The food and drink industry is a fun place to build your career and if you work hard you can progress very quickly. There are a variety of opportunities – you could become a food scientist or engineer, or use your marketing skills to promote the high-quality food and drink Scotland has to offer, or you could even set up your own business!
It is important to recognise the young talented people that are working in food and drink – contributing to the future success of the industry. FDF Scotland sponsored the Young Talent Award at Scotland Food & Drink’s Excellence Awards in partnership with Skills Development Scotland.
The standard of applications for this award were extremely high this year and the judges found it very difficult to pick the three finalists and the winner, who was announced as Jordan Russell from Aldomak on 23 May at the awards ceremony. I want to take this chance to talk about the finalists who are all excellent role models for those considering a career in food and drink.
Ellie Louise Sinclair is the owner/director of VegCo, who grow tomatoes and chillies through renewable energy. VegCo sell their produce to local restaurants and hotels all year round and make a range of jams and sauces which are sold by a variety of retailers.
Ellie is responsible for all the business activities, from the production and packaging of the products to the direct sales and retail. She is the delivery driver, the marketing guru, the product development officer, the sales representative and the face of the entire business.
Ellie has worked in a range of different sectors within the industry, from behind the scenes in a kitchen to out front in customer service as well as working within a farm shop and deli.
The biggest thing that has helped Ellie is self-belief. She says: “You can’t make a customer believe in your business and your product if you don’t believe in it yourself.” She gained confidence when she saw customers enjoying her products.
Jordan Russell is operations manager at Aldomak, who are a small family-owned confectionary business founded in 1932. Jordan was recently promoted to operations manager and is responsible for the sales growth of the company’s network of hospitality, retail and wholesale customers. On top of that he manages the logistics at the site including storing stock, rotation, ordering stock and ensuring the team is fully trained in health and safety.
Jordan’s keen eye for detail and numbers have helped him in his role. He has been rewarded with a great deal of responsibility. Jordan’s people skills help, too, and his customers are often surprised about how reliable he is, given his age. He says: “More suppliers need to be more confident in bringing in young talent and integrating them into their businesses.”
Jordan thinks that putting more young people through apprenticeships will help secure them a bright future in the industry. He is keen to promote apprenticeships to schools and colleges and help get more food and drink companies on board.
Calum Bennett graduated last year from Heriot Watt University with a post-graduate degree in brewing and distilling. Upon graduating he started his position as the head brewer at Loomshed Hebridean Brewery.
Calum is responsible for the creation of beer recipes and the development of products. Currently, the company has two core beers, which are in the final stages of recipe development.
In addition, he is working with consultants and manufacturers to install a brewery on their site in time to launch the beers this summer.
Calum’s people skills help him greatly in his role; he says that is essential for acting as a representative alongside the passion he has for what he does.
Calum believes there are so many opportunities and support to help young people to set up their own food and drink business.
He says: “If you are struggling, reach out to the food and drink industry, there is support available and you may be surprised to find what a valuable asset you are to the sector.”
From the interviews there were two common themes from our finalists. Ellie, Jordan and Calum highlighted how supportive other food and drink companies are to each other and the importance of collaboration.
And they all said they are passionate to spread the word that food and drink provides a variety of exciting careers. But they need your help! If you want to help us inspire the next generation to consider a career in the industry – get in touch.
Kirsty Ritchie, communications executive, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland