Squeaky Bean’s Assistant Brand Manager Grace Thompson recently caught up with The Grocer as part of its My Food & Drink series, which spotlights talented under 30s in the UK food and drink industry. Grace talks about her passion for food, her breakthrough into the industry, and what it takes to be a Brand Manager at one of the fastest growing plant-based brands. Read the full interview here…
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I’m a big foodie and I believe that food isn’t just about providing your body with nutrients and energy. It plays such an important role in our wellbeing and social connections, as well as providing us with new experiences. The idea of launching new products into the market and introducing consumers to new flavours and foods really excites me. When the opportunity of working for The Compleat Food Group came up, where I could help deliver products that I already love, as well as launching new innovative products into market, I was over the moon.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): My role is incredibly fast-paced and varied, so I’m always on my toes. I help to develop and execute marketing communications, artwork management and the brand strategy of Squeaky Bean. Essentially, my role is to be a guardian of the brand. All of this contributes to the rapid and sustainable growth of both Squeaky Bean and the broader development of The Compleat Food Group.
What does a typical day look like for you? As an assistant brand manager of one of the fastest-growing brands in the plant-based category, I spend a lot of time working with our fantastic NPD team. Squeaky Bean has a really vocal and supportive fanbase of influencers and consumers, which our NPD team are always creating new products for, so I spend a lot of time leading on product development and executing the artwork process. The rest of my time is spent on marketing, communications and making sure that our brand stays consistent across its messaging.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job: I went through a two-stage interview process. The first round was an online interview that focused on my previous experience in the fmcg industry. When I was invited back for the second stage, I was asked to present a complete marketing activity for one of The Compleat Food Group brands in front of the heads of the marketing department. I wasn’t just pitching for the job but also the specific brand I wanted to work on, so it was really nerve-racking. However, it was worth it to get hired to work on an up-and-coming challenger brand in the plant-based market.
What’s the best part about working for a food company? One of the best parts about working in the food industry has to be the people and community. I get to work with chefs to help create innovative products, and there’s a whole host of people contributing to developing these new flavours and experiences. It’s a really creative industry that is constantly evolving and looking for new ways to innovate, so there’s always opportunities for creativity and exploration. I’m lucky that I get to work with everyone, from chefs to artists. It’s always great to see a product launch to market and know all the teamwork, care and collaboration that’s gone into it.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food and drink? I think so many people underestimate the variety of roles and the number of opportunities that are available in the food and drink industry. You don’t necessarily need to be a chef or have a professional or academic background in food science. I came into the food and drink industry with BSC in Psychology: it just goes to show that there are so many transferrable skills and routes in.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food and drink industry? Start gaining some experience as soon as you can. Whether it’s paid or unpaid, internships and placements are amazing ways to gain experience. They also help give you a broader perspective of what kind of roles are out there, which can help you find your own career path. This is what really helped me get on the career ladder.
What’s your ultimate career dream? Ultimately, I want to provide value to people’s lives, whether that’s through creating my own business or supporting someone else’s. At the moment, I’m focusing on further developing my knowledge and skills in marketing, brand curation and creation whilst putting consumers at the heart of my work. I’m excited to see what I can make happen in the food and drink industry and enjoy the journey along the way.