Senior Product Developer, Food on the Move
“There isn’t a specific university course for what I do, so I hadn’t realised the job of developing food products actually existed. I’d been indulging my passion for food through some culinary evening courses while I was working for a printer. Luckily, through this role, I came into contact with the food teams at M&S and this is how I made my discovery. I applied and the rest is history.
“My current role focuses on Food on the Move. But I’ve worked in many areas across the Food group which has given my job the variety it needs to keep it interesting. Essentially, it involves working in a team with a buyer and a technologist; it’s my job to keep up with food trends and identify and develop new product concepts with our suppliers.
“We were the first retailer to bring the Turkey Feast sandwich to the High Street – all the flavours of a Christmas dinner between two slices of bread. Of course, lots of retailers sell one now – so I need to make sure that every year we keep ours ahead of the competition, in terms of quality and content. This year we added crispy onions for a savoury note. We also marinate the turkey in stock before cooking to ensure fabulous flavour and succulence.
“The planning for this actually starts about a year in advance. We make sure we know exactly what’s happening in the supermarkets and the independents. We analyse our sales to decide which lines we will bring back and we think about new ideas while the inspiration of Christmas is all around us.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see our new ranges hit the shelves. They start as a concept in the kitchen. So finally seeing them all packaged up and ready for sale gives me a great buzz. I think what makes our sandwiches so popular is a combination of the quality and the attention to detail we put in. We hope our customers have the same consistent experience every time they try our Christmas range – we put a great deal of time, effort and thought into making every moment special for them.
“It’s my job to ensure the Christmas sandwich is popular. This means coming up with something new and special every year – as well as ensuring that our other festive favourites are as good as ever. It’s particularly rewarding because we give 5% of sales of the Christmas range to SHELTER, the homeless charity. It’s always a special time of year too, with lots of anticipation to see what’s selling well and getting feedback from our customers.
“It’s a long time ago now since I started in product development so I’m not sure I really knew what to expect other than the opportunity to work with food. In this respect, I’d say it’s surpassed my expectations because no day is ever the same and it never gets boring. I’ve been given ever-more challenging roles and lots of variety. Food on the Move is just the latest in a long list of areas I’ve touched on from chilled desserts and global meals to Christmas cakes, puddings and pies.
“I count myself fortunate to work in an environment full of lots of passionate people where there is always something new to learn. I’ve made the most of it by being enthusiastic, adaptable and flexible. It helps too if you have a thirst for knowledge."