Name: Patrick Wilk
Job title: Graduate liquid developer, Quintessential Brands Spirits Solutions
Company & location: G&J Distillers, Cheshire – owned by Quintessential Brands Group
Education: MEng in Chemical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, with a year abroad at UCSB in Santa Barbara, California
Why did you decide to go for a career in food/drink? I’ve always been fascinated by the history, tradition and innovation of the spirits industry. This led me to work on several projects relating to whiskey distilleries during my university degree, giving me my first insight into all the work and expertise that goes into the production of alcoholic beverages.
The thought of being able to apply my skills and create a product that I know and appreciate in my everyday life was something that really appealed to me. How many people can say they created the gin that they like to drink?!
I love that I can combine my technical skills with my creativity and that ultimately, the products I help to develop go on to be enjoyed by a lot of people.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): I work in new product development for Quintessential Brands Spirits Solutions, creating new gins, vodkas and liqueurs for a wide variety of customers around the world, including many UK multiple grocers. With the UK grocery market being so competitive, our retail customers want NPD at speed, and we pride ourselves on being both faster to market than our competitors and providing liquids of unrivalled quality. The fact we’ve won the International Spirits Challenge Gin Producer of the Year four times in the last five years tells us we’re doing a good job on that front!
What does a typical day look like for you? One of the most exciting parts of my job is that every day is different with its own unique set of challenges. Aside from everyday office tasks involving meetings and emails, I do a lot of lab work too. If I am working on initial sample submissions, this may involve a lot of experimentation and development work with new ingredients and botanicals, whereas second or third round submissions may involve smaller tweaks to existing recipes.
On other days I might be more focused on preparing samples for shelf-life or nutritional testing, or keeping customer specifications for our existing products up to date. On occasion I also go off-site for workshops with our suppliers or customers, or for a first production run at a co-packer’s site.
“It’s really exciting being able to keep up with the cutting edge of innovation in the industry”
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. I found an advertisement for the job on the Quintessential Brands Group LinkedIn page shortly after I graduated and straightaway, I thought it sounded like a great fit. I sent an initial application and was then contacted for an interview. I was asked in detail about my final year group design project and my master’s thesis, with a focus on how I worked together in teams. Soon after, I received an offer from the company and started work a month later.
What’s the best part about working for a food/drink company? It has to be gaining a new insight and appreciation for all the work that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to launching new products. So much work goes into each and every product we produce, more than I ever could have imagined before starting the job!
Another great part of the job is that there are always new and exciting challenges to face. It’s really exciting being able to keep up with the cutting edge of innovation in the industry, as well as understanding a lot about the various trends and where the drinks industry is headed.
It’s fascinating to get a completely new perspective on the drinks industry, something that plays such a big part in our adult lives as consumers.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I think many people think of food & drink production as a sort of ‘black box’ process, and don’t realise the extent or the number of steps and processes involved in creating a product, from initial designs through to production.
Behind every product you see on the shelves are expertise and countless hours of hard work and dedication from all the staff, including everything from label and artwork design to production scheduling, procurement of materials, quality checks, and much more.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? I would say that if you are interested in getting into this industry, just go for it. The world of food & drink is fascinating, hugely varied, and very inter-connected, so there’s lots of scope to find the right role and sector for you. You might even find that the perfect role for you is one that you didn’t even realise existed before entering the industry!
What’s your ultimate career dream? I would love to one day own a small brewery with a beer garden, but for now I’m focused on learning as much as I can from my hugely experienced distilling colleagues at G&J Distillers, making sure we maintain G&J Distillers’ reputation for outstanding quality and innovation at speed across both our premium brands portfolio and our commercial brands.