Daria Bashkatova, Senior Marketing Innovation Manager

Source: THIS™

Daria Bashkatova was talking with Charles Wright

Name: Daria Bashkatova

Age: 25 

Job title: Senior marketing innovation manager 

Company & location: This, London 

Education:  London School of Economics, International Relations

Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink?  My family come from a real mixed bag of places including Russia, Kazakhstan and Israel, among others. While questions of faith, politics or geography were often at odds, food was always a common language. I was quite uninspired by the career routes my university promoted, which were so focused on finance and law, so decided to pursue my passion for food and landed an internship at Heinz, which then turned into a four-year-long stint there. I’ve not looked back since. 

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two):  My job is really varied, but most my time is spent looking after the strategy and launch planning of our really clever innovation, from understanding consumer needs for NPD to launch planning of in-store point of sale, press releases or influencer support. I also oversee all things packaging and trade marketing and manage two passionate execs, who handle all our events, our consumer community and feedback and investor relations. 

What does a typical day look like for you?  This is a very fast-paced environment, which I love, so wherever you are in the business, most people are spinning a few plates. Our key brand pillars revolve bulldozing plant-based stereotypes and showing that plant-based food should mean zero-compromise – we also have punchy brand awareness targets to hit. My usual day revolves around how we can get our innovation and marketing to deliver on those ambitions, whether that’s launch planning for new products, making recommendations to the leadership on innovation priorities as well as day-to-day bits like trade media planning or PR and photography briefings. 

“We have a wall in our office showing the number of animals we’ve nudged into retirement through our plant-based meat alternatives (we’ve nearly hit one million!)”

Tell us about how you went about applying for your job:  After spending a few years at a big corporate, I was really focused on finding a purpose-driven SME for my next role, so I sent out my CV to a few brands and This was one of them. There were no roles at that time, but the recruitment manager kindly agreed to stay in touch (which I thought was code for never speaking to me again). Little did I know he’d reach out a couple of months later saying he was about to advertise a role I’d be a good fit for. Few days later I had interviews scheduled in with both our managing director and our founder Andy – these were a mix of competency-based questions, a case study and Andy trying to learn my deepest, darkest secrets. 

What’s the best part about working for a food & drink company?  I think the outputs from our work are incredibly tangible and not many industries can boast that – whether that’s receiving a message from a friend saying they’ve loved our new kebabs to seeing a packaging design hit the shelves. We have a wall in our office showing the number of animals we’ve nudged into retirement through our plant-based meat alternatives (we’ve nearly hit one million!) and I love seeing that every day as a reminder of our impact. Aside from that, the reaction you can get from a stranger at a party when they find out you work for one of their favourite brands is pretty priceless. 

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink?  Before starting my own journey in this industry, I always thought of brands as these big beasts that sort of have a life of their own. But now I know it’s the people that really shape them – individuals within This have driven things like B Corp certification or pioneering the technology behind our ground-breaking Isn’t Streaky Bacon, which all have played a huge part in who we are as a business.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry?  If you don’t ask, you very definitely don’t get. I took a few gambles in my short career so far by putting myself out there and sending my CVs to companies that have no roles available or applying for jobs that say they don’t accept candidates without a UK right to work. There will be times when you’ll face rejection, but you will also get opportunities to build great connections that can help lead you to a dream job.

What’s your ultimate career dream?  I’d love to help This become the king of meat-free – we’re already the biggest independently owned brand so it would be great to beat some of the old-timers soon. Once that’s achieved, I’d enjoy testing myself by setting up my own food business one day. There’s so many foods or drinks from the side of the world I grew up in that are yet to make it to the UK, but I think there’s so much appetite for it – like the kefir boom from a couple of years ago!

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