My food & drink job: Dalehead Foods spec technologist Steph Holton

Steph Holton, specification technologist at Dalehead Foods

A teacher who used to work in the food industry opened Steph’s eyes to the career opportunities in food & drink.

Name: Steph Holton

Age: 25

Job title: Specification Technologist

Company: Dalehead Foods, Cambridgeshire

Education: BSc (Hons) Public Health Nutrition from Sheffield Hallam University

 

Why did you decide to go for a career in food?

My teacher used to work in the food industry and opened my eyes to the wide variety of jobs there were in food.

I was interested in food from a young age and would always love to help my mum in the kitchen when I was growing up, but I first realised about a career in food when I started studying food technology at secondary school. My teacher (her name was Miss Cooke!) used to work in the food industry and opened my eyes to the wide variety of jobs there were in food.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two):

It is my job to make sure that everything that is produced in our factories is accurately labelled and complies with regulations – all the way from the title and the ingredient list down to the health mark and the barcode.

Read more: Edinburgh student to become Sainsbury’s CEO for a day

What does a typical day look like for you?

The great thing about my role is that no day is the same – although my main focus is writing specifications, we are always working on new projects and sometimes I will find myself in the kitchen validating cooking instructions for the packaging or tasting the products to determine their quality attributes.

Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. What was the process like?

 I remember being asked in my interview what my weaknesses are, which is always hard to answer when you are trying to sell yourself

I received a message from a food industry recruiter on LinkedIn about the role and she sent over my CV and arranged the interview. The interview was an informal meeting with the HR and specifications manager, where they asked me about myself and my experience; then I was invited back a second time for a factory tour. I remember being asked in my interview what my weaknesses are, which is always hard to answer when you are trying to sell yourself!

What’s the best part about working for a food company?

The food industry is constantly changing so there is always new things to learn, new projects to work on and new trends to keep up with.

Read more: 10 food & drink entrepreneurs share their best career tips

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink?

That there are so many different avenues to go down within the food and drink industry. Not many people realise all the different departments that are involved in food production and I often get confused looks when I tell people what I do for a living.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry?

Where possible, always go on a factory tour!

Don’t worry if you aren’t 100% sure which role you want to do. A lot of food companies offer rotational roles where you spend a few months in different departments – this allows you not only to figure out what you enjoy the most but also gives you a better overview of company and its processes. Also, where possible, always go on a factory tour!

What’s your ultimate career dream?

I see myself staying in the food industry for a long time and continuing to learn and develop my knowledge of different food categories, but one day I would love to own my own small food company – perhaps a street food van that I could take around the UK.

Interested in finding out more about food & drink careers? Check out The Grocer Jobs for the latest vacancies

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