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Food industry has ‘all the ingredients’ of a fantastic career choice

A SPECIAL event aimed at turning heads towards the food industry has been declared a success, as plans are drawn up to roll it around the regions.

Food industry has ‘all the ingredients’ of a fantastic career choice

Seafish and Grimsby Institute brought sector specialists, demonstrations and workshops together, inviting hundreds of students to sample what was on offer.

Chief scientific officer at the Food and Drink Federation, Helen Munday, was the keynote speaker, joined by Grimsby's Richard Askam, a personalisation and branding specialist.

Both worked on different elements of Coca-Cola's Share a Coke campaign, but had never met.

Mrs Munday said: "It is a very sophisticated, very large sector, and one that you can really thrive in. Who doesn't have an interest in food and drink? If you go to a dinner party your whole conversation for the evening is completely mapped out!"

Hearing of the Maillard reaction at a young age – the browned food flavour change most commonly found with toast – her path was set. "This inspired me to investigate a career in food and nutrition," she said, completing A-levels in biology, chemistry and physics. She went on to Leeds University to read Agricultural Science, following with a Masters in Meat Science in Nottingham.

Her first job was in the pet industry with Pedigree, adding mega 'human' brands Mars and Coca-Cola prior to her current role.

"There are so many different areas, and they are often hi-tech, with process technology," she said. "Building a big modern food factory is a huge undertaking, and they are very sophisticated – as sophisticated as an oil refinery. The industry goes from something huge like that to microbiology in a single laboratory, understanding the bugs that can grow in food when not stored properly."

Mrs Munday said because of the interest and impact on everyone, it was a consistently topical too.

"There is a big debate still about food waste, there is the whole packaging side – something people don't see as integral to the industry, but very little is sold without, whether it helps portion control, or delivers brand and nutritional information.

"The packaging is incredibly important, especially to aid the stabilisation, and the avoidance of waste and sustainability agenda is a massive one."

Gary Hooper at the Future of Food event at Grimsby Institute. He is immediate past president of the National Federation of Fishmongers, who has previously delivered courses in Grimsby for Tesco fishmongers, and played a key role in the British Fish Craft Championships in Cleethorpes. He gave a filleting masterclass at the event.

She touched on the rise of functional ingredients, such as probiotics, and the work on security.

"We need to always understand the supply chain," Mrs Munday said. "We know there have been incidents in the food sector, the horse meat incident was all about understanding the supply chain as producers we need to understand exactly where ingredients are coming from and that they are authentic.

"There is also a lot of work about calorie intake, sugar and trans-fats, and the UK has led on many of these issues."

Of the £81.8 billion turnover industry, with 400,000 people directly employed, and "growing all the time," she added: "This is a really great place to have a career, the future is very bright for the industry and for those who work in it."

Organiser Julie Snowden, English account manager for Seafish, said: "I was very pleased with the event, it was great working with the Grimsby Institute and we have received lots of good feedback from industry, students, exhibitors and the schools. We hope it will be an annual event and Seafish will roll out to other regions."

Mathew Thompson, senior food consultant at Grimsby Institute, had welcomed guests to the key note speaker element of the day-long event.

He said: “The food sector can open new doors, there are lots of opportunities to progress and everyone needs food.

“My first job was working in a food factory for summer work, and that taught me what I wanted to be.”

Mr Thompson told how the industry had taken him around the world.

“It is not just about working on a line, it is about marketing, business, IT. It is not just a factory or a restaurant, it is so much more wider than that.

“There are lots of great companies in Grimsby to work for and work with. Not just in the factory, in the supply chain, in HR, in creative. There are 100,000 people who work in the food sector in Lincolnshire and the Humber, in related roles, it is massive, with a lot of opportunity.”

For Mr Askam it was a return to his old stomping ground. “I was a pupil here 34 years ago. It is ironic, as teachers would then say ‘Richard if you could just stop talking and entertaining the class you could learn something,’ and now I’ve been asked to stand up and entertain the class!”

Explaining how he was from a family of “alcoholists,” his father having worked for Hewitt’s then set up the town’s first independent off licences, and he having gone on to deal in wine for the public and trade, he move on to gifting and personalistion, paying far more attention to what was on the outside for the likes of Coca-Cola and Jaffa Cakes campaigns.

“Packaging is one of the most important areas. It is the ‘pretty,’ the message, the bit that conveys its personality to you,” he said.

Mr Askam now shares his knowledge of consumer behaviour, branding and the like on the international stage.

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