Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, said new research indicated that by 2014 there would be a shortfall of 13,000 food scientists and technologists unless more young people chose these careers.
Studies in Wales and Yorkshire showed one in four vacancies were unfilled.
"The research makes it clear very few young people are choosing food science and technology courses straight from school," said Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve. "When it comes to food scientist vacancies, there is a shortage of freshly qualified graduates."
Improve is working with employers to formulate Sector Skills Agreements, designed to help individual companies attract more young recruits.