Benna Davis – SK people
If she was a Star Wars character, Benna Davis would be Yoda.
That’s because she admits she talks so fast that her words can sometimes come out sounding like Yoda, but also because her role is so busy she feels she needs to use Jedi mind tricks to get everything done.
Benna is our Head of Development, which ultimately means she is responsible for all the amazing food which comes out of the SK kitchen and finds its way onto supermarket shelves.
Managing a team of 14, which includes the SK development chefs and the New Product Development (NPD) teams, Benna needs to ensure that the business continues to move forward, with innovation and quality being her main bywords of success.
“It’s a relentless role which never stops and that’s why I end up talking at 100 miles per hour and speaking like Yoda,” she jokes.
“Luckily, I have worked with my NPD managers for long enough that they understand me even when I start to say ‘taste new food we must’.”
Taste is an essential part of Benna’s role. In a typical year, the SK chefs will come up with around 900 different recipes, all of which must be tried before there is even talk of them leaving the kitchen.
Benna says: “It’s a lot of food and when you consider that around 100 of the recipes will eventually find their way onto supermarket shelves, you can see the huge amount of work that goes into planning new lines.
“We taste food pretty much every day and we are like wine tasters in that a lot of the time we will chew to get the taste and then spit it out.
“It may seem a bit wasteful but if we were to swallow all the food we tasted, we wouldn’t be in the best of shape.
“The food is always very good and there are times you cannot help to swallow it – that’s when the chefs know they have hit the brief.”
Most of Team Benna’s work is driven by research and statistics. The very clever number crunchers at SK are able to produce information on pretty much anything, so much so that if you told Benna what supermarket you shop at, she could probably tell you what food you are likely to buy from the chilled aisle and even how spicy you like it.
She adds: “It’s all very data-led. It’s essential we keep up with the latest trends so we can second guess what customers want, even if they may not know it themselves.
“Increasingly, as part of our innovative process we are having to look way into the future so it’s a case of getting the crystal ball out or, in my case, using Jedi mind tricks.”
Benna says one of the favourite parts of her job is presenting new products to customers.
She says: “We like to create some theatre when we present so when we are showing them our Christmas lines, for example, we dress the room with small Christmas trees, holly, and crackers.
“We even wear Christmas jumpers and as we present for Christmas in March, you can imagine this often results in us getting weird looks from members of the public when we are walking down the street.”