NPD – The Next Generation
By Benna Davis, SK Chilled Foods Head of Development
What ambitions do today’s food and nutrition students have for their futures? Where do they see themselves working? Do they know all the options open to them?
They may be considering a career in dietetics or thinking about becoming a nutritionist perhaps. What might have not occurred to them is to consider New Product Development or NPD within the food industry as a career move.
So, if that is the case, where will we find the next generation of new product development team members? How can we let them know what a great choice NPD can be?
When I was setting out in my career, doing a food and nutrition degree, I planned to do a post-graduate in dietetics. There’s limited modules on NPD as part of the degree courses and myself, and others like me, don’t hear much about it as a career option.
At SK Chilled Foods we’ve always got one eye on the future and regularly bring graduates into our team. It’s important to nurture the next generation of NPD managers.
We think it’s important that students not just know that NPD is a career option out there, but that they have a full understanding of what it entails – warts and all! That way they won’t be disillusioned by the challenges of the role and can also understand the huge rewards it can bring too.
Myself and the members of the NPD team have been visiting food and nutrition students in universities across the North of England, speaking with them about what we do at SK Chilled Foods (and taking them samples of our lovely products, that always goes down well!) as well as explaining what we do as an NPD team.
We think it’s important that they understand there’s long hours that go into NPD, early starts and disappointments – not every great idea you have will make it onto a shelf for example.
However, we always balance it with the great rewards – there’s opportunities to be creative and work as part of a team, chances to travel and of course, that unbeatable feeling when you see someone choosing your product from a supermarket shelf and thinking: “I developed that!” (Note: It can make you a bit of a supermarket stalker though…you have to be careful watching what people are choosing….)
It’s also great when you see something you’ve worked on in a Christmas advertisement or in a newspaper or magazine.
We believe that being honest will help students make informed choices and that can help reduce the number of people who may leave the profession because they had a certain vision of what it would be like in their head.
The people who aren’t daunted and have the resilient personality that’s needed in NPD can certainly succeed – but giving them a clear picture in advance of them taking the first steps in their career can help them make the best choice for them.
We’re continuing our “tour” of universities over the coming months – if you have students who you think might want to learn more about NPD, let us know!