What it's like to work as a food buyer

What it's like to work as a food buyer

Image courtesy of Booths Supermarket

What type of shopper are you? Do you dash into the supermarket a few minutes before they shut with a scribbled list of staples? Or is food shopping one of your favourite pastimes? If you’re the latter, you’ll probably notice, and likely try out, the new products that line the shelves each time you do the weekly shop. Ever thought about whose job it was to decide what these products should be? Emily Burr is one such person working behind the scenes in food retail. As a buyer for Booths Supermarket she belongs to the powerful few who decide what should be on the nation’s dinner tables.

Emily - food buyerAfter gaining her degree in Food Design and Technology at LJMU and working as an assistant for Booths, Emily is now a trainee buyer for the company. Emily is responsible for buying home baking, ambient desserts (those that can be stored at room temperature) and the dried fruit, nuts and seeds that you see on the shelves of the shop.

So how does she decide what products to buy?

“A big part of deciding what products to buy is looking at market trends; seeing what competitors are doing and visiting trade shows. I also look at sales and analyse them to see what works well for us. Once we find a new product we try it and then it comes down to cost negotiations. It is a really exciting part of my role.”

Emily gets a lot of job satisfaction from seeing the products she’s chosen on the shelves and achieving increased sales as a result of her work.

“It really is very satisfying to know that I am making a positive difference and being able to offer customers products that they love!”

Emily credits LJMU with providing the practical experience that helped her prepare for her role. While on her course she was given the opportunity to work with big names in food retail. She did a placement at Lakeland Ltd, helped to develop a range of accompaniments for cheese with the Liverpool Cheese Company and tested Meyer Prestige’s baking and cooking equipment.

“My time at LJMU taught me a lot; being surrounded by food and talking about it constantly definitely helped me with my job! As well as that, working alongside businesses gave me the confidence to know how to communicate with external suppliers. The new product development element of the course also helped me to spot market trends which is a key part of my role as a buyer.”

Emily’s placement at Booths was pivotal to her landing a job at the company. The buying manager of the firm asked her to apply for the role of assistant. Emily says if she hadn’t taken part in the placement she wouldn’t be in her role today. She remembers her placement:

“I was given my own tasks to do and was able to attend trade shows, visit suppliers, attend meetings and be involved in product selection too. I learnt so much over the four weeks and knew without a doubt that buying was what I wanted to do! Everyone at Booths was so friendly and that really helped me settle in. I would without doubt recommend doing a placement!”

And now let’s talk about food…

What is your favourite food?

Without a doubt steak cooked medium, homemade chips, onion rings, vegetables and peppercorn sauce! And for dessert it would have to be crème brulee! The perfect meal! My favourite thing to cook; I am actually more of a home baker – I enjoy making any kind of cake but my favourite is chocolate brownies with homemade chocolate sauce.

Do you have a favourite independent food shop?

Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton is amazing, the way they display their produce is so creative. The food is also amazing! Well worth a visit.

Do you enjoy supermarket shopping, perhaps more than most?

It depends…I think I enjoy it more than most however sometimes the last place I want to be is a supermarket after a long week at work! But yes most of the time I do enjoy my visit to the supermarket, especially Booths which is where I do all my shopping. Once you have worked in food retail a visit to the supermarket is never the same again; I am constantly checking the shelves for my products and if I ever go to a competitors I am constantly on the lookout for products or the way that they are displaying the items – it normally takes longer than it should!

What country has the best food?

When it comes to food I honestly will try anything, I enjoy food from all over the world; however if I had to pick one it would definitely be English – my mum’s homemade cooking is right up there and is hard to beat!

If you fancy working in food retail or the many other opportunities that a food-related degree can open up, take a look at our courses.


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