Name: James Anderson
Job title: Junior sales executive
Company & location: Tony’s Chocolonely, London
Education: University of Birmingham, War Studies
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? It wasn’t a totally conscious decision. Finding the right people and culture was the most important thing for me. However, I do enjoy working for a company that produces something tangible, that people see and use every day. Needless to say, people do get excited when you say you work for a chocolate company!
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): Winning new business. My job is to increase our presence and distribution in the out-of-home channel.
What does a typical day look like for you? I’m out and about most days, visiting potential new customers as well as some existing ones. I do a lot of research to find the best places for Tony’s Chocolonely to be on sale. It’s then a matter of arranging a meeting with owners and managers of appropriate outlets, then securing a listing. I have a lot of autonomy in doing this which is really exciting. My manager has given me a huge amount of trust from the get go, which motivates me a lot.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. I was working for a large fmcg company for nearly three years and was ready for a new challenge. I put my CV out with a few recruiters and one came back to me with Tony’s Chocolonely. It stood out by a mile, and once I met the people it became the only job I really wanted. The interview process was three stages, starting with a fairly informal face-to-face chat for an hour. Second stage was a bit trickier, I prepared a presentation as if I was pitching to a new wholesaler. This was followed by meeting the whole team, which was a nice touch!
“Treating profit as secondary to the mission of the company gives the work more purpose”
What’s the best part about working for a food company? Working for Tony’s Chocolonely, you know that ultimately every good piece of work you do contributes to ending slavery in the cocoa industry. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true! Being part of a company that wants to shine a spotlight on the industry in order to make things better, makes me very proud. Free chocolate isn’t a bad perk either!
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? That everyone in the value chain is getting a fair cut. Forced labour and illegal child labour are still commonplace in cocoa. And this is a problem that isn’t just limited to cocoa, it’s happening in a lot of other industries as well. That’s why Tony’s Chocolonely appealed to me. Treating profit as secondary to the mission of the company gives the work more purpose.
It is really encouraging to see that people are becoming a lot more demanding when it comes to the provenance of their food and whether people have been paid and treated fairly along the way. Things are beginning to change, which is great, but there is still a lot to do.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Find a company and group of people that best suits you. More often than not these companies would prefer to promote from within, so the culture and opportunity for progression is the most important thing. The first job you get may not be the sexiest!
What’s your ultimate career dream? Head of sales, then CEO. Only because playing in the Premier League seems a bit out of reach now…