Name: Amy Harris
Internship title: Junior development technologist
Company & location: Higgidy in Shoreham-by-Sea
Education: Bath Spa University for human nutrition
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I have always been an absolute foodie – I learnt to cooked from scratch from a young age and my mum and grandparents always encouraged me to get involved in the kitchen. I excelled in food and nutrition in school and initially wanted to be a dietitian, however, I went on to do human nutrition at university and, in my third year, I discovered you could develop a passion for food into a job.
After graduating I completed a summer placement at Yeo Valley, where I found my absolute passion for new product development and the food industry! Food brings so much happiness to everyone and I struggle to believe someone would be against working in the food industry. Therefore, the position at Higgidy is ideal for me. I soon picked up the process of development as well as quickly relating what I had learnt at university and using that knowledge to fix problems or to think technically to find solutions.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): I research new flavours and trends, and identify gaps in the market. I then relate this to new product development and get creative in the kitchen. I make up concepts to present at weekly NPD meetings and when a product is liked, I oversee the process from kitchen concept to supermarket shelves. I need to cost the concept, run feasibility meetings and if successful, hand it over to the process team who scale up the recipe and run the product on a much larger scale. I work closely with process and assist trials where needed and with procurement, to brief new ingredients I want to use in development. I also work on the nutritional aspects of our range and identify ways in which we can make improvements. Due to nutrition being my background, I really enjoy this area and working on any way to make savoury pastry ‘better for you’.
What does a typical day look like for you? This is a hard question as my days vary so much! I probably spend 60% of my time in the kitchen and 40% in the office, but it really does vary week by week. Every week you have a solid plan of what you need to do on a Monday, however, due to the nature of NPD, this will always change when we get last-minute requests.
I usually start the day in the office, catch up on anything I need to, research trends and then head down to the kitchen to work on the most urgent development. It isn’t just about creating a delicious recipe but about making sure every product has its own Higgidy twist. I have days where I’m on my feet all day, then others where I need to get my head down and focus on projects which are office-based (costings, feasibilities, presentations, nutritionals, raw materials or quite often many recipes need a paper exercise first to technically work out what might be going wrong). We have multiple tasting sessions each week to try NPD, benchmark against competitors, or just try new and exciting flavour combinations. You never go hungry! Every now and then I get to visit suppliers to develop either a new ingredient we need, or to just see how their factory works and if we want to use them as a supplier. I always enjoy seeing how different products are created.
“Finally seeing a product you’ve developed on the shelves in the supermarket is a proud moment”
Tell us how you went about applying for your job: After realising I wanted to work in food development, I always had my eye on Higgidy as a company. It was during Covid when I noticed a job became available which had similarities to my work placement at Yeo Valley. It seemed too good to be true and I tried not to get my hopes up but, before I knew it, I had the job! First, I had a telephone interview which asked me general questions and detailed what the job consisted of, then for the second interview I was invited to the bakery. I had to make vegetable samosas out of the Higgidy founder’s cookbook. It was interesting – at the time I was living at my parents, and they were having their kitchen redone. They got the electrician to reconnect the hob for the evening and I had to borrow the neighbour’s masher to get the job done!
What’s the best part about working for a food company? Working so hard on a product, bringing it to life where feasible and benefiting the business’ growth. Finally seeing a product you’ve developed on the shelves in the supermarket is a proud moment, especially when you people-watch and see customers popping it into their basket.
There is never a boring day here at Higgidy when it comes to food, whether it’s tasting our products, exploring new concept ideas, or benchmarking against competitors in the category – there are always treats floating around the office. It’s also great to work with such an on-trend, top-quality brand that has a great reputation. People often say to me how much they love Higgidy and that makes me proud to work here. The brand also has purpose and wants to do good, not only when it comes to food but for communities and the planet too, which allows me to get involved with many things outside of my job role which align with my values, like charity days, fighting food waste and talking to children in school about nutrition.
I love that my days just fly by, and I am never counting the clock with my broad variety of hands-on kitchen work and office-based work. This also allows me to connect with many more people than the usual office worker.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? Food is so relatable to each of us and that makes my job easy to talk to people about, but I do believe people don’t really understand the processes involved in getting a product onto a supermarket shelf. People often ask if my job is just eating food, and although there is a lot of eating, it’s also a tricky process with so many variables which affect if a product can be taken to the next stage or not. Producing food on a larger scale is very different to cooking in the kitchen at home.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Take any opportunity for experience that you can! Even if you don’t think it is the right one, it will help you realise exactly what you enjoy and want to do. You will learn so much. Food is extremely subjective so never take people’s feedback to heart. I like to present concepts I’ve worked on as if they have been developed by someone else. Also, set up your LinkedIn nice and early and slowly build your connections with everyone you meet.
What’s your ultimate career dream? Ideally, I want to work my way up within the food NPD team. I want to continue to develop my technical knowledge and create new and exciting products for people to enjoy. I want to feel like I have an impact on the business and how we grow. And with my nutrition background, I would also like to continue having more time to research and mould our future nutritional plans. I’d also like to combine my love of food with my love for travel. I love trying different cuisines and local specialities from anywhere I go because this can then be applied to development work and ideas for now or the future.