Spotlight on the team

Teams share their experience and give the low-down on a typical day at Natures Way Foods

The New Product Development team

Tasting, testing and food safaris. Just some of the ways our New Product Development (NPD) team becomes inspired to create new ideas that delight our customers and consumers.

What we do

For the NPD team, understanding a fast changing market and the changing needs of consumers is always the starting point. 

Once we understand what consumers want, and what the opportunity might be, we get to work brainstorming new products and new packaging ideas.

From concept development in familiar categories to creating opportunities in brand new areas, it’s exciting work that is central to business growth.

Coming up with ideas

As a team, we use insights from the Category team plus information about contemporary food trends gathered from the food safaris and our external networks.

With these foundations in place, we can start thinking imaginatively about new products and packaging concepts. It’s a creative process, which we work on as a group, and individually, until we come up with a clutch of new ideas that we’re excited about. And like any creative process, it can take anything from a few days to a few months.

The next stage involves trials and consumer research. This helps us to hone some ideas and to discard others. Only then do we present new ideas to customers.

If we get a positive reaction, the NPD team then works with other teams across the business to deliver a finished product. This stage can take weeks or months depending on the customer, the complexity of the product and whether we are introducing a new process or ingredient to the business. As an example, our latest Food To Go range brought 32 new ingredients into the business.

Meeting customers’ needs

Everyone in the NPD team is focused on development for a specific customer. This means we can build a strong relationship with them, and gain a deep understanding of their range, their products and the needs of their consumers.

Working closely with our customers helps us to build a long-term development plan that in turn helps them to achieve their goals.

The team

There are three NPD Project Managers and a lead NPD Project Manager who heads up the team. Our Administrative Support Executive keeps everyone organised and our Commercial Support Executive costs concepts as we develop them.

Our skills and experience

We’re a well-qualified and experienced team; between us we have degrees in nutrition, chemistry, maths, accountancy and law. Some of the team have worked for other food manufacturers, some in unrelated fields and others have worked in different roles at Natures Way Foods before joining the NPD team.

What we all have in common is a passion for developing new concepts for our customers – and seeing them sell.

Our recent achievements

We’re really pleased with the success of the new Food To Go launch and our move into new ingredients such as grains, nuts and noodles.

What’s a typical day like?

Every day is different. That’s the beauty of working in the NPD team.

We might start with a meeting about a competitive set of products in the market; we taste them, pull them apart, look at the ingredients and work out the processes involved in making them. Then we would work out the target market for that product and the consumer insight that will bring it to life.

We might also hold a cross-functional meeting with all internal stakeholders to establish how to make a product and what we might need to do from an operational perspective. These meetings are critical to ensuring we engage everyone in new business at an early stage.

Some days we could be out at local food markets, or we might be researching consumers in London, Manchester or Leeds – observing how real people are shopping and consuming products.

Back in the office we could be analysing trends and ingredients, or we might be sitting behind glass in a consumer research facility listening to the reactions of consumers who are trying our latest concept products.

How does your team work with others?

The NPD team is at the hub of launching products. But to do our job we need support and insights from all the other areas of the business.

We need the supply chain team to source new raw materials and ensure we have a safe, secure supply base. We need the process team to help us understand what will work practically in the manufacturing unit. We need the manufacturing and technical teams to bring the products to life, and we need the sales team to sell the product.

Throughout the entire process, we work with our customers so that we develop products that align with their needs – and those of their consumers.

We also listen carefully to our customers’ feedback in order to understand which products genuinely fulfil a need and have the potential to sell strongly.

How would you sum up the team?

Passionate about food!

The Supplier Assurance team

Building and maintaining a strong, secure supply chain across the business.

What we do

We assure the quality of the raw materials we use from growers, suppliers and packaging companies.

We also manage our portfolio of ingredients and raw materials by working with the New Product Development (NPD) and Process teams to understand the end product. Then we work backwards to deliver the raw materials that are needed.

An example of this might be where a product is being developed that includes a sauce. We work with the NPD team to understand what the desired consumer experience is – is the sauce to be poured over fresh fruit or used as a dip, for example. We then work with our suppliers to ensure that they can meet the need– and that the resulting sauce is sustainable throughout the product’s life.

We work on material intake, i.e. ensuring that raw ingredients meet the specifications that were developed and agreed with the NPD and Technical teams.

We also work in a feedback loop so that if suppliers know that their product doesn’t meet our specification, they have the opportunity to work with us to improve it.

Team roles

The team includes Product Managers; they visit suppliers and growers, and work internally with NPD and the Technical team to understand product needs.

An Intake team works in the manufacturing unit to ensure that the raw ingredients being delivered meet our quality standards.

Team skills and experience

Some team members come from farming backgrounds, some have product-focussed knowledge and experience of ingredients, some have experience of food manufacturing and others have technical skills.

Our recent achievements

We’re very proud that we created a strong pipeline of ingredients for our potato salad and coleslaw launch in a very short time frame.

We’re also pleased that we have developed a strong and collaborative supply base that is supporting us on our journey.

A typical day

We are responsible for building and maintaining a sustainable supply chain across the business. It’s varied work that takes us far and wide. We regularly visit our growers and suppliers – anywhere from France to Brazil, Fife or Kent – to check product quality, and legal and technical compliance. And we use our on-the-ground expertise to build long-term, mutually sustainable supply chains.
The Product Management team could be out with a supplier talking about the quality forecast for raw materials such as lettuce or fruit. They might walk the fields with a grower or supplier and look at the material that is destined for Natures Way Foods to check its quality.
With another supplier the team could be looking at the quality of protein destined for one of our products, or building a raw material specification that meets our requirements – looking at everything from piece size to cut style, amount of chargrilling required or even the viscosity of a dressing or sauce.

In the office, the team works with the Technical and Development teams on concept products to understand their requirements, or at products in live production to see how the raw materials are performing during processing and shelf life.

All the information we glean is fed back to growers and suppliers so we can continually improve the quality of the products we make for our customers and end consumers.

How does your team work with others?

Internally, we work very closely with the Purchasing, Planning and Supply Chain Development teams, who together make up the rest of the Supply Chain unit, as well as with the Technical, Operations and NPD Teams.

How would you sum up the team?