Lessons in FMCG employer branding

It has never been more important to build an impactful employer brand. In 2024, candidates are looking for more than a competitive salary package: they’re seeking to be part of an organisation with a strong culture, clear values, and a unique identity.  

Over the past few years, it’s been interesting to watch this landscape evolve. The pandemic waved in a new era in terms of how we think about work, and now, companies are competing for talent by overhauling their employer value proposition.  

Candidates have high expectations: they’re discerning about good people policies; interested in their employer having a voice on the issues in matter; and looking to work for an organisation that offers them more than just great pay and benefits. Not being able to meet candidate expectations is a costly risk, which could mean losing great talent to competitors. Indeed, research from last year found that a strong employer brand can reduce recruitment costs by more than two-fifths and cut staff turnover rates by 28%. In short, a solid employer brand is not just a critical component of a good people strategy, but central to commercial performance.  

With all this in mind, I have spent the past few months holding in-depth conversations with Chairs, CEOs and HR leaders from Europe’s biggest consumer goods groups, to build our latest white paper: Lessons in FMCG Employer Branding.

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Employer branding considerations are especially relevant in the global consumer goods industry. Major blue-chip businesses face specific challenges, not least how to bring multiple brands and international entities together under one corporate umbrella, to drive external awareness of a parent company narrative.  

It’s been a privilege to sit down with senior leaders and discuss the steps companies are taking to create a compelling employer brand, and to hear from businesses at different stages of their journey.  

Certainly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. A company’s strategy will differ depending on its situation, its priorities and its long-term corporate goals. Businesses might be looking to drive awareness and brand recognition; they might be recovering from a reputational crisis or period of unfavourable public perception; they might be undergoing a restructure following a major merger or divestment, or combining multiple brands under one umbrella following acquisitions; or they might be going through a period of major change, and adopting an entirely new corporate identity.  

However, there are a number of common threads that tie strategies together globally.  

First, the most successful strategies are inextricably linked to vision and purpose. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 86% of executives believe workers value a meaningful mission, and many companies are placing their mission and values at the very centre of their employer brand strategy.  

“We’ve done a lot of work since 2020 on cultural transformation,” said Anthony Lorman, Regional Vice President for Europe at Edgewell Personal Care. “We’ve launched and embedded a relevant and unique purpose statement and a set of values that our teammates can believe in and rally around. This was an enormous global body of work.”  

“Well-defined values – which are concise and authentic – attract like-minded individuals into the company.”

Well-defined values – which are concise and authentic – attract like-minded individuals into the company, and can be used as a bench-mark against which to consider broader people policies. As one leader put it: “there’s no point having ‘down-to-earth’ as one of your values if you’re going to ask candidates to attend interviews wearing a suit.”    

Second, many companies are navigating how best to build a global employer brand that unites multiple labels under one corporate umbrella. “We’ve been thinking about how we can balance local and global perspectives to attract the best talent,” said Katie Pearce, Chief People & Diversity Officer, EMEA & APAC at Molson Coors Beverage Company. “People want a feeling of home in a local business, but they also like the idea of working for an international organisation.” It was interesting to hear from leaders the approaches being taken: some companies are investing heavily in creating one group voice, while others are letting individual brand identities take priority.  

Third, global consumer goods groups are taking a marketing-first approach to employer branding. The furthest-ahead businesses are treating their employer brand like a marketing initiative, measuring the impact of initiatives, and using insights to drive decision-making. “We’re focusing on metrics,” said Eveline Paternotte, Group Chief People Officer at Valeo Foods Group. “What drives hiring success? How can we improve application rates? What are the road-blocks in our hiring process?” 


Across the global consumer goods industry, companies are reimagining the content they share related to recruitment, investing heavily in re-designing company websites, re-vamping social media strategies, and re-thinking how open roles are promoted. “There was a big piece of work on job adverts,” Johanna Dickinson, Group Human Resources Director at Intersnack, told me when we caught up. “In the past, they tended to be transactional – less of a job advertisement and more of a job description. We looked at how we could hook people in, and how we could cater our job adverts to target different applicant groups.”  

“An authentic employer brand can act as a powerful filtering mechanism, attracting candidates who genuinely resonate with the organisation’s ethos and discouraging those who may not be an ideal fit.”

Fourth, a great employer brand is authentic. Of the leaders I spoke with, almost all told me that authenticity was a key priority. An authentic employer brand can act as a powerful filtering mechanism, attracting candidates who genuinely resonate with the organisation’s ethos and discouraging those who may not be an ideal fit. This self-selection process is crucial for ensuring a more targeted and qualified inbound candidate interest, reducing the likelihood of costly mismatches and turnover down the line. 

Moreover, one of the most effective ways to attract new talent is through referrals and word of mouth, and an authentic employer brand encourages current team members to be advocates for their organisation. It was interesting to speak with David Wilkinson, Human Resources Director at Premier Foods, about how the business has built an EVP that encourages team-members to be advocates: “If you ask one of our team what it’s like to work at Premier Foods, they talk positively about inclusion and diversity, pay and benefits, training programmes, leadership schemes, culture and trust,” he told me.   

As the talent landscape becomes increasingly challenging, companies are finding a clear correlation between investing in employer brand and attracting the best talent. As Ross Davies, Regional HR Director, UK & Ireland at Reckitt explained: “We have always been an employer of choice within sales and marketing, as a unique school for building entrepreneurial leaders of the future. The big shift I have seen is within some of the global functions like finance, HR, IT and supply. It’s really boosted our ability to hire the best people, as there is a far greater understanding of who we are and the scope of our ambition.”  

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how this space evolves further, and how companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors… I’d love to hear from you. Read the full report here

Huw.lewellyn-waters@thembsgroup.co.uk | @TheMBSGroup