NADENE SIMPSON-STILL - PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT MANAGER FOX'S BISCUITS, PART OF NORTHERN FOOODS
“The fact that Fox’s product development is not in its own little silo, so you follow the product from concept to the supermarket shelf, makes the role both challenging and satisfying,” says Simpson-Still. “There’s a process development team working alongside us, but we’re involved all the way through.”
What makes it interesting is that there’s an overlap with finance, planning, category management (to identify gaps in the market), legal and technical roles, she says. The primary quality required for her role has to be a passion for food, which can’t be bought, says Simpson-Still. “Beyond that, you’ve got to be a good communicator. You’re working in teams drawn from all over the factory, and there may be external opportunities to present Fox’s products yourself.”
Deadlines are the greatest single challenge of the job, she says. “You might have to hit a specific retail window to get a listing, or else see it pushed back for months.” The current economic climate brings complications of its own, too. “We’re not prepared to compromise on quality, but at the same time, we’ve got pressure from ingredient and other price
Simpson-Still trained to be a chef, working with pastry in a London hotel, before deciding that patisserie was the area she was really interested in. She completed a further three-year diploma in bakery technology, and joined RHM as a development technologist. But she wanted to be involved in more final product development, so she joined Fox’s in the company’s development kitchen.
However, she acknowledges that not everybody follows her exact career path. “People also come into product development with food science, food technology or even food marketing degrees,” she says