Imaginative Teaching Resources & Inspirational Career Ideas from the Chilled Food Industry

Harnaak Purewal

Harnaak loved his placement and all the opportunities it opened up! His eyes are most definitely fixed on the future, both for himself and the companies he hopes to work for. He is passionate about New Product Development (NPD).

His placement with 2SFG and Amber Foods was part of his third year BSc in Food and Consumer at Harper Adams University in Shropshire.

What are you career aspirations?
I used this placement to help me build a career in the chilled food industry, specifically in the commercial sector.

Why did you chose 2SFG and Amber Foods for your placement?
Chilled is fast moving and constantly changing and 2SFG typifies this. So many new products come onstream every day and we have a product for every meal occasion.

I am impressed and inspired by the innovative approach of the company and the entrepreneurial spirit of its CEO. For me the job description for the placement looked just right. And it fulfilled all its promises.

What work are you involved in at Amber Foods?
I worked with the Commercial Team looking at product innovation, new products, analysing new markets and developing new ways to sell our many products. This is a very outward facing role with potential customers for us in South Africa, China, India and Eastern Europe. Sadly I didn’t get to travel much myself but my boss has just returned from China when I was there. That could be me one day! Following a colleague leaving I was given the opportunity to manage the residual section of the commercial team which involved selling the chilled and frozen products, managing stock, dealing with customers and arranging logistics.

My role meant working with colleagues from across the site including technical and finance. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

I was also lucky enough to work on a specific project (the production of a new chicken range) which involved liaison with teams across the site. So I learned by doing a job.

I was also tasked with producing an analysis of pricing. This was presented to the board of directors and the recommendations accepted. So I am immensely proud of that.

Together with fellow placement students I also worked on a technical project which we presented to senior staff – this helped me with my presentation skills.

How did you apply your course experience to your placement? 
I enjoyed using my knowledge in real life scenarios. For example in food marketing we covered topics such as strategy and planning in the food industry, the creation of customer value, product management tools and ‘adding value to a food product. In the research methods module, we covered how spreadsheets and databases can be used in a work environment. The daily job made the lectures really come to life. Other aspects of the course such as food hygiene and safety helped me to understand the technical aspects of the job.

Did the experience make you more or less keen to pursue a career in chilled food? 
Working at 2SFG gave me a greater understanding of chilled food and from visiting the various sites, the huge range of products available. I can now also relate the products to the customer and potential customer. I feel inspired by the opportunities.

My ‘A’ levels were Religious Education, Business and Geography so I am not coming from a science background, although I was originally keen to work in technical but the roles in commercial are much more relevant to me. And, as a colleague has commented to me ‘technical is here to support commercial’ – but of course we all have a role to play.

What were the best bits?
No two days were the same. Each brought its own challenges and tests – which I love! My manager was keen to develop me and I thrived in this environment. And as I’ve mentioned already I learned so much.

Plus there were unlimited supplies of biscuits from one of the other sites!

What are the less enjoyable elements (if any)?
The long hours! But this was mainly due to my commute. However, it’s prepared me for ‘real life’ after university and was part of the experience.

Any advice to others considering their placement options? 
Be prepared to ask questions and seek advice. Find out all you can about the company. Once you are in your placement use every opportunity to soak up the knowledge of the experts around you, they understand the business like no one else. Keep in contact with everyone and be pro-active in developing your skills. Really maximise the experience.

And finally – any advice to employers re how they work with their placement students?
Make sure your placement meets the key people face to face as early as possible. It’s a lot easier to work with people when you can put names to faces!

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