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

Loretta Hood

Loretta finished university in 2013 and joined Greencore as a Technical Graduate that same year.

What is your degree?
I graduated from Harper Adams University with a BSc Hons in Food and Consumer Studies.

When do you first become interested in Food Science?
I loved food tech at school and had a brilliant teacher (who had worked in industry). But it was seen as a vocational subject and I didn’t want to follow the route of being a chef. My GCSE and A levels included Food Technology however I really wanted to go into teaching so, when looking at degree options I was fairly fixed on taking an English degree.

Did you have a career goal in mind when you applied for University?
I’d been looking at the English courses but then, sitting down with my parents, I spotted some interesting food science degrees. I’d not been aware of these previously but, after finding out more, and with my parents’ encouragement, I applied.

In my first year I spent time over the summer with the Design & Technology Association (D&TA) on their intern programme. I returned to my old school which gave me great teaching experience and I was also able to share my knowledge of careers in food science and technology with both the teachers and students.

My degree also included a placement with a company specialising in exotic mushrooms. I really enjoyed the work in marketing and development and gained invaluable experience from my time there, however the company was a specialised business appealing to a specific market and I wanted to broaden my product knowledge and experience. I was still not certain which area of food I wanted to focus on but was drawn to the technical side. So, applying to a large company was an obvious way of exploring the technical routes I could potentially follow.

What made you apply to Greencore after graduation?
Greencore run a number of graduate programmes however they didn’t have any vacancies when I applied so I just submitted my CV (via their website) and hoped for the best. I was delighted when they contacted me almost immediately inviting me to an interview. And two weeks later I got the job!

What does your job involve? Is it fun, interesting?
I’m with Greencore (on their graduate scheme) for two years and, as a Group Technical Graduate, I work across many sites. Initially I worked with the Food to Go (sandwiches, prepared salads and sushi) division and am now in the Prepared Meals division. My programme is divided into four modules of six months each, this gives me a taste (no pun intended!) of each technical role.

So far I have worked in Quality Assurance (QA) which took me into our factories working alongside other QAs. I was also QA Supervisor for a while gave me useful experience. After that I moved to Process Technology – looking at process development, which involved taking the product from its prototype stage to making it large scale in the factory. This included trials and launches and working with the customer (the retailers). My third module involves me owning and developing a project for the benefit of the business and my final module focusses on Hygiene.
I learned new things all the time and there were always new technologies and new research that affected my everyday work and increased my knowledge. It also meant that even though I have completed my education, working for a food business is an education in itself.

What are your long term career plans?
I really enjoy the work and want to see how far I can go in a technical role. Chilled is fast-moving and there’s always something new to learn.

I had no idea about the opportunities there are in this industry. I really only became aware of them at university – which is almost too late!
I’ve also been involved in Chilled Education with the Chilled Food Association and am a Chilled STEM Ambassador. I’m really enjoying working with the students and teachers and it’s giving me an insight into teaching and education.

I still have a lot to learn about the industry and where my career within it might go. And fortunately the broad range of experience I am getting will mean I can keep my options open.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about Food Science as a career?
Be open minded! Ignore the misconceptions, I know from my own experience that following a science and technology route is interesting, ever-changing and doesn’t become boring and stale.

But find out for yourself too – ask questions. Go to careers fairs and open days, gather all the information you can and make an informed choice.
I am pleased I did. And my parents are proud of everything I’m achieving and glad they helped me find something I am passionate about.

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