16 February, 2018

Celebrating Chinese New Year with Sophia

Food is Sophia’s passion. She chose to indulge it at M&S because she’s always seen our food as the best quality and most exciting out there. This is the story of how she became one of our buyers and why Edamame Dim Sum is the best thing since sliced bread.

My current role as buyer for Pizza, Pasta, Chilled Breads and Snacking sits within the Global Meals team. But, to understand how I got there, it’s probably best we start from the beginning.

Originally, I’d gone to university to study Chemistry. It wasn’t really for me. I remember cheering myself after some long and pretty miserable stints in the laboratory by treating myself to a dinner of Moules Mariniere and skinny fries from the big M&S in Newcastle. Switching to Food Science and Nutrition was definitely the right thing to do. It’s led to me doing a job that I love.

My first year at M&S was spent on the Graduate Food Buying Programme in the Produce team, focusing on fruit. Coming straight from uni, I was a bit nervous and not too sure what to expect. I needn’t have worried. The teams I’ve worked with have been great and I’ve visited three countries in two years. My next move was to Global Meals and six months later, I was a fully fledged Food Buyer.

My team is close; I work with my Product Developer and Technologist and, together, we aim for innovative, good value products that hit the mark with customers. This means staying on top of trends and the market, as well as delivering our much-loved core favourites.

Authenticity matters. One of our pizza ranges uses a unique sourdough and Italian flour and is baked in a wood-fired oven for that unmistakable charring and flavour. While our fresh pasta ranges are all made in Verona by a manufacturer who shares our passion.

Chinese New Year is a busy and exciting time for our category. It’s a calendar event where our customers look to us for a meal solution – and we don’t disappoint. Careful planning and excellent supplier relationships means we can offer our banquet deal at £10 – which means we can compete with takeaway prices. We have some new launches too. For me, Edamame Dim Sum is the star, it stands out in the marketplace. Plus, it’s vegan.

Events and special occasions are huge trading opportunities for us. We always aim to deliver value and inspiration. It starts with our insight into what customers want. With this in place, we make sure our supplier can handle volume and logistics. It takes weeks for us to become aligned but we pride ourselves on getting everything right to the point.

This year, we’ve celebrated National Pizza Day with support from Social Media and 3-for-£10 promotions – and we’re busy working on offers for the World Cup and National Curry Week. One of the things I love about M&S is the integrity of process and product. It’s not an easy message to articulate to customers but it’s one of the reasons we’re so well loved – and trusted. Yes, we’re a business but it’s one that thrives on putting the customer at its heart. We ask ourselves what they would want – so, in a way, they always have the final say.

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