Name: Lydia Owens
Job title: Commercial executive
Company & location: Pip & Nut, London
Education: Mathematics, Queen Mary University
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? After university my plan was to always try again at drama school – I had always wanted to be an actor. It wasn’t until my part time job at 26 Grains in Covent Garden that I started to get an interest in working in the food industry. I loved the launch of a new menu and seeing Alex’s (owner of 26 Grains) recipes come to life – the ingredients, the story and placement of each component was fascinating to me. Like 26 Grains, what attracted me to Pip & Nut was the fact they are really challenging how people eat food through innovation and creating food that people not only love but benefit from as well. It seemed to be an industry and business run by people who are seriously creative and passionate about what they were producing, and I wanted to be involved!
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): I look after all the new business at Pip & Nut, hunting down the next best place for our jars, tubs and squeeze packs. On top of that I also manage a lot of our existing food service and high street accounts. I’m kept busy!
What does a typical day look like for you? First things first: breakfast, I can’t concentrate until I’ve eaten. We have a healthy breakfast provided at Pip & Nut – the day starts cooking up some porridge with my colleagues, chatting over a cup of coffee. Then it’s down to work, checking in on orders followed by catching up with some of my existing accounts usually over the phone or in meetings. I’ll spend the afternoon scoping out some new business opportunities. This is usually out of the office keeping an eye on what’s going on in stores, cafés and restaurants and finding some more great locations for Pip & Nut. I’m super competitive so I get a huge thrill out of winning new business, but it’s also just great to talk to people (about peanut butter) all day long.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. How many stages were there, what did you have to do? Any particularly tough questions? I first applied for a field sales internship at Pip & Nut. There were two stages: a group interview followed by a solo interview. I clearly remember being asked to pitch a food or drink product to them – it’s not easy to think of a product, story and commercials on the spot. We then had another round of interviews at the end of the internship for my current role, where Pip and our head of sales acted as one of our existing retailers and I presented to them. It’s always quite strange being interviewed by people you already know, but thankfully from my acting days I was no stranger to presenting to people.
“The best time of the week is Friday lunchtime where we have a big cook-off, Ready Steady Cook style”
What’s the best part about working for a food company? Trying all of our product innovations has to be number one. It’s exciting to hear Sophia (our product developer) in the kitchen mixing up some new flavours!
Other than that, everything revolves around food. It means many important meetings end or start with a delicious meal to get everyone together. The best time of the week is also Friday lunchtime where we have a big cook-off, Ready Steady Cook style… it’s very competitive!
Mostly the team is full of inspiring, dedicated individuals who are all up for mucking in and working together to pull off big projects. I love getting involved in all aspects of the company and having visibility of what’s going on with innovation and future plans.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? Probably that you sit around trying new products all day long! I wish!
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Be prepared to hustle and get stuck into everything, make the most out of every opportunity, throw yourself in and you never quite know what you’ll learn or what it can lead to. Everything changes so fast, it can be quite hard to keep up!
What’s your ultimate career dream? I want to be with Pip & Nut for a few years – there is a lot of exciting stuff happening that I can’t wait to be a part of, but after that, maybe I’ll pick up my acting again. Who knows!