Name: Lucy Wilkins

Age: 24

Job title: Commercial executive

Company & location: Ginsters, Samworth Brothers in Plymouth

Education: BSc Nutrition with Food Consumer Sciences at University of Reading

Why did you decide to go for a career in food? Growing up, I always enjoyed any form of baking, cooking or eating to fuel the sports I love doing, so choosing a degree focusing on food and nutrition seemed like the obvious choice for me. During the first summer of my degree, I worked as a technical intern at a desserts manufacturing site, and this experience opened my eyes to the broad range of jobs in the food industry and reinforced my passion for food.

I then completed a technical industrial placement year with Samworth Brothers. Despite my previous experience being technical-based, I returned to Samworth Brothers on their commercial management graduate scheme. This diversity of experience has provided me with a great foundation for my future career development and demonstrates how you can move between different roles and functions within the food industry.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): The commercial role includes a variety of jobs, including everything from forecasts and budgets to range recommendations, promotional strategies, and product sell-ins as well as plenty of product sampling! The focus of my role revolves around building relationships, not only with the buying and supply chain teams of the accounts I manage, but also with our bakery teams and internal brand, category and finance teams to ensure we are all working collaboratively to achieve our strategy.

What does a typical day look like for you? My day always starts with checking the daily service report we receive from the bakery to update my accounts on the service for their orders. This also gives me visibility of what’s going on in the bakery or further down the supply chain. My days often include things such as presentations on our monthly sales figures or orking with customers on new products, range recommendations and growth opportunities, or getting out to do store visits, whilst always tracking our performance in the category and total market.

“Nothing will ever beat the pride you feel for the first product launch you contribute to”

Tell us how you went about applying for your job: As I had completed a placement year with Samworth Brothers, when applying for the graduate scheme, I was fast-tracked through the initial recruitment stages to the full-day assessment centre day. The assessment centre was held virtually during Covid, so I had to prepare a presentation after watching the BBC’s Inside the Factory episode about our site The Cornwall Bakery, where Ginsters products are produced.

It can feel like more of a challenge for your personality and passion for food (and pasties!) to shine through when doing virtual interviews, so I decided the best way to overcome this would be to create my own homemade version of a Ginsters Cornish Pasty – which not only impressed my assessors but led to a great discussion about my love for cooking and baking. The assessment centre also included an interview, group-based tasks with the other applicants and a Q&A session with the current graduates.

What’s the best part about working for a food company? Seeing the direct impact your work has, whether it’s seeing a new product like the Ginsters Limited Edition Cauliflower Cheese Slice on shelf in the supermarket, shaping the product brief for development or supporting the bakery in achieving greater efficiency. Nothing will ever beat the pride you feel for the first product launch you contribute to, and the excitement of seeing these products in stores will never get old, especially when working on a brand like Ginsters which has so much heritage.

Ginsters Cauliflower Cheese

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? It’s impossible to truly picture how a large food manufacturing site operates until you have been fortunate enough to see inside, and appreciate how impressive it is to be producing such large volumes of high-quality food products. I think this is why people think food products produced in large volumes must be filled with artificial ingredients, are low-quality and not made with care or love. Not only at Ginsters, but across the whole Samworth Brothers business, we all pride ourselves in being a force for good with quality as a way of life. 

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Seek out as many opportunities as you can, whether it’s volunteering, internships and work experience, or training and courses. This will all help in developing your understanding of what it is that excites you and ultimately what you want to pursue in your future career.

What’s your ultimate career dream? Once I finish the graduate scheme at the end of August, I’ll have gained experience of four different roles within the commercial function across both own label and branded products, which is invaluable in helping me figure out where I’d like my future career to take me. I have loved working at Ginsters with the opportunity to represent a brand where you feel you are contributing to its future success. I know ultimately I would love to be working on brand with products which I really believe in and feel passionate about, which also provide the opportunity to incorporate my nutrition background, as this area of the food industry is becoming ever present in consumers’ minds. Right now, I’m not 100% certain what my career journey will look like, but I know for certain it will involve food and doing something I love!

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