Jastine Wright

Jastine Wright

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

Oscar Mayer (Chard) is a food manufacturing company supplying prepared/ ready-made meals to Sainsbury’s. They supply 80% of the ready-meals currently available in Sainsbury’s. The company has 2 sister companies, one in Wrexham (Rowan Foods) and one in Kent (Ferndale Foods) which supply prepared foods to other supermarkets e.g. Aldi, Tesco, Morrisons, Coop, etc.

What is your role within the company?

I am quite fortunate in terms of being able to switch into whichever department I want to gain experience from as the company allows me to do so. Last year, I was part of the NPD (Concept Development) department and I had the opportunity to assist with two Sainsbury’s product range launches: Classics and Christmas. I am currently working in the Technical department assisting the Factory Compliance Manager with management of Allergens and Free-from products. I will join three more teams within the Technical Department until the end of my placement – namely Raw Materials, Factory Quality Assurance and the on-site Laboratory. Oscar Mayer has been incredibly supportive with my decision to experience two departments within the company which is helpful in giving me guidance to which path I see myself in the future. 

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

After joining the Technical Department in January, I have started working in one of the three teams I’ve been scheduled to join – Technical services. A typical day in the Technical Services team working with the Factory Compliance Manager involves doing cleaning validations (inc. swabbing cooking equipment, preparing these to be sent off to an external lab) and calculating amount of allergens in each ready-meals produced in the factory and any other tasks requested by my Manager. These are mostly done during the day. In the afternoon, I collect Free-from samples to be tested for presence of gluten, and milk allergens in an external lab.  

What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

I am currently working in the Technical department assisting the Factory Compliance Manager with management of Allergens and Free-from products. One of my projects was to determine whether residual cleaning chemicals affected rapid allergen test kits used to test for presence of gluten and milk. An effective clean down is needed after each component cook to ensure that no allergens are carried over or to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. I found this really interesting and details needed to be included in such reports, especially if they were to be reported to Sainsbury’s, needs to be carefully managed. I was also given full responsibility to conduct this research which is empowering but assistance is always within arm’s length if I needed it from my Manager. 

Last year, while in working in the Concept Development department, I had the opportunity to assist with two Sainsbury’s product range launches: Classics and Christmas. I was also able to visit Sainsbury’s headquarters in Holborn, London to support the setup of an internal consumer panel for two Sainsbury’s products, meant to be launched early 2018, against a competitor offering the same two product lines. It was really useful to see how the customers evaluated products and to recognise the obstacles many suppliers have to go through to deliver top customer service.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry? 

I saw it as a gateway to the Food Industry. I wanted to see what is in store, what routes are available for me after graduation and to make sure that it was what I want to do. So far, it has proven to be very beneficial and worthwhile. I also wanted to test the theory I have learned in university and see it in practice, for example, our NPD module helped me to fully appreciate the Stage-gate process while I was in the Concept Development department.

What do you think you have got out of this experience so far? 

There are a lot of things that I have learned since I started. I have learned how to communicate properly within a team to avoid misunderstanding, how to take responsibility for my own work, how to seek for help when I am not entirely sure about the task given to me, how to react especially during stressful situations, and how to be professional especially during work meetings and team briefings. I have also been given a lot of training including ILM Level 2 Award and Certificate in Leadership and Team Skills, Performance Management workshop, and Level 2 Award in Food Safety. These are all essential for my future in the food industry and I am entirely grateful to Oscar Mayer for all the learning opportunities they have given me.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

Don’t lose hope and don’t ever give up. I know how it feels to keep getting unsuccessful applications, trust me. But I kept on pursuing until I got my first choice and here I am now! Keep applying for placements or summer internships, they really do help you more than just gaining experience but also developing your personal skills.