Established in 1874, Mack is one of the best well-known names in the fresh produce business. Now part of the Fresca Group, Mack is still one of the leading suppliers in the UK. Last year, Hadlow College graduate Hannah Hasell landed a job at the firm through The Fresh Careers Fair. Here, she shares her thoughts on her budding produce career to date.
How did you get the job at Mack?
I went to The Fresh Careers Fair where I approached the Mack stand and spoke to their HR Director. I’d already visited the company on a college trip where we learned about their post-harvest processes. I found it interesting. So, when I finished my degree, I spoke with Mack’s HR Director again, and got a job in QA (quality assurance). A couple of months later, a Technical Coordinator role came up, so I went for it and moved into that position.
So, The Fresh Careers Fair was worthwhile?
Absolutely! It was really useful to have everyone in one place. I did a degree in commercial horticulture, but it’s difficult to know where to go from there, career-wise. There’s nothing else like The Fresh Careers Fair that gives you so many food supply chain career options in one place.
Did you know your job existed?
No. Before I visited Mack on that college trip I wouldn’t have known that technologists were even a profession. But, in reality, it’s the most relevant role to my degree because it’s all to do with the technical side of fresh produce.
What does a Technical Coordinator do?
My role involves quite a lot of different aspects. My main responsibility is due diligence and the gathering of that for the different supermarkets that Mack supplies. I get to work with retailers and see how they work. I also get an insight into product innovation. Every day is different; I have similar things to do each week but there is always something new that comes up.
What skills do you need?
Good computing knowledge, especially Excel, but I’ve been on an Excel training course which has helped. You also have to be good at communicating as there is always someone you have to talk to – it’s not just sitting in front of a computer. And you have to be willing to be flexible because fresh produce has such a short shelf life that you don’t have long to react. If a vessel is delayed, even for one day, it has a knock-on effect on stock levels and it changes the way you operate.
What’s the best part?
Getting to talk to growers around the world; I have to collect all the certificates needed for produce to be sold in the UK. You also learn about new developments before consumers. For example, candy-tasting grapes were big last year but we’d known about them for a long time. That’s nice; having that first insight into what’s going to happen. I find the industry interesting and fast-paced.
What have you learnt?
The amount of different roles involved at Mack and elsewhere. I don’t think anyone realises what goes on in the fresh produce industry until you’re in it. At Mack, we have people working in procurement, in quality assurance, in IT, etc. And those roles are universal across other industries.
Will you stay in the fresh produce sector?
Definitely in some way or another, whether it’s with an importer or working in varietal development. This is a really good place to start out. I get to see and learn so much.
What’s your advice for others?
Go to The Fresh Careers Fair, and keep an open mind. Don’t have a set idea about what you think you want to do because there are so many other opportunities out there that are probably more up your street. Also, don’t be shy. Go and talk to employers at their stands.
The Fresh Careers Fair is the recruitment event for the fresh produce, retail, foodservice, hospitality, and wholesale sectors, plus their related service suppliers.
Any organisation looking to attract the next generation of food and drink professionals by taking part in the 2018 edition on 8 March in London at The Kia Oval, should email Linda Bloomfield.