The food industry is lacking in many of the technical and specialist skills that are required in retail, according to Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King.

Speaking at the IGD Convention in London, King also said the sector does not receive the recognition it deserves as a career choice for graduates.

He said many of the places on courses such as food technology are populated by students from overseas, which leads to skills being exported.

He said: “We know that our industry is lacking in specialist skills. Many of you will be aware of the lack of students on some of the specialist food technology courses, and to the extent that they do have students many are [from] overseas. [There is] nothing wrong in that at all, it is helping the funding of our universities but it is leaving us short.”

He said the grocery industry “simply does not have the voice that it deserves”.

He added: “I am constantly banging the drum that this is an industry that does not receive that appropriate recognition.”

He said jobs in food retail are often looked down on by careers officers in school and that that the UK food industry provides 14% of UK employment. He said it is “one of the only sectors in the UK to have been creating jobs consistently through the economic downturn”.