Job Title
Category Planning ExecutiveName: Neil Finlayson

Company: Kraft Foods

Professional Qualification(s):
BA (Hons) International Marketing, International Business Diploma (Harvard University) 6 Scottish Highers, 9 GCSEs.

Degree studied at
Strathclyde UniversityBrief job description
It is my job to track the volume and spend from all the major multiples and make sure that the business plan we come up with at the beginning of the year is being implemented. We agree individual promotional programmes, volume and spend targets per customer with each customer manager. It is then up to Category Planning to make sure that the customer managers are delivering to the agreed plan. My job involves a lot of data analysis.

My career so far…
I joined Kraft on the Customer Marketing (Sales) Graduate Scheme in 1999. I spent the first four weeks working for the Asda team on a project, a business problem which I then had to present on. I then had six months in field sales in my own territory- Manchester and Liverpool. While in field sales I managed and called on all of our Cash and Carry and Wholesale accounts within the area where I managed local promotions. I also did merchandising in the major multiples in the area when required. After this assignment I moved on to being National Account Executive for Nisa Retail. I did a year effectively as a customer manager, so I was managing the volume, spend, merchandising, advertising within Nisa and had to implement my own business plan to grow both Kraft’s and the customers business. Then I moved on to Customer Planning, I’ve been here for approximately 10 months.

What does your job involve on a typical day?
On a Monday I am part of a team that checks if we’re going to hit our volume targets for the week. On a Monday morning we expect to have orders amounting to 50 percent of volume for the week. Tuesday is all about checking the spend, the money we have spent or the money we’re going to spend that week- are we going to spend what we thought? Was it forecast? The rest of the time I get involved in a lot of meetings with the brand marketing teams and manufacturing where we represent the sales department. We discuss implementation of new product launches, product redesigns, new flavours, brand extensions, on-pack promotions, the ongoing health/performance of the brands in the market place and market research findings on our products and the markets we operate in. These meetings provide us with influencing factors we need to continuously adapt and improve our category trading strategy which Category Planning are ultimately responsible for.

What skills are required in your job?
Data analysis and being able to make recommendations from complex data. Financial planning skills are also important. Common sense is a must! Customer Planning is the centre point for communication throughout the company, so you must have strong interpersonal skills to deal with people from different departments. We are responsible for filtering information down from different areas. For example, when finance want to know something from sales they come through us, there is only one point of contact.

What do you like most about your job?
Because I’m young it is the responsibility I have. I effectively have control of the category budget. I decide to a huge extent where that money is spent and with which customers. I also like the fact that my training allows me move between the departments so you get to know a lot of people internally and what different departments do.

What is your advice for people looking for a career in the food and grocery industry?
Try and make the most of the job you are in because before you know it you’ve moved job again. Try and get the knowledge, skills and the different types of behaviour you need from each job so you can become successful in a highly competitive and fast moving industry. Also, make sure you have fun!