Job profile: Category marketing controller

Job Title

Category Marketing Controller


Jane McCarthy


Hazlewood Foods

Professional Qualification(s):

HND Home Economics 2 A Levels 8 O Levels

Degree studied at North London Polytechnic

Brief job description

I provide the business and its customers with category specific market information and make recommendations for strategic and tactical activities to develop their business in that category .

My career so far…

  • I spent 4 years working in Product development roles with Geest prior to moving to National account management in their Foodservice business.
  • I took 2 years out in my mid 20’s to go travelling and worked for a while in the food industry in Australia.
  • On my return , I joined McVites prepared Foods (Part of U.B) as a National account manager looking after M & S and then Hazlewoods , where I have been for the past 4 years , initially in
  • National Accounts and more recently, Marketing.

What does your job involve in a typical day?

I think anyone who works in the food industry would say the same thing, there is never a typical day .

Our team have a variety of responsibilities and as such I could be doing any of the following :

Customer presentations

We regularly hold category reviews with our customers looking at market trends , consumer trends , food trends and the implications for them with our recommendations for new products , promotions, merchandising and packaging. These often take place at the factory if it is a major review and take a lot of time to pull together . It is not one departments responsibility but a team exercise with involvement from Sales , Development , Marketing and Production if there is a site tour etc.
We have planning meetings and dummy runs for major presentations and may need time to develop new products and packaging concepts to show the customer based on what the market data reveals is happening in the category both within and outside that retailer.

Market reporting

We report to both our internal and external teams on market trends and activity. These include market growth and retailer shares , new product activity and price / promotional moves and the effect they are having on the category. This information is used to plan for the businesses future : for example do we have enough manufacturing capacity for the growth predicted in the future , do we have the right equipment to follow the trends in the category.

We report on a weekly , fortnightly , monthly , quarterly and annual basis depending on what we are looking at and how often the data changes. Eg : Price audits are done weekly but consumer trends are only reviewed annually as they do not change as quickly. Gathering and checking information is done by the marketing assistant but I will have a look at the information we issue and am heavily involved in the commentary we add to the data that we issue. We call it the “so what” factor : a report has no value if it leaves the reader saying so what. We need to offer insight into why the information is as it is and what the implications are . For example is we see that a particular retailer has shown very strong volume growth over time but lower value growth , our teams want to know why, whether this is a good or bad thing, is it likely to change and could look at using similar tactics with another retailer , it is our job to offer some of these suggestions.


We work with our internal PR team to ensure that we are represented in both Trade and local press. This can be anything from a major category article in the Grocer to local articles about a new factory opening. We also liase with our retail partners to issue joint releases where appropriate (most of our products are retail own label rather than brand so new product information needs the retailers approval prior to release.

Innovation workshops & Brainstorming sessions

The marketing and product development teams work closely to ensure we are proactive in developing new concepts in line with emerging trends. This may take the form of team innovation sessions either with or without key customers or “training days” where we invite a food expert to come and teach us about a particular food type or trend. These take a lot of organising with meetings with the expert and a clear written brief to make sure that we get the most value from these sessions.

Consumer research

We conduct regular research with consumers to ensure we understand how their views of the category may be changing over time and also to test new product concepts. We have a bank of agencies we have used for different types of research and we again need to work with them to develop a clear brief and then interpret the findings in terms of where this means we should be going as a business. If we see a particular trend emerging we may brief development to come up with some new concepts for products and packaging based on this trend. We can then put these concepts into research to see how well they perform with consumers prior to fine turning them and presenting a more finished concept to the retailers.

So I suppose a typical day could involve a meeting , numerous phone calls and emails and reading and writing reports!

What do you like most about your job?

Strategic focus , finding our about consumers and Team work.

The fact that we are looking at trends and what they mean to the future of the category. It is a crucial business development role and we help the commercial and development teams develop the business they have with specific customers as well as the wider business forecast where the category is going and what this means to Hazlewoods.

We also look at wider food trends , for example the growth in organic food and its implications , and demographic / lifestyle changes and their effect on the way we eat .

What skills are required in your job?

  • Strong communication and presentation skills
  • Numerate and analytical
  • People management skills

How many people work for you?

Three, a category manager , product manager and assistant.

What is your advice for people looking for a career in the food and grocery industry?

There are a wide variety of jobs within the food industry , from suppliers to retailers as well as magazines , research organisations etc. The list is endless.

Because of this you have the opportunity for a rewarding career with plenty of potential to diversify and learn new skills.

I have stayed on the manufacturing side of the business but moved from NPD through sales to marketing so have never felt type cast or that I had nowhere else to go.

The food industry is very dynamic so there will always be demand for good people.