the best quality ingredients, their food prices and if vendors follow correct food safety standards.

Food purchasers negotiate

Negotiation is the core task of any food purchasing job. Food purchasers negotiate contracts with vendors to obtain the highest quality product for the lowest possible price. They follow up on contracts to ensure the product’s quality and that delivery times match the agreed upon negotiation. Companies that do not follow these expectations could face high fines or the cancellation of a contract. Food purchasers ensure that food costs say low.

Food purchasers work on multiple projects simultaneously

It is typical for food companies to produce multiple products with multiple ingredients. That is why food purchasers must be comfortable working on multiple projects at once. For example, a food purchaser could be researching potential kale vendors while also negotiating the price of canola oil with another vendor. Purchasers manage multiple projects by creating a database of vendors, classifying them and recording any information related to them.

Food purchasers have business-related degrees

Due to the business nature of food purchasing, it is typical for a food purchaser to have a bachelor’s degree or diploma in a business-related program like supply chain management, financing and administration. These programs teach students the basics of business such as accounting, finance and marketing – all concepts needed in this profession. In many cases, purchasing programs at college prepare students to negotiate prices and how to research quality, price, reliability and other important factors in examining potential suppliers.

Some companies within the food industry even employ students with postsecondary degrees in nutrition, agriculture and food science. These companies value these kinds of degrees because there are certain industries where you need to have relevant background knowledge. Finally, there are some companies that do not require an individual to have a postsecondary degree. In these cases, experience is more valued than educational background.

Food purchasers need to handle stress

Negotiating contracts with multiple vendors can be a stressful job. Food purchasers constantly search for the best deals available and can experience applied stress from their company looking to get the lowest possible price. Stress also arises from the needs of production because if they do not have an ingredient on time, they can’t manufacture a product!

Food purchasers manage stress through the creation and maintenance of warning systems. This informs them of potential problems ahead of time, as does constant open communication with both vendors and the company they work for. If people are in the know about issues, they are more prepared to come up with solutions, lowering stress.

Food purchasers analyze people and situations

Food purchasers must assess situations and people when making purchasing decisions. These assessments allow purchasers to forecast future trends and negotiate the best deals. Having a good gauge of people allows purchasers to determine if further negotiations can be made. The ability to analyze situations and people is a skill strengthened by experience. Eventually, these skills become more natural as an individual works and gains industry knowledge.

Food purchasers are organized, communicate well and have highly developed interpersonal skills

Being a food purchaser requires a wide range of skills. However, there are a few which are more essential than others. These skills include:

  • Organization- Individuals in this profession work on multiple projects simultaneously. The only way to manage all these projects without making mistakes and limiting stress is by staying organized. Bring organized allows them to manage orders and ensures that all products are delivered on time.
  • Interpersonal – Food purchasers communicate constantly with outside vendors in order to develop contracts and deals. Interpersonal skills like listening, decision-making and verbal communication have to be strong, as food purchasers perform these transactions constantly.
  • Communication– Food purchasers are constantly on the phone, in meetings or emailing individuals within and outside of their company. They need to have strong communication skills because it ensures that business moves forward smoothly. For example, when they negotiate a deal, they need to properly convey how much product they are willing to purchase. If they do not do this it could lead to problems down the road such as not having enough ingredients to make a recipe.

CareersNOW! Job Profiles created by Veronica Hislop and provided courtesy of