Name: Charlie Bowker
Job titles: Co-founder
Company & location: Native Snacks, London
Education: Didn’t go to university
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I’ve always been passionate about food and cooking, and it was slightly inevitable that I would pursue a career in food. I’ve also always wanted to set up my own business, and so after a three-year stint at a financial PR firm, it was clear that rather than being a small cog in a big wheel, I would take the leap to set up my own brand. After hearing about popped lotus seeds, my business partner Darcy [Ogston] and I thought it was the perfect excuse to both quit our jobs and start building a snack brand that unearths new and exciting snacks from different countries around the world. First, we’re taking consumers on a trip to India with our range of popped lotus seeds!
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): There are only two of us in Native Snacks at the moment, and as a result, we really do everything involved with the business. However, we have split roles and I focus on marketing and getting our range of popped lotus seeds into as many stores as possible.
What does a typical day look like for you? We’re a small team and so it’s normally all systems go, covering all roles. Every day is different and certainly never boring. One day I’ll be sampling at stockists, the next I’ll be meeting with buyers to pitch our range and others I might be working on our marketing strategy and building our profile through PR or speaking to investors.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. As a founder, I gave myself the job. There weren’t any stages but we have spent the best part of two years setting up Native Snacks, and we have had to face many challenges from setting up a supply chain in India to most recently moving our manufacturing to the UK.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see your product, and hard work, sat on the shelf alongside some really respected brands”
What’s the best part about working for a food company? I really do love it all. Whilst running a business comes with its challenges and you’re not able to switch off a huge amount, the food industry is an incredibly supportive one and other people in the industry are always willing to help where they can and vice versa. Being able to work in an industry that I’m incredibly passionate about is fantastic. Running a challenger snack brand with the opportunity to create change within the category is also a really exciting opportunity.
It’s also incredibly rewarding as an fmcg brand to walk into a store and see your product, and hard work, sat on the shelf alongside some really respected brands.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? That it’s an easy industry to work in! From a sales point of view, trying to sell an fmcg product requires a lot of resilience, confidence and creativity!
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? There are so many amazing, innovative, fast-growing food and drink companies in the UK. Starting somewhere small allows you to learn a large number of skills, given that everyone is hands-on in a small company. If you don’t have any experience within the food industry, this is a great way to see what areas you might enjoy more than others.
Speak to loads of people in the industry too! Everyone is super friendly and always willing to help.
What’s your ultimate career dream? To see Native Snacks have national, and international, distribution and sitting on supermarket shelves alongside the big players. We’re working on it!