HOT CROSS BUNS, INSPIRED BY OUR CUSTOMERS
Easter wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns on the table. And this is where Mehdi comes into his own – he’s the Food Technologist responsible for our Bakery category. As he explains, his challenge is to bring a new twist to an old favourite:
“A hot cross bun is a quintessential British product. We all know what it should be: a soft, moist bun bursting with great fruits or inclusions, a superb glaze and shape, and of course a perfect crossing. But we’re M&S, so we’re always looking to tempt our customers with something new.”
Months of hard work have gone into creating this year’s hot cross bun range and the journey starts with our customers. “We identified which flavours might go down well with customers, but we had to be sure. So we asked them directly in stores, through surveys and in focus groups,” says Mehdi. “You can’t build a great food range without being crystal clear about what your customers want.”
And when we decided on the flavours, it was full-on into production. “We worked very closely with our supplier partners to reflect our customers’ preferences. It’s about being innovative while being mindful of tradition, and customers love the newness of our offering. Sales of our Blueberry buns and Kentish Bramley Apple buns are running neck and neck, while customers who longed for a confectionery option have really bought into our Salted Caramel & Chocolate bun. I’m one of them – I could eat a whole pack in one go!”
Working towards an event like Easter is nothing new for Mehdi. Brought up in France, he came to the UK immediately after graduation, before joining M&S as a Chilled Desserts Technologist in 2013 and taking responsibility for category events like Christmas, Pancake Day and Valentine’s Day.
Mehdi moved to Bakery in 2017, where he is a Food Technologist. So what does he like about M&S?“Where do I start? M&S is a fantastic brand that I’m proud to represent. I get to work on innovative projects which means I’m always learning something new, which suits my geekiness and is important in helping me maintain my Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) accreditation. And I get to spend time in supplier factories and bakeries – it always amazes me how complex facilities operate to deliver safe, high-quality food, day after day.”
Mehdi also mentions the team spirit and how everyone has gone the extra mile to support him. “Go and meet your colleagues, in and out of your function. It’s the best way to learn about M&S and build your network,” is his advice for new joiners.
Mehdi’s proudest moment at M&S is beating thousands of entries to win The Grocer Food & Drink Award 2017 with the amazing Dessert Menu 2 Melting Chocolate Domes, and he helped raise £3,000 for charity with three colleagues through crowdfunding. So does he step away from food in his spare time?
“I’m a foodie who loves to travel and eat in new places. I’m the annoying guy who takes a snap of his food and posts it on Instagram before eating it. It really winds up my fiancée!” he laughs.Inside M&S
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