Name: Sophie Hall

Age: 24

Job title: Operations and product executive

Company & location: Spoon Cereals UK Ltd, London

Education: Northumbria University Newcastle, Food Science and Nutrition BSc (Hons)

Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I have always absolutely loved food! I was always interested by new foods and how food behaved when cooked. I didn’t know about food science as a subject growing up, but when I was doing my science A-levels and was looking for a university course, I discovered food science & nutrition and just knew it would be an amazing experience. This was further confirmed by my placement at Greencore when I discovered just how many steps it takes to get a product on shelf. I knew a career in food would be something I’d love as well as have so many opportunities in so many areas.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): Looking after all things operations & product (including new development), then getting stuck into all other exciting things going on in Spoon each day!

What does a typical day look like for you? I don’t think I’ve ever had two days the same! That is why I love working for a business with a small team, I love getting stuck into different areas. Some days I’m focusing on putting orders through, sorting logistics issues, streamlining processes and doing any finance/invoicing from the previous week. Then other days I put my product hat on and do some market research or new product development work. I have even learnt how to code some of the website!

Tell us how you went about applying for your job. There were two stages. First was an interview with Jonny (one of the two amazing co-founders) where I found out about the job and the company, and he set me some tasks to be completed in the next stage. The next stage was split into two: an operations task and a new product development task for me to present. The operations task was all about warehousing, forecasting and stock management, so I did an Excel spreadsheet with graphs to show the stock over time and considered any issues.The new product development task was to come up with something new to fit alongside their current range. I decided to make an on-the-go snack pack. I melted white chocolate over some corn crackers and sprinkled Spoon’s Cinnamon & Pecan granola on top. I even drew and hand-made some Spoon-style recycled packaging for it! I presented my packaged and edible prototype over Zoom, and luckily they loved it!

“Smaller companies are so exciting to work for because you can get stuck into many areas of the business”

What’s the best part about working for a food company? Thinking about food every day and it being my job! I love when I taste all the samples (for quality purposes, of course) and when we are working on new product development. Also, when a product you have worked on closely finally hits the shelves for many people to enjoy – iIt gives everyone in the team a real sense of satisfaction and positivity. This happened very recently at Spoon, and it’s so rewarding to be able to work as a small team to achieve big things.

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? That people who work in the food & drink industry have to be able to cook well and eat healthily all the time. I might love cooking but I’m certainly not a chef! Another misconception is how easy people think it is to get your items into customers’ weekly shops. The amount of complexity and the incredible amount of hard work from so many people that goes into getting a product on shelf!

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? If you are thinking about it, go for it. It’s an amazing industry that’s full of fabulous people and so many different opportunities. There are always new foods emerging and new research on different areas. If you like sustainability, packaging, food development, operations, finance, new product development, customer happiness, HR, marketing, sales – I’ve probably missed some there, but you get the idea – there is something for everyone in the food & drink industry.

However, think about what type of company you want to work for – at university a lot of us started thinking we would want to be in multinational companies, but after my first job, I realised that wouldn’t suit me where I am now in my career. Smaller companies have so much to offer and are so exciting to work for because you can get stuck into many areas of the business. This gives you the opportunity to pick which area you want to specialise in and build your career from something you have had experience in, and something that makes you bounce out of bed in the morning!

What’s your ultimate career dream? My mini-dream now is to look after a team of amazing people to learn new things together and bring to market lots more fantastic products that make people happy (positive for people and the planet). I am so lucky in my role to get to work alongside Jonny and Annie, to be inspired each day with different areas of the business – you never know, in the future I might even have my own food company!

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