Helen Stevenson - Food Technology
The main myth I always hear when I say I'm a nutritionist is that you're automatically assumed to know how to cook - and to be a very good cook - which isn't always true. One of my main roles is to work with our Head of Nutritional Science and Health to implement a lot of the health and nutrition policies across the business. So this could be anything from the salt content in the food, communicate a five-a-day message, having a look at different ranges such as gluten-free, or our health and diet ranges. We create policy and guidance documents and work closely with teams, such as the technologists and the developers, to create products that are closely aligned to those policies.
The majority of our food has nutritional labeling on it, so we must first send it to another lab that will dissect all the food and analyse it, and find out how much protein is in it, fibre and carbohydrate. That is certainly an area you can go into from studying a food science or nutrition degree - that's the wearing white coats bit and being in a lab using lots of different equipment.
We also have a dedicated health website, which we manage and update regularly, and an 'Ask the Nutritionist' service where people email in and we reply with personalised answers. Then we do a lot of other things such as recipe analysis, or working with cafes and canteens in our restaurants to make sure we have a broad selection of different foods and recipes on offer.
There are so many different things you can get involved in, and at the end you can really feel that you've made a difference in helping people follow a healthier diet and an active lifestyle.
I probably split my time 70% office, and 30% travelling and going to external meetings. Once I am in the office, I work with lots of different individuals and departments in M&S - for instance, I work quite closely with Marketing and PR. All of the different categories they look after: meals, desserts, snacks. One of the frequent queries I get through the Ask a Nutritionist service is "How do I get onto the career ladder? I've finished Uni, I've done all my A-levels and an accredited course - how do get there?" I think it's really something that comes down to perseverance and experience. Just try to get any volunteering experience that will help you start in this career.
A good background in nutrition and food helps. Having a passion for food is essential, because you're working with food every day, or the subject, so that level of interest really helps. Also abilities such as multi-tasking, being efficient and good with people. Finally, working with new teams and also working on your own are keys skills that will take you a long way.