Name: Lizzy Coleman
Job title: Graduate management trainee
Company & location: G’s Fresh – Ely, Cambridgeshire
Education: BSc (hons) Agri-Business Management (2:1), Newcastle University
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I have always been obsessed with food, the dynamic nature of the industry and the opportunity to travel, so it was a no-brainer. Growing up, all my summer jobs were focused on agriculture and when I studied food & nutrition at school, I fell in love with the concept of ‘farm to fork’. Since then I have developed this interest so that I am now working for one of the largest UK & European suppliers of fresh produce, which covers the whole supply chain process from farm to fork.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): Gs Fresh’s two-year graduate scheme is designed so we change roles every six months. I am currently on my fourth and final placement working as a category manager in the global brands team. In this role I am assisting with the analysis and promotion of our Love Beets brand and the launch of our new Love Fresh branded products. If you were wondering, in my picture I am not serving ice cream but in fact taster samples of all our amazing flavours of beetroot at the Tower of London Food Fair.
Aside from category management, my other three roles on the scheme have been: commercial executive for our Spanish business (I got to live in Spain), a production supervisor and an account executive for a top-five UK retailer. I have been very lucky with the diversity of my placements; they have allowed me to explore many areas of the international business and learn from so many knowledgeable people.
What does a typical day look like for you? There is no typical day for me at the moment, the more varied I can make my role the more I get to learn!
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. To get on the G’s Fresh grad scheme there were four stages. The first was an initial online application with questions aimed at finding out about what motivates you to work in the food industry. The second was a telephone interview and then thirdly an online psychometric test. Finally, I was invited to an assessment centre. The day consisted of a one-on-one interview with senior management, maths and English tests and a series of group exercises. When I found out I got the job I was elated, especially when G’s allowed me to join in their spring intake, meaning I had time to travel for a few months after graduating university.
What’s the best part about working for a food company? The constantly changing environment. When the weather changes people change what they eat and when the seasons change, we must change where we source our products, so nothing stays the same for very long in fresh produce. It helps if you really enjoy having a job that requires adaptability and quick thinking, especially when it comes to market trends and looking at how best to capture future needs.
“It is amazing to see groups who champion and highlight successful women and provide the opportunity for networking”
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? One of the biggest misconceptions I had when I first started working was that the food industry was very male-dominated. Growing up in a traditionally agricultural area meant I met very few senior leaders or management who were women. Since joining G’s Fresh, I have learnt that there are so many opportunities for women like me in the industry. It is amazing to see groups such as Women in Food & Farming and Women in the Food Industry, who champion and highlight successful women and provide the opportunity for networking.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Do your research. There are numerous different companies and roles related to food all over the country. I wouldn’t be doing the job I am now at G’s Fresh without plenty of research into what would give me the best experience possible.
Also, constantly try to improve yourself by being inquisitive and unafraid to ask questions. The founder of G’s Fresh, Guy Shropshire, said: “You need to be plucky, in order to get lucky.” I think this essential for any young person wanting to have a career in food & drink to bear in mind, as few people are simply handed amazing opportunities. You need to be confident in your abilities, driven and hardworking and then people will always be willing to help.
What’s your ultimate career dream? In the short term I would like to focus on brand/category management. In the long term I am keeping it blue sky, the food industry is constantly changing with new innovations and different channels to market, plus customers are always looking to change up the way they eat so I am excited to see where my career takes me.