Job Title
Junior Product ManagerName: Jo Wallace

Company: HP Foods Ltd (Danone Group)

Professional Qualification(s):
9 GCSE’s, 3 A levels, 2:1 Double Honours degree (Modern Languages & European Studies – French/German)

Brief job description.
I am a junior product manager on the ‘Amoy’ Chinese brand in Europe. My responsibility lies with the business development and subsequent marketing of the ‘Amoy’ Chinese range in the retail sectors of Benelux, France and Germany.My career so far…
Following my graduation in 1997, I began work as a European/UK customer service advisor for a non-food international manufacturer. This role was primarily a supply chain, customer focused position. Sixteen months later, in May 1999, I moved jobs to take up an FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) marketing role at HP Foods. Two promotions later I am very happy to be progressing in my chosen career here.

What does your job involve in a typical day? 
There is never a ‘typical day’ with my job, which is one of the reasons why my work is so enjoyable! A ‘typical month’ however encompasses a variety of tasks with the one key objective of maximising our European sales, and therefore meeting and surpassing our brand targets.

The approach to my role is very much determined by the individual markets. In the Benelux, an established market, my focus is primarily on pumping rates of sale via strategic promotional activity. Whether organising demonstrations or promoting special offers, a smooth and timely execution is required. In addition to physically rolling out the promotions it is my job as a marketeer to analyse the data collated during the tracking of the activity. Our next steps towards brand building will depend on the success of the recent promotional activity.

In France where ‘Amoy’ has just entered the market, my focus is primarily on expanding our current retail distribution. As well as executing the promotional plans, the preparation of strong sales presentations of the ‘Amoy’ offering is key to our listing success with retail.

On the Germany market our imminent launch requires a more business development approach. From sourcing the optimum distributor to ensuring the availability of product in the appropriate packaging, a strong sense of efficiency is required to ensure a timely and cost effective role out. As well as market-specific activity I am involved in projects common to all countries, namely NPD (new product development) and packaging design. Also I collate market data which to some extent enables me to measure the performance of our brand in the market place whilst analysing overall market trends.

On a day to day basis it is my responsibility to manage the European marketing budget, and month to month I co-ordinate the European marketing meeting. There are further meetings which take place once a month at our distributors in Holland and France. At these meetings we refer to our activity plans and forecasts to discuss or agree the next steps.

Finally much of my role involves close work with the business managers, external agencies and company team members and, due to the job focus on building the ‘Amoy’ brand in new markets, I think my project management based role is a clear marketing and business development mix.

What do like most about your job?
For my level I have a lot of responsibility which I appreciate. I am accountable for my decisions yet I enjoy working within a supportive team structure. Both teamwork and personal responsibility are very important to me. The variety in my job is also a plus, and whilst stressful at times I do enjoy the challenging aspects of my work. The international arena as a working environment and the opportunity to use my language skills daily are just two further reasons why I like my role.

What skills are required in your job?
Strong people skills are important as to achieve any of your marketing objectives you rely on the input or actions of others. Good priority management abilities are key to the successful completion of projects on time. A ‘can do’ attitude (and a lot of patience) is a pre-requisite to achieving results, and some general business acumen is a plus when it comes to making informed decisions in the marketing function.

How many people work for you?
None.

What is your advice to people looking for a career in the food and grocery industry?
As the food and grocery industry is so multifunctional I think there is probably a job to suit everyone, regardless of your degree discipline. As a graduate I would make use of the career libraries and publications available through your university. It is also worth visiting career fairs or company presentations to understand more about the industry profile and ask any questions. Once you know the area you wish to work in and the function which most appeals, it is a case of finding the right company for you. Finding the company which most suits your needs and personality is key to both your business success and personal happiness.